Elizabeth Catlett. Mother and Child. 1956 31

Terra cotta, 11 1/4 x 7 x 7" (28.6 x 17.8 x 17.8 cm). Gift of The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art, The Modern Women's Fund, and Dr. Alfred Gold (by exchange)

Narrator: This sculpture called Mother and Child was made in 1956 by the artist Elizabeth Catlett. Here is writer K. Melchor Hall reflecting on this artwork:

K. Melchor Hall: It is a sculpture of a mother who knows how to make her body into a comfortable seat for a small child familiar to her.

Although the child is wearing no clothes, she has created a warmth between them that allows the child to rest. And the expression on her face, which is a slight upward curve of the mouth, not a smile, just a sort of expression of satisfaction. She is pleased that she has been able to make this connection, this home for the child.

Narrator: What words come to mind as you look at this sculpture?

Melchor Hall: My mother used to cornrow my hair at night and I would fall asleep and wake up not knowing what my hairstyle was going to be. I’m not sure how she did it, but she somehow created a space where I could rest my head just enough to fall asleep.

My relationship with my mother is one that I think allowed me to feel quite emboldened as a child. It created enough of a protective buffer around me that I felt as though I could try things, I felt as though I could imagine things. I never had any doubt of my sense of belonging because my earliest years were really years of a tight embrace of a Black community that believed in the right of Black children to be raised in ways that respected their wholeness and their humanity.

Narrator: What about you? What does this sculpture make you think about?