Art and Motherhood
Does blending art and motherhood = mission impossible? One recent response to this perennial question comes from Canadian painter Robert Genn, in his twice-weekly newsletter. While Genn writes about painting, his thoughts usually apply to any creative pursuit, including writing — and I have reposted his letters here before. Late this summer, Robert wrote a letter specific to making art as a mother. The letter garnered a TON of comments that are well-worth reading. Much inspiration and practical advice to be found. (Genn’s newsletter is reprinted here by permission. Thanks again, Bob.)
Yesterday, Cedar Lee of Ellicott City, MD, wrote, “I have a 10-month-old son. Before I had this child I never realized the level of freedom and time that I had. The demands are so all-consuming that they leave me with little if anything left to give to my work. I’m depressed about my career–at full speed a year ago, it’s now barely squeaking along. Do you have any advice for how to keep my creative flames burning, how to keep my professional image from slipping, and how to be productive during this time? What are the creative, financial, political, and practical dilemmas facing female artists with young children.”
Thanks, Cedar. Big order. Before I start in with my stuff about being more efficient, making time, getting help, etc., I need to ask you mothers to give me a hand with Cedar’s questions. Your best advice will be included in the next clickback. Live comments are welcome as well. FYI, we’ve put a short video of Cedar’s studio at the top of the current clickback.
Also, I want to mention the extreme expectations that current parents have for their children. Children have taken on a god-like role and have become the focus for everything from prepping for stellar futures to daily parental companionship. Parents sacrifice their own lives for the potential brilliance of kids. For better or for worse, raising kids well is the new religion.
Further, I wanted to say that letters like Cedar’s come in here like leaves from a shaken maple. I’m conscious that many artists, both male and female, use the advent of parenthood as a scapegoat for failing careers. Artists in this predicament need to examine their true motivation for this popular complaint.
It’s been my experience that dedicated artists will always find a way. I’m also happy to report that selfishness need not prevail, nor need the baby lie unchanged in its crib. The creative mind is always working, even during the application of nappies. Household workstations can be set up and work can continue between feedings and other downtimes. The intermittent business may actually benefit the art–for many of us, contemplation is a much needed ingredient to our progress.
Cedar, exhausted though you may be, there is always recourse to the DMWH (Daily Manic Working Hour). This can be programmed any time, perhaps early morning or late at night. When performed as regularly as baby-feeding, you might amaze yourself with how much you can get done when you focus hard for one lovely little hour.
PS: “You have no obligation other than to discover your real needs, to fulfill them, and to rejoice in doing so.” (Francois Rabelais)
Esoterica: There is an excellent book on the subject. The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood by Rachel Power [reviewed at Studio Mothers]. It’s well researched with lots of references and historical evidence. An excerpt is here. There’s value in partnership. “To create art once you have children requires the commitment of more than one person,” she writes. “As novelist Eleanor Dark wrote, ‘The balance is elusive; the support crucial.’ “
To read the many responses to Robert’s letter, click here. Any pieces of advice that really stand out for you?