On Motherhood and the Arts

Recent reading.

During my Artists Residency in Motherhood in 2017, I worked on my attitude around being a mother and an artist, which still feel mutually exclusive (Unsure? try attending an opening with people under 10…).

I am interested in how other artists who are also mothers talk, or don’t talk, about this.

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From Sci-Fi Titan Le Guin Wanted To ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’ As A Writer With Kids, by Terry Gross.

On disproving the notion that women can’t be mothers and do creative work at the same time

I feel a certain obligation to sort of stand up and be counted as a woman who has had kids and brought them up, and also done creative work, which — particularly in the arts — there does seem to be almost a sort of agreement that this can’t be done. …

The fact is, creative work has replaced having a family for some women. That’s fine. Having a family has replaced creative work for other women. That’s fine. Then there are some of us who really need to do both and are perfectly capable of doing both.

Another thing that I’ve found … [is that] women who write, who have children, their work tends to get “disappeared.” They’re not quite respectable. The few women who are counted part of the great canon of English literature tend to be childless and often unmarried. … I have to say, the men seem to prefer it that way.

On how being a mother ultimately enriched her writing

There is a time during one’s life when, if you are responsible for the care of your kids, it is very hard to do other creative work. You have to do it around the edges, in the middle of the night, or you never can get up before your kids, so it’s usually late at night. Or, if you have the money, you hire some kind of baby sitter or some kind of child care.

It’s hard. Your energy, your creative energies are being spread thin and strained. On the other hand, you are living an extremely rich life at the same time. And this is going to enrich your work, inevitably, I think. It may not seem so at the time, but … babies don’t stay babies for very long, whereas writers live for decades. You do outlive your babies.

From Who Gives a Shit? On Motherhood and the artsby Felicity Castagna.

“In our talks on motherhood and art, Marian points out to me that making art is a lot like mothering. ‘They both involve ritual and repetition.’ The artwork that I do and the mothering that I do, they’re both lengthy processes. I’m always thinking about my arts practice as I’m mothering, they’re two parallel worlds that feed each other. So at the moment I’m thinking a lot about what I let my kids watch on TV and how much control I should take over that. How I navigate those issues and a lot of that is feeding back into what I’m creating in my work.’

One of the questions I really wanted to ask Marian and Linda is if they were ‘out’ as mothers in the art world. ‘Never’, Marian responds and I have to laugh because I have been to so many arts functions where Marian’s three boys stick out like a sore thumb, being the only non-adults in the room. But Marian still insists that she tries to ‘downplay being a mum. It’s the whole idea of professionalism. You don’t talk about them. You don’t put them on Facebook and Instagram. Marian Abboud the mum is the personal thing. Marian Abboud the artist is what I want the rest of the world to see.’ Linda does not talk about her kids in the arts world either, ‘Who gives a shit? No one cares in that world. I’m very interested in artist mothers. People talk about it but unless they’re mothers I really don’t think they get it. It all comes back to who cleans the toilet.’

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