Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Artist Mother/Mother Artist

I have kind of a fetish about the subject of mothering and creativity. Not creative mothering (though that's always a good thing), but about trying to be a professional artist and a mother at the same time. Clearly I'm obsessed because it's what I'm trying to do, but also because our art and our children are such natural competitors of each other. They both demand our undivided attention and limitless amounts of time. Neither one of them pays us a lick. They demand deep attention of the kind that means you can't just sit down and draw a picture with your daughter while thinking about your story or sit down to write a story while thinking about your daughter. If you do your daughter will fall to pieces and your story will turn to shit.

They demand complete presence in the moment. Time with just you. Time when you aren't hopping up to turn off the beans (burning) or hang up the laundry (starting to sour). They demand our love. And devotion.

And what woman has enough of that to go around?

If I had more time, I would like to start a website called The Mother Artist Pages (or some such thing), featuring women artists who are also mothers. I would like to interview Sally Mann (who lugged her kids around in the back of her truck while she took pictures) and feature my grandmother, Margaret MacArthur, who lugged her kids around in the back of her Jeep while collecting field recordings. I would like to talk to my friend Beth Orton who just took her two children (ages five and one) on a four month musical tour, and Alice Munro, who wrote her first story while her newborn slept in the cradle beside her. In other words, I would like to interview/feature both the mother/artists who are in the thick of it and the ones who have made it through the other side. The ones who have found success and the ones who are hoping to someday find that elusive fruit.

Yes, there's that ubiquitous word "balance" to ask about. And house-cleaning and money and childcare. But I'd like to ask the deeper questions, too: questions about sanity and loyalty and guilt and sacrifice and failure and anger and desire and regret and transformation. Because I think every mother/artist out there thinks about these about a million times every day and could use a little solidarity on the matter. Some community and some empathy and some camaraderie.

Wouldn't that be a nice site?

And since I don't have the time to create such a thing, here are some appetizers for you:

Enjoy. And maybe someday...