Friday, November 28, 2008

Art and motherhood: where it's at


There are some pretty interesting things going on around the world on the art and motherhood front. Despite struggling for over a year to convince a publisher that there was indeed a market for my book (thank you again Red Dog Books for your faith!), I suddenly feel part of a mini-zeitgeist! For whatever reason, this subject seems to be experiencing a kind of resurgence around the world. I never cease to be amazed by the phenomeonon of sychronicity.

There is certainly a potent context with the whole "Motherwars" debate of recent years and the emergence of motherhood/childcare as Western feminism's final frontier--I do talk about this in The Divided Heart. But art, as a vocation that demands so much of someone and for which the rewards can be so unmeasurable (much like mothering), is carving out it's own special genre within this broader agenda.

Some of you might already have heard about the new doco now doing the festival circuit to great acclaim in the US: Who Does She Think She Is? by filmmaker Pamela Tanner Boll, who produced the extraordinary Born Into Brothels, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary a few years ago. Funnily enough, Pamela told me that at one time she wanted to title the film "A divided heart: On art and motherhood" but was told it was too "literary"!

The film looks at the lives of "five fierce women who refuse to choose". It explores the situation for artist-mothers as a way in to "some of the most problematic intersections of our time: mothering and creativity, partnering and independence, economics and art". It also reminds us that, despite all we have gained, we still live in a world where the average punter on the street struggles to name a handful of women artists. When this film makes it to Australia, it'll be a super-exciting event (on my calendar at least). Will keep you posted...

What also makes this so exciting is that a film version of The Divided Heart is also in the pipeline. I was approached a while back by producer Kylie Bryant, who (among other things) made the incredibly moving short film Breathe, and has just shot a doco on the Lentil as Anything mob--the restaurant chain with the "pay what they can afford or feel the food deserves" ethos. The success of the US film has proven that there is an audience for such a topic; the key will be making a film that complements "Who Does She Think She Is?" in the Australian context.

There is nothing more affirming than having people approach you after talks or via letter or email to tell you what your book has meant to them--except perhaps having someone tell you that not only has it been meaningful, but they want to option the film rights! It's a bit of a fantasy, isn't it? (Even if in my case we're not talking 4-figures, let alone 5 or 6--such is the life of the small-niche author.) Any ideas of what/who you would like to see on screen--all those things a printed book can't convey--please speak up.

I was also going to have a little rave about conferences on the art-motherhood subject; an American anthology I've been asked to contribute to; a new Australian magazine being launched soon with articles from me and from Anne Manne on the motherhood theme... but I think I've said enough for one night... more soon.

8 comments:

Damon said...

Fantastic - nicely done, Rachel. I do hope it all works out.

As for what I'd like to see on film: a couple of words on heart-divided dads? (I know, it's not a book about dads.)

simmone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JUDI TAVILL said...

Rachel,
I ordered your book from Red Dog and was so excited when it arrived... I think I read about it on Shannon Garson's blog... I am a ceramic artist was concerned that it would be more about writers and not truly appeal to me... So I skipped ahead to the mosaic artist and a painter... then I actually(on the TREADMILL) read the 1st 24 pages today and was completely IN IT... Simmone's use of the term"DEVOURED" comes to mind. My kids are 8 1/2 and almost 12 and long story-short... I have always CRAVED to just see what I was feeling and knowing in print... I have read a few and many hit home but YOU.... YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!!!! Every description and realization is PERFECT.(Can I hear ans "AMEN"?...very American of me...) I'm sure I will be reading more tonight under the covers with a flashlight... but really ...THANK YOU.

Rachel Power said...

Thank you. Those are such generous comments! It really does amaze me that when you decide to be brutally honest about your experiences, the world (at least the creative parenting world) responds in kind. You can only hope that your words will resonate with others and it has been so affirming and really quite overwhelming to discover all these incredible women--and a few great blokes too--who are hungry for material on this subject, and for whom the book clearly means a lot. Thank you again. Simmone, I love your blog! And Judi, hope you got some sleep...

Mary Anne Davis said...

Very exciting stuff. Anywhere to get the book in the US? I notice it isn't on Amazon. Am also a mom (13 yo) and an artist/potter. Thanks to Judi for sending me your way. So happy to find you. Look forward to reading the book.

Rachel Power said...

Mary Anne, thanks so much for your interest. I am sure you can order the book through my publisher's website: Red Dog Books or possibly through Readings Bookshop. I think I better talk to me publishers about marketing this book to the US--I'm very naive about how all this works. Best of luck with the next phase of your art and mothering adventure through those teenage years!

katiecrackernuts said...

Rachel,
Thank you for the kind words on my blog. I'm still thinking - and actually had my "coversation" with someone this morning, so it's kind of like the universe is telling me it's time to think about this a little more rather than just blindly stumble on - as you will know is the case for many a parent. I'm still reading your fantastic book, in snatches, and will be pointing others to it.
I applaud and am amazed at how you've taken what's around you and made it the subject of your art/craft. A true comment of life, and art, and life and art, if that makes sense.

Susan Johnson said...

Rachel, finally added your blog to my favourite blogs list. Good luck with everything, and how sad that some readers/reviewers think it is special pleading to make a special case for artists who are also mothers.

Perhaps one of the critics might like to try it for himself/herself one day --without nannies, cleaners, cooks etc I mean -- doing the whole shebang, plus making pots or writing books or painting pictures while doing the washing, cleaning, cracking of walnuts with left foot etc.

I read somewhere that Stephanie Myers wrote her book with a baby over one shoulder, and two toddlers at her feet. I suppose it might be true but I bet she is either mad, or her husband is, or the children. Personally, I am certifiable.