So recently some artist friends and I were talking about the issues in management of our lives. One thing popped up that gets a lot of artist’s hackle’s up. It’s a kind of touchy subject internally and in the artworld’s eyes. Artist mothers. Mother artists.
This is quite relevant to this campaign and my artist life, as I had to make some major life decisions when my husband and I decided to have children. How would it work out? What would be our source of income? How would I manage to deal with my creative side? I always knew that I wanted children. This is something that every woman artist has to consider and I dare say no one takes the decision lightly. For, when you have a child, you are creating yet another work – but one that takes considerable time and energy and is very often blocking your need and want for other creative ventures that makes us who we are as creative beings.
I looked forward to the creativity that comes with children and using my education degrees in conjunction with my art creating urges. What I didn’t expect is that my artist life was going to need to go on hold for a while, and doing full scale exhibitions was going to be out. So with my first son Kahurangi, I tried to channel my energies into things like monthly naked photo shoots of him, sewing clothes, making knitted squares with my craft group who became his surrogate aunties so I could actually knit for an hour while they took turns holding him. I made awesome bento lunches for his kindy in later years and took pride in creating amazing costumes for various events and making toys to entertain him. I made the decision to allow him to rule my world to some extent, and I enjoyed the journey. Watching him grow and learn and the fascination of the world through his new eyes was enough for me. The sense of wonder and passion that a toddler has is some of the most creative worlds we have. I pottered along with my art on the odd occasion he was occupied, but rather than get up and do art, I spent his naptimes cuddling with him instead. The creation I was making was building him up and the relationship of our love.
With my second son Te Pō Atarau, he was a very sickly and needy child. By the time he arrived 2 years later, I was starting to get twitchy that my art was progressing so slowly. And along came this boy who needed my attention 24-7 literally and wouldn’t go to anyone else but me. I loved him so much, but I started to resent that I could not get time alone to myself to go the bathroom much less do any art. It was a hard time where I cried a lot and tried to convince myself that I was doing the right things by him, but desperately needed a creative outlet other than drawing pictures of him on my breast as it was the only time he was content. I ended up deciding that he was a sacrifice worth investing in, and I tried to make time fade – as with a baby or toddler the days are so incredibly long, but the years go by so fast. It was a long arduous haul, but we did it together and the bond that I have with him and had during that time was massively intense. I consider that emotional relationship as a major contributor to my art these days with empathy and understanding that I had never felt prior. I decided that I needed to put my life, my needs, my wants on hold at least until he went to school and be done with the battle in my head that constantly said “you need to make! you need to exhibit! you need to keep up with the artworld and get out there!” It was a very hard decision that I agonized and fought myself over, but once I made it, I was much more at ease and time faded faster towards my goal of their self sufficiency and my return to my passions for creating.
So when both boys were in school, I finally had some time to think and feel about myself again and recognize my needs that had been only tinkered with over the years. I began working on relationships, telling stories with my work, gathering research as time permitted and was mommy for the rest of the day dealing with school lunches, home work, sports, and feral excited children who never wanted to sleep. This carries on to today, where I am the primary caregiver of my two greatest works. I watch them create and think and feel and just “exist” and this fuels my own fascination in them together with the kind of love only a mother feels. This feeds my work, and I will argue this point with anyone.
Most of my favorite artists made conscious decisions not to have children. They thought it intrudes too much into their plan, their passion, their work and without that focus, that they would never be good. Most of the time they are right. The most successful women artists traditionally have not had children. But the ones who did or tried to desperately are there as well. Those are the ones we need to really be proud of, as the artworld still has a stigma that puts mothers in the background as having less drive, time and attention for the work, therefore they are not as dedicated. These women should receive even more credo as they manage two worlds and successfully navigate between them. While I lost some determination to succeed as an artist for a few years, the years allowed more personal growth than I can ever have achieved otherwise. I thank these leaders for breaking new paths that we can navigate on our own terms.
So this brings me to where I am today. I have been working on my two projects that I am crowdfunding for since Atarau enrolled in school 2 years ago. My focus is now on getting that part of me that drew so much attention and energy put towards my work while still working on building the artworks that are my children. I can’t wait to show what I have been working on and see if you can interpret the input that my being a mother has had on the works – or not. Because my job work has been limited in the last few years, my artwork has taken longer to achieve due to finance. My artwork is generally not saleable content, so it must be self funded to be completed and shown.
This is where you come in! I would love if you could support these projects completion so that I can tell about the relationships, health outcomes and other stories that have been meshed into these works. I have a lot to say, and I need your help to say it. Please consider passing this on to your artist friends or otherwise as a thank you for doing what they do, and also consider donating to this campaign in honor of all artist mothers!
Here’s a quick video I made with the kids about artists and artist mothers last night. They’re a bit shy, but they know how important and hard it is. They are also coordinating a bake sale and drawing sale for Sunday in order to help with my campaign with my amazing nephew. I couldn’t be prouder of their ambition, love and concern for me and these projects. Also here’s a little drawing I did just a wee while ago when Atarau came and fell asleep in my bed at 3am.