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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Maker(s):Mark, Mary Ellen
Culture:American (1940-2015)
Title:Cage Girl and Her Baby
Date Made:1978
Materials:Cibachrome print
Measurements:Mat: 28 in x 22 in; 71.1 cm x 55.9 cm; Sheet: 19 15/16 in x 15 15/16 in; 50.6 cm x 40.5 cm; Image: 19 3/4 in x 13 5/16 in; 50.2 cm x 33.8 cm
Narrative Inscription:  SIGNATURE/EDITION/DATE: back, lwr. r. (graphite): Mary Ellen Mark 3/25 1978
Accession Number:  UM 1981.18
Credit Line:Purchased with funds from the University of Massachusetts Alumni Association and National Endowment for the Arts

Color portrait of an seated forward facing South Indian woman dressed in a yellow and green sari as she breast feeds her tiny infant in her lap. The background is a distressed white plaster wall and the lighting is somewhat harsh and illuminates the woman's white face makeup.

Label Text:
Excerpted label text from the Curatorial Fellowship exhibition “Eyes Are For Asking: Narratives in Photography,” March 24 – May 1, 2016:
Social documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark is internationally known for her photographs of India, including images of prostitutes such as this woman. Despite being met with hostility and aggression, Mark repeatedly returned to Falkland Road, a red light district in Bombay, over several years in an effort to capture the lives of its working women. Unlike some of its fancier counterparts, Falkland Road caters to some of the poorest people in India. Yet, within this sub-altern society there exist further sub-divisions of class. At the bottom of the rung are the “cage girls.” Looked down upon even by other prostitutes, they live in tiny cage-like rooms under the strict watch of their madams. Often tricked into this profession, sometimes as young as age eleven, the girls eat, sleep, raise their children, and work – all within the same cell-like spaces of the brothel. This particular woman also appears “caged” by the white powder on her face – a social construct resulting from India’s idealization of fair skin, especially in women. While the closely cropped composition makes her seem vulnerable, her confrontational gaze defies her social position and engages us immediately, suggesting the particularity of her experience and that of her baby. -Gretchen Halverson (M.A. Art History ‘16) and Procheta Mukherjee Olson (M.F.A. Studio Art ‘17)

mother and child; mothers; infants; breastfeeding; poverty

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