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Mommy dearest, 2020

Julie Lee

Carnegie Mellon University


Mommy dearest is a collage series that depicts an alternate reality in which my mother suffers from cancer before her children’s eyes — just like her own mother did before hers. Her being is replaced by the black and white textures of cancer cells, but she holds onto her daughters through it all. These moments of physical embrace are harshly cut by the grim reality that they exist on borrowed time. 

A physical manifestation of this metaphoric cutting, the method of collage contrasts hard lines with the soft shapes of old family photos. The borders created from the cuts render my mother’s warm presence absent. The destructive biological timer chills the atmosphere; as her children grow up and grip onto her tightly, my mother struggles but holds on. 

Nothing can interrupt the humanity of a mother holding her child, even as the cancer consumes her. In the midst of this cruel reality, grief and longing are acts of love. No matter what, her presence fills her children, who look back on this reality, with longing and love for her. 

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