For Sale: baby shoes, never worn at Toi Pōneke, is the latest show by Wellington artist Justine Walker.
Walker wanted to be a mother, but after years of fertility treatments has found herself childless. Her exhibition responds to this journey and what happens next.
“I draw heavily on my experience of the world and the things that don’t make sense to me on any level,” Walker says. “In particular, I’m interested in the expectations and limitations that society puts on all of us based on our gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity and so on.”
Walker has been deeply affected by her experience of childlessness. “As a woman I have felt pressure to have it all, a career and family. Now we have stopped trying to have children, grieved and moved forward. Well-meaning friends and strangers still offer solutions implying that I need to be fixed. But I’m not broken.”
For Sale: baby shoes, never worn consists of video and photographic works. Some of the pieces reflect on endless attempts to conceive – the crazy train, as Walker calls it – repeatedly doing the same thing hoping for a different result.
Others explore the shame she experienced not being able to have children, compounded by the silence of disenfranchised grief. “No one knows what to say. There’s no funeral, no one died, and there’s no time off work.”
And finally some works refer to the loss of a much hoped for future: “Not just the first steps or first day of school, says the artist, “but the children’s birthday parties parents groan about, and the quieter moments of bedtime stories and fairy tales”.
Together the works offer a glimpse into the absence and loss of something that never existed. Something that was a twinkle in his eye and a wish in her heart.
Justine Walker has a MFA from Massey University. She has previously exhibited in self-generated shows, artist-run spaces, and public galleries.