Where is the Traction? Maurizio Cattelan’s “Mother” Photograph

Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960)
cibachrome print face mounted on Plexiglas
61½ x 48 in. (156.2 x 122 cm.)
Executed in 1999.

A few years ago I visited Alan in New York for my birthday. We went to the Guggenheim and I saw this photograph.

I never forgot it, but I didn’t know the artist. Today, I see it again. Two hands together is a universal expression of prayer, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. I feel so much power, faith, and relationship in this image. It’s interesting because this artist’s other work is dark, disturbing, as if he has a bruised connection with religion. The fact that most of his work is so dark, and he comes out with that one piece full of sacred traction, makes it so much more. That’s what hit me, the traction… A fakir is buried underground. In this traction what is stronger, the ground? The man choosing to use his energy to put his hands together in prayer? Or the sacred thing that is all over this picture, all over this man’s life? Or is it the impulse that made Cattelan turn his attention to getting this specific shot?


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