In lyric sections meant to evoke the experience of wandering through a museum, Whistler’s Mother takes a closer, deeper look at the subject of one of the most iconic paintings from the nineteenth century, reckoning with legacies of racism, misogyny, industry, imperialism, and place. The titular portrait, or Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1, by James McNeill Whistler has come to symbolize a specific Victorian ideal of motherhood and domesticity. Written on location in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Whistler’s mother was from, this micro-chapbook asks: How do we responsibly engage with historical memory? What do our places know that we do not? How do we live with grief, both individual and collective?
Includes the essays “Landscape with Artist and Capital,” “Interior Study,” “Empire In Nocturne,” “Arrangement with Etiquette and Industry,” “Study of Grief as Reenactment,” “Landscape with the Myth of the Domestic,” “Landscape with the Myth of the Domestic, Continued,” and “Portrait of Madonna as Burning Bush.”