Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is it all just a whinge?

Artist Sophie Milne and I have been having a little inter-blog discussion about whether talking about the art and motherhood issue can all too easily amount to having a good ol' whine (yes, that's a whine, not a wine, which would be a far better outcome!). It's something I've thought about a lot in writing this book, because I am aware there'll be plenty of readers (or non-readers) out there who will view this book as a collection of middle-class-women-with-white-goods complaining about their lot in life, when everyone has obstacles and limitations in the way of the things they want to do, and if you want to make art then you'll make art, whatever the context.

I agree with Sophie's comment that if you get a bunch of mothers together, a bit of shared complaining is almost inevitable. And also agree with her suggestion that to a degree this is cathartic; after that it is just unhelpful and only digs us in further.

Certainly, if you read the book, there are those women who are of the opinion that motherhood is no different to a plethora of other barriers that confront people in pursuing a life of art. (I remind myself of these statements daily.) And I didn't set out to say that mothering is necessarily harder than other experiences--but it is particular. The book is an exploration of this angle on being an artist--just one that happens to mean a lot for me and that I feel has significance for the history and nature of art, as well as for individual women.

I admire those women who see things clearly and feel no ambivalence. However, my own experience and those of so many women I speak to (among them the many who have kindly got in touch as a result of reading my book) does seem to be an often painful sense of guilt and 'tearingness', as one put it. I feel almost constantly pulled in opposite directions, and still fear that in struggling to be fully present to either my art or my kids that I end up doing a half-arsed job of everything.

Having said that, though I admit my book does come at the art and motherhood issue as a kind of dilemma, almost all of the women talk about the benefits of mothering to their creative life. I hope readers make it to the conclusion of the book, where I talk about the potency and urgency that comes with mothering, which has proven a real boon to so many of the artists interviewed.


Damon said...

Sure, parenthood is another barrier, like so many. But it's not just another barrier, if you know what I mean.

It's an intense, singular, ambivalent, intimate experience, and deserves reams of paper and ink devoted to it.

Yet it's the sort of thing most biographies of painters and authors describe briefly as 'X was with child' and 'Y cared for the children', and then we get back to Genius and His Latest Work. The day-to-day stuff of parenthood is missed.

Which is where The Divided Heart comes in...

Anonymous said...