A family’s traumatic experiences of life in the care system and being a single mother in the 1970s led a Derbyshire artist to launch her first solo exhibition. In it, Sara Jane Boyle highlights her early days in a mother-child unit as well as her mother’s experiences growing up in the care system in Derby.
The exhibition is titled What Has Love Got To Do With It and features 25 oil paintings, as well as sketches and prints, reflecting the mother-of-four’s beginnings in a controversial mother-baby unit. She works with oils, gilded metals and embroidery.
Figurative artist Ms Boyle is a graduate in applied arts from the University of Derby and a member of Derby’s Banks Mill Studios. She said: “I was born in 1971 at St Agatha, a nun-run mother-child home in Sheffield. My mother was sent there and ‘encouraged’ to give me up for adoption, which she then refused to do so I was placed in foster care until she could keep me.
“My mum was also sent to an orphanage at the age of two and spent her entire childhood in and out of children’s homes in Duffield and Allestree, eventually leaving the care system at 18.
“I was an only child, raised by my mother, and I was a wild child by nature. In my early childhood, I had selective mutism and had trouble communicating. Because words were so difficult to find, I tried to imagine other ways to creatively express myself and so began my long relationship with the arts.”
Ms Boyle, 52, says the exhibit is helping her begin to untangle the ties that bound her to her past. She added: “But I am also shining the spotlight on an important social issue, which has deeply affected my family. While some governments have officially apologized for the historic treatment of single mothers in homes, ours has not. In July, a Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry called for women forced to abandon their children to receive government apologies.
“This exhibition is intimidating to me because of its personal depth. I wear my heart on my sleeve more than ever and as an artist I feel this is just the beginning of my journey.”
Ms Boyle’s mother has died aged 67 and she says she knows the past “has weighed heavily on her”. Ms Boyle said: “She felt guilty for bringing me back – believing I could have had a better life. However, I believe passionately that there should be no shame attached to mothers who have made themselves remove their baby and I share my art to raise awareness of these historic wrongs.”
The centerpieces of the collection will be a 150 x 100cm oil painting titled The Big Baby featuring The Split, Mother Mary and Alexithymia, all of which relate to the complexity of mother-child relationships and trauma childhood emotions.
The exhibition is currently on display at the Sock Gallery in Loughborough Town Hall, Market Place, Loughborough until Saturday 3rd June. For more information on Sara Jane Boyle and the exhibition, click here.