Artist Residency in Motherhood Weekly Progress Report.

Today ends the fifth week of my Artist Residency in Motherhood and I locked myself in the bathroom.

The lock down has hurtled me back to my postpartum experience. The constant “tension between independence and dependence, between self-assertion and self-abnegation and between love and hate” is overwhelming. (p.11, Parker)

Weekend goal: re-read Mother Love /Mother Hate by Rozsika Parker.

The difference between lock down and postpartum is that now my child can assert herself and express her identity in opposition to mine verbally.

Redemption is in the fact “that conflicts generated by maternal ambivalence are potentially creative.” (preface, Parker)

In the studio this week—–

Playing with text collage, quote by Aeon.

Dryer lint paper continued. Laying damp paper over bodily care objects to create ghostly sculptures. Mother/Daughter pairs.

Knitting continued. Working on creating a body size piece of knitting that I will use to scrub the floor.

Daily maternal movements stitch journal progress.


Slowing Down and Handmade Paper

My Artist Residency in Motherhood just got extended by order of Oregon Governor Brown last night.

The Residency was supposed to end in May when my daughter returned to school. She will no longer be returning for the rest of the year. I honestly do not know how I feel about this yet.

(after coffee…)

I feel like I should panic or I’m supposed to be panicking… but also I’ve actually really enjoyed our time at home this week (as opposed to last week when it was not so great).

There I said it! (wipes sweat from forehead) Life is actually pretty good right now.

Except… I am running out of paper. Not toilet paper, just paper. My local art store where I buy my paper in bulk is closed and I have been feverishly making grids and dots soooo… its almost gone.

Work in Progress, toxic dots

Finding a solution to this predicament brings me back four years when I was making recycled paper at my in home childcare. We would take all those construction paper art projects the kids did, throw them in a blender and press the pulp onto a screen. The kids loved this.

I ended up doing this on my own with my discarded art projects and laying the still wet paper over some of the childcare toys, creating ghostly sculptures when the paper dried. After about 6 months of making paper like nothing else existed I stopped. I got interested in something else.

And now you know what I struggle with in my art practice. I get bored. I explore and then move on. (Or maybe this is just a challenging aspect of my personality- I get really excited about one thing and then when I have exhausted that excitement I move on.)

This quarantine may feed into that in the sense that I may run out of materials to continue on one path but it may also challenge this tendency.

Because life is so constant now and there is no where to go- I am forced to be still and work at a slower pace.

So this is my task for the day- make paper.

Rituals of Motherhood

Every night I check if my daughter is breathing.

I put my hand up to her nose to feel her breath and reassure myself that I have kept her alive for one more day.

While I have always done this, as an Artist Resident in Motherhood I have decided to document it.

(As I write this my daughter is very calmly putting butterfly wings on me, instructing me where to put my arms between words.)

My documentation will be a nightly sketch of her nose and/or mouth in the dark.

My Mother Bear anxiety that compels me to check my daughter’s breath is heightened, as I am sure yours is, by the COVID-19 pandemic. In my postpartum period I had intense visions of terrible situations my daughter could be in and how I would save her. Situations like kidnapping, natural disasters, or zombie apocalypse. It could happen at any moment and was like a movie playing before my eyes. I called them my Mama Bear visions. This would often happen while I was walking with her strapped to my chest in a baby wrap and I would stop for a moment and when it passed I would just keep going.

In this real life Mama Bear vision that hasn’t ended yet I am paused and taking daily documentation of my child’s well being so that when it is over I can keep going.

Letting Go

As I embark on a Residency in Motherhood in this time of profound isolation and uncertainty I am confronted with questions.

What can I make using the materials I already have?

How can I participate in a community?

What new ways of interacting can we invent?

How the hell do I collaborate with my defiant 6 year old?!

Collaborative Self Portrait with handmade ink.

Here is how it goes:

If she knows I am intentionally working towards a goal she will work against it.

If I come at this with a plan, I will want to control it.

If I want to control it, my daughter with sabotage it.

If my daughter sabotages it, I will get frustrated.

If I get frustrated, everyone has a bad day.

The point?

I need to let go of control.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy though? But it is not. I am a controlling person, this is not going to change.

So I need to balance maintaining control in the small moments available to me and letting go of control when I am with my daughter.

Enter my rituals.

Check back in tomorrow to see documentation of some rituals that keep me sane.

Today is the day…

I have known about Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood since 2015 when my daughter was 2 years old and I had the sudden urge to make art again. I read every book, article or blog post about art and motherhood I could find and somewhere in there was this intriguing idea- to re-frame the space of motherhood and the domestic as an Artist Residency.

In addition to being the mother of a 2 year old I was an in home childcare provider, caring for four other toddlers and financially supporting the entire household. It was stressful, I was not OK. So I created an Artist in Residence at Preschool for myself.

I hung large pieces of white paper on the walls of my home/childcare. Every time I had to take away a toy that was being fought over I traced it on the wall. Every meal the small humans did not finish I blended up into “ink” and screen printed onto the wall. I threw their loads of construction paper artwork into blenders and remade paper. (I did this to all their snotty tissues too!)

That residency saved my sanity.

Fast forward to three weeks before the closures started to go down. I was let go from my job in local food production and had decided to finally try to start a career as an Artist. For three weeks I worked in my home studio for FIVE UNINTERRUPTED HOURS A DAY while my 6 year old was at school. It was blissful.

Then schools closed and my momentum vanished. Then everything closed and the reality of the situation set in.

It is stressful and I am NOT OK. So… I am intentionally re-framing this time at home as an Artist Residency in Motherhood.

Here we go…

Ways to Engage with me on this journey:

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