On Motherhood

At this moment the sounds of the bubbling pot on the stovetop is fusing with the scream of children’s games erupting into periodic battles. My mind flips through its various channels. Why isn’t that painting working? How is it possible one family goes through this much laundry? When can I fit in working on that drawing tomorrow?  If you don’t send that piece out this week it won’t get to the gallery in time, remember? How am I going to get on a plane this weekend? I wonder whatever happened to Linda Hamilton? Why won’t that ear infection my oldest has been grappling with just go away? I try to seize a moment while the rice is cooking to gather my thoughts before the timer goes off.


Martha Rosler, Cleaning the Drapes from the series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home

It would seem there are two schools of thought when it comes to whether or not one can be both a mother and an artist. I say “mother” and not parent because, well, it doesn’t appear that anyone is asking that question of fathers. Some would say they are mutually exclusive, others emphatically believe one can be both (having worked on a drawing in the room while my child was having a cavity filled, I would fall into the latter group).  Recently, I read an article from the New York Times on the subject where British Artist Tracey Emin leapt off the page (okay, screen) at me, saying “There are good artists who are parents. Only they’re men. Mothers are too “emotionally torn.””

An interesting statement for sure since heightened emotions have rarely been a hindrance to art making. Some would say they are necessary. In regards to parenting, there’s nothing like watching a living breathing mirror navigate life from birth to engage one fully with the very sensations surrounding our being. Any human male or female who isn’t torn in some regard living in today’s world, I want to meet you. Tell me your secret.


My daughter posing for me on a typical Sunday

Why are only certain conditions deemed viable in representing the human condition? Should what is perceived as “important” art be limited to what comes from a certain kind of artist living a certain kind of lifestyle? Judy Gelles, Sally Mann, Martha Rosler, Mary Kelly, Michelle Grabner and the diverse range of artists who also happen to be mothers would disagree.

The timer is ringing and one of my children is charging in furious that the other is breathing too loudly yet that does not mean I change from artist back to mother. We can, at all times, be both. There is “no one theoretical discourse…”

By Kelley Hagemes, Read more about Kelley on our contributors page on her website

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