Lisa Sorgini, a photographer based in Bundjalung Country, Australia, discovered this goliath stick insect living in her family’s wattle tree. Across a lifetime, the females of the species might lay as many as a thousand eggs. Sorgini saw this one laying hers, “flicking them onto the leaf litter” below, where they would be collected by ants and safely stored underground.
In one of the artist’s photographs, currently on view as part of her exhibition at homecoming gallery, a human hand gently holds the mother stick insect, tilted toward the light, as if to say, “Isn’t she lovely?”
The online exhibition, curated by Bill Shapiro, formerly the editor-in-chief of LIFE magazine, is accompanied by a physical exhibition at the MENDO Books flagship store in Amsterdam. The show comprises selections from across Sorgini’s oeuvre, spanning years but tied together by the artist’s painterly sensibility and her commitment to documenting the tenderness and pain of intimacy, family, and early motherhood. “Her pictures feel, to me, like memory itself,” Shapiro says.
About six years ago, Sorgini gave birth to Ari, her first son. Her mother passed away a few months later. During this time, marked by joy and grief, she started making pictures of her home and family: the baths and swims, the bites of watermelon, the runny noses. She hasn’t stopped since.
Frustrated by the lack of authentic representations of the complexities of parenting, Sorgini also photographed other mothers and their children. During the pandemic, she created portraits of motherhood in isolation, with her sitters protected–and locked in–by layers of glass. That work, some of which is available at homecoming, was recently published as the book Behind Glass.
As noted by Anna Altman for The New Yorker, Sorgini’s work does not include the screens and devices of our digital era. In that sense, the photographs are ageless. Comparisons to paintings feel inevitable, given the photographer’s masterful use of light and shadow. A child’s hand, reaching into a juicy watermelon, calls to mind memories of Caravaggio’s Saint Thomas. Sorgini’s attention to detail when it comes to flesh feels evocative of Rembrandt, who famously included garter marks when painting the leg of Bathsheba at her toilet.
The pictures are timeless and universal, but they do not exist outside of time. Sorgini made some of them during the “Black Summer” of 2020, when Australia contended with devastating brushfires, flooding, and a global pandemic. The exhibition at homecoming roughly coincides with some of the worst flooding in Australian history; the pictures of stillness and life at home feel particularly poignant within that context. In March, thousands in the area were forced to leave their homes as the country declared a national emergency.
Sorgini’s work speaks to the heartache and anxiety of being a mother at a time when the future feels unimaginably precarious, while also managing to find infinite grace and belonging in an increasingly imperiled natural world. Time and time again, Sorgini quietly turns our attention to the everlasting beauty of nature, a healing balm in the age of climate change: the roots of a strangler fig; swans on the water; and a female goliath stick bug, resting in someone’s hand, having just laid her eggs.
Browse the online exhibition, curated by Bill Shapiro, and buy prints here. You can follow homecoming gallery on Instagram at @homecoming.gallery.