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  • Sara Zak

Cleave: MFA Thesis Exhibit

I gave a short artist interview that you can view here. My portion starts at 00:40:00.

cleave verb (1)

\ ˈklēv \

cleaved\ ˈklēvd \ or clove\ ˈklōv \ also clave\ ˈklāv \; cleaved; cleaving

Definition of cleave (Entry 1 of 2)

: to stay very close to (someone) children cleaving to their families

: to stick closely to (something) —usually used figuratively She continued to cleave to the beliefs of her childhood.

Definition of cleave (Entry 2 of 2)

: to divide by or as if by a cutting blow : SPLIT The mother was cleaved by love and loss

: to separate into distinct parts and especially into groups having divergent views The family, overtime, cleaved.

The work presented in CLEAVE explores the mother/child relationship in all its complexity. There is a duality always in play in this relationship: joy/trauma, bliss/sadness, awe/boredom, selflessness/selfishness, and on and on. To add to this highly emotional, influential relationship, there are also societal projections of what each role ideally represents and how the players should handle any given situation. Much of the work in this exhibit was made with the assistance of Avary and Kanen Zak, my children, and Paul Zak, my spouse, either as collaborators or critics.


The past decade sees the artworld beginning to acknowledge the power of works about motherhood and children by artist-mothers even though there is still the need for the work to find even greater acceptance. As the pandemic has made clear, working parents of all ilk are struggling to balance the needs of family with industries that do not want to acknowledge the serious social responsibilities of parenting and for our purposes often its artistic merit. What some see as sentimental, saccharin or nostalgic can also be viewed as powerful and timeless. Writers have come further in their exploration of the duality of motherhood than visual artists, but I hope “Cleave” will become part of a lengthy discourse on this taboo topic.

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