Jennifer Mancuso’s efforts to normalize the public perception of breastfeeding have been channeled into a debut photo exhibition, opening at Summit Artspace on East Market.
The show, “#normalizebreastfeeding,” opens with a reception with the artist, Saturday, June 1, 5 to 9 p.m., in the Summit Artspace Transition Gallery, 140 E. Market St., in downtown Akron. Mancuso will talk about her self-portraits and her work to raise public awareness at 7 p.m.
The show is free and open to the public and runs through July 20. The images are an honest, candid portrayal of breastfeeding.
“My portraits of motherhood depict my candid, raw experiences in my breastfeeding journey, specifically with twins,” said Mancuso. “My goal is by sharing these beautiful portraits, it will help our population become destigmatized to breastfeeding and give other women and future moms the courage and desire to breastfeed their children without feeling ashamed and with the eventual decline in both infant and maternal mortality.”
As a mother of twins who breastfed through their first year, Mancuso is a fine art photographer and has become a social media influencer (Instagram – @jennifer.mancuso) through her unyielding practice and promotion of breastfeeding. She has encountered criticism and opposition from some quarters but also passionate backing from parents and breastfeeding support organizations.
Mancuso will be back in the gallery Thursday, July 18, from 4 to 7 p.m., during 3rd Thursday, to talk with visitors. She will give a presentation at 6 p.m. and take questions. Her journey has also been featured in major publications such as People, Mother.ly, The Bump, Parents, Motherhood, and Health Magazine.
While navigating the difficult waters of exclusively breastfeeding twins, Mancuso soon realized her experiences needed to be shared. She used her professional experience as a fine art photographer and presented her work to the world via social media.
“Breastfeeding to many women and families still leaves a negative stigma, because it is seen as ‘indecent’ and ‘unnecessary exposure’ or ‘inappropriate.’ This creates a culture where women feel ashamed and do not want to even try to breastfeed,” Mancuso said.
According to America’s Health Ranking website, the U.S. average of infant mortality is 5.9 deaths per 1,000 births and Ohio is well above that at more than 7. Infant mortality is defined as a baby born alive who dies in the first year of life. Ohio ranks 40 among states for infant mortality.
Mancuso shared that the lack of breastfeeding and related support are ranked as contributing causes of infant- and maternal-related deaths. In Ohio an average of only 16.7 percent of infants are breastfed exclusively through the first six months, compared to almost double that in New Hampshire and Vermont, states with the lowest infant mortality rate.
“#normalizebreastfeeding” is sponsored by Simple Wishes Hands Free and Pumping Essentials.
For info, call (330) 376-8480 or visit www.summitartspace.org.