Children: Lost and Found was an exhibition of works by Jessops Farm Studio artists responding to the plight of children in history and now, with particular focus on the history of the Foundling Hospital in the eighteenth century and the current Eden Valley Museum Exhibition.
From 14 - 29 March This was closed after opining for 2 days due to Covid-19.
Thomas Coram established the Foundling Hospital in 1739 to care for and educate abandoned children. From 1741 to 1954, 25,000 children were supported. Branch hospitals were needed as demand grew. Westerham (Chartwell) was the fourth of these and many babies were put to nurse with local families, where they stayed until their seventh year. Artists like William Hogarth and Handel supported the Hospital at the start. Over centuries, artists have continued to document the plight of children.
Below are the pieces I had exhibited.
I Will Return
Moses basket handwoven from recycled old sheets, filled with handmade and marked clay tokens.
For women, mothers and children loss, separation, rejection and persecution are still very much alive today in societies across the world and are forever hovering above our everyday lives in various forms. The story of the mothers and children of the Foundling Hospital is a story as old as time.
Foundling hospital tokens give us a glimpse into the ordinary lives of women, mothers and children in 18th century Brittain. These tokens were left by mothers who gave up their babies, who would have otherwise been abandoned on the streets.
The children came in for all sorts of reasons and poverty was the biggest one. A number of children were admitted by mothers whose husbands were either fighting overseas, or they had been widowed, their children weren’t illegitimate, they weren’t unwanted and unloved.
These mothers gave up their children because they could not look after them or feed them. It was a matter of survival and many of these tokens were a representation of the mothers’ love and care.
In the 19th century the admission policy changed significantly, and the children had to be illegitimate. Of the roughly 25,000 children that the Hospital took, only about 1,500 were returned.
Some women returned only to find that their child had died. Unfortunately, in the 18th century the mortality rate for children under five in the general population was 75%.
Please sir, all I need is a hug
Mixed media and turmeric dye on canvas board
Foundlings had food and water
Foundlings had a roof on their heads
Foundlings were taught to read and write
And grew up fully contributing to society
Foundling had no family
Foundlings had no love
Foundlings had no mother
And… all they needed was her hug
In the Shadows
Mobile made from found objects, turmeric dye on recycled paper
Shadows of mothers and memories of children. A balancing act between what is right for the mother and child and what our societal norms and communities expect of us. Alone, separate and detached how can they heal. Guilt, shame, loss and regret intertwined with love, hope, belonging and a sprinkle of optimism. Constantly adjusting to find the perfect place, perfect balance, in the face of all odds in the face of the norms of society.
The children of Idlib, Feb 2020
Mixed media on canvas, 120 cm x 100 cm
Half a million Syrian children trapped between two armies, caught in a humanitarian catastrophe with nowhere to go. Air strikes, displacement and freezing temperatures killing babies and young children.
And what of the ones that survive?
Becoming just another number, a generation of children robbed of their childhood and humanity.
A 13-year-old living in the clammy basement of a sports stadium, with hundreds of others. The sounds of warplanes circling overhead. Another living in squalid conditions in a muddy field with open sewage and no clean running water. An 11-year-old who loves to study, hopes to grow up to be a teacher.
Children sheltering with their families in caves, excavating mounds of soil and rock attempting to make liveable, but with no heat and moisture everyone has a chest infection. Shams, an
11-year-old girl with a heart defect struggling to breath. Her favourite subjects at school had been Arabic and math. But there had been no school for years. ‘Their favourite subject now is bread’ says a father cradling his 5-year-old son, who suffers from a blood condition.
Trying to survive a lost childhood.
Note: These stories have been collated from various news outlets