Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From one mother to another

I have had a number of readers contact me almost apologetically to tell me that they initially avoided reading The Divided Heart because they had assumed it would be a negative take on motherhood when they enjoy having kids so much.

Fortunately, they have come to read it anyway — because it was recommended to them, or in one case because she was on the judging panel for one of those many prizes it didn’t get.

So it is lovely when someone gets in touch to say the book defied their expectations. And even more exciting when someone tells me the book inspired them to get moving with their own work, or even fed directly in to their art.

One example is this fab-sounding exhibition at the University of Florida. Four Squared is an exhibition by four artist-mothers and their experiences of making art amongst the chaos of raising young children.

Motherhood is also the theme of their art – “the push & pull of motherhood, domesticity and creativity. It is work created on an emotional rollercoaster, while burning the midnight oil, with the use of favours from friends, with the constant awareness of dishes to be washed.”

Most recently I was contacted by Iranian-born, British-raised, LA-based photographer and mother, Parisa Taghizadeh. She has made a series of works entitled “Mother”, one of which is in an upcoming show in New York, MOTHER/mother at the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.

MOTHER/mother is an exhibition of work made by artists from around the world within the years immediately following a pregnancy or the birth of a child.

If you are lucky enough to be visiting the US over the coming months, these shows look well worth a visit.

Just the other day, I came across a review of The Divided Heart that ran in the April issue of Art Monthly (check out the great cover!). Reviews by artists always make me nervous, so it was great to read Denise Ferris’s comment that the book made her feel “uplifted”.

“This book normalises the mother and artist combination by presenting women who continue to practise their craft in spite of social or their own confused expectations to choose one role over the other,” she writes.

“These women have continued to make work in spite of difficult personal experiences, and in spite of potent mixed emotions, self-doubt, confusion and exhaustion. To continue to work as an artist is not always as seamless as we hope. And that is the reality presented in this book.”

One criticism, though, was the lack of single mothers and gay parents in the book. Funnily enough, there are both in The Divided Heart. Perhaps it’s an indication of just how universal the issues around art and motherhood are that this wasn’t more obvious.


Anonymous said...

I finished your book last night, and I loved it. After dropping lots of hints around my birthday and still not getting a copy as a gift I went and bought it last week.

It's funny you mention the single and gay mothers, because I noticed the single mothers, but not the gay one/s, and I was looking.

I was all sad on the train this morning with nothing to read, so I amused myself by thinking about what I liked in it (it's over an hour on the train) and top of the list is the affirming nature of seeing lots of creative people talk about their processes and routines in one place, and how those processes change over time depending on their circumstances.

Christine McCombe said...

One of the great things about your book Rachel is that it has opened up a lot of discussion about art and motherhood and it is fantastic, although not surprising, that all kinds of work and ideas are coming to the surface as a result. From my own perspective as a composer, I have been quite ambivalent about the whole 'woman artist' thing for various reasons; not wanting my work to be assessed as anything other than music or by any gender specific criteria. Becoming a mother has shifted my perspective. I am really happy that we can discuss the connections between art and motherhood without feeling apologetic or indulgent. As someone who was a non-mother for a long time, I remember feeling quite alienated by the whole "you'll understand when you have children" thing and I am still very wary about making sweeping statements about motherhood and my creativity. But really, any life changing experience is going to affect the art that you make so it is obvious that becoming a parent will change you and how you create. And a word on blogs... so much potential for connecting creatively isolated, time poor parents and sharing ideas. I've started my own as a place to discuss ideas about creating work and also the reality of not being able to create work all the time - the spaces between creating.

Shannon said...

hehe - i totally picked the gay mother. Maybe because i am one, it's easier to spot!

Also, just to let you know, I just wrote a (very short) book review on my blog for the Divided Heart. I loved it, I'm madly recommending it to everyone i know!

Jetta's Nest said...

Hi. I've just discovered that your book exists and so I haven't read it yet but just wanted to say how fantastic it is to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with my own creative needs (which feel as necessary as breathing) as well as the needs of my children. I can't wait to read it but I'm also a little scared of the acknowledgment of this 'thing' that I deal with everyday....or maybe that's just my hormones :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel, Thanks for mentioning the fabulous Four Squared exhibition. To be clear the exhibition was held at the University of NORTH Florida.

Thank you
Raymond Gaddy
Director, UNF Gallery of Art