Using objects in art is a great way to tell a hard truth. The object is infused with a message, a meaning that helps convey more subtly a story or reality. I chose to use a doll’s head to both explore a moment in childhood and also a parenting struggle.
In “Not living up to Barbie” 2017 I explored a tension I felt in motherhood. Barbie became a representation of “super mom”. As we learn more about child-rearing the “what sort of parenting do you do?” is a common question and judgement. With the rise of social media the pressures on mothers is exacerbated by Pinterest boards of busy moms running multiple figure businesses, dressed impeccably, making healthy nutritious meals for the family and living in immaculate homes. Barbie represents this false image we as women hold up. It’s an impossible standard to live up to.
It’s an impossible standard to live up to.
In this painting the table shows the beginning of meal prep and children’s toys. The never ending daily tasks (cooking, cleaning etc) that create a constant chaos both visually and organizationally. They also represent the basic needs (feeding our kids) as well as the joys we hope to create (a child playing is imagined through these objects). Among the beets can be found a human heart representing how we give so much of ourselves as mothers. The fence represents the tension between the deep need to keep our kids safe and the caged feeling of so much responsibility. As the Barbie head (aka “perfect mother”) is removed one can see that the figure is not defined and almost missing. This painting was a monumental shift in my perception of motherhood. When I put aside the pressures I felt as a mom (the tug of war between all the responsibilities, my hopes and gnawing self doubts) the biggest issue wasn’t my grappling with time management but that I didn’t even know who I was without the label of “Mother”. I had found myself missing from my own life.
Many artists’ journeys follow this classic tale: They “know” from an early age that they want to be an artist. They draw as kids, they are encouraged by a high school art teacher or someone they respect. It’s what they’ve always enjoyed. And then years later (like 30 for me!!!) they finally step into their creative passion and have the confidence to call themselves artists.
What is really fascinating about these journeys is how life has a way to gently guide us to our fulfilled lives through our greatest challenges.
In 2011 I became a mother for the first time. The year my son was born I did the most craft fairs I had even done. These shows were a way for me to see if my work was appreciated and to become part of the art world. It was a big, fulfilling year! It was a personal success and financial failure (which caused years of questioning).
An intense inner pull to selflessness that the bond with a child brings. I did what I had to do. Living in a state of suspended ‘now’ (perhaps similar to Covid times…). As I tried to figure out my career I felt all the frustration of not having ‘my time’. With my husband’s support I decided to go back to school and do a BFA. I was a mature student in my 40s surrounded by 20 year olds. I had nothing to fear but being dishonest with myself. It was the perfect setting for me. It’s the safe container I needed to come out of myself.
It all started with a painting (the one above). At first my journey into motherhood felt like I was mourning the loss of my alone time. My time had become the family’s, my son’s. But through this painting and subsequent others I quickly came to realize that I hadn’t lost “my” time but that I had in fact no idea of who I was.
I had found myself missing from my own life.
I had lived from the role of ‘daughter’ to ‘student’ to ‘girlfriend’ to ‘partner’ to ‘mother’ and then to ‘home maker’. Trying to live up to my upbringing and perhaps society’s image (Hello Pinterest 🙂). I had preconceived ideas of who I was suppose to be (that I wasn’t even aware of!?!). I struggled to ignore my individuality and resign myself to trying to perform those roles well. Through art I was allowing my own truth to speak. The lost part of me that felt it didn’t have a place in this new world of motherhood started to emerge.
Through a series of paintings I came to understand that motherhood was a relationship I had to work on not only in connection to others but to myself. You can see the full (to date) Finding Yourself Missing collection HERE.
I came across this wonderful exercise. Write down what you believe. In a world constantly bombarding us with “Shoulds” and “Coulds” this is a freeing exercise that puts front and center my beliefs and grounds me a truth that is stronger then my constant quest for learning something new to help be cover up my feels of “not good enough”. (OK there’s a few journaling prompts right there!)
Obviously figuring out what one believes is a continuous soul-searching activity. It will probably change as I do. At first it’s scary to name those beliefs but once you’ve made a list it’s easy to feel which ones are true for you. They give you power to soar and a firm grounding to stand on.
Here is what I know to be true (for now).
What do you believe? I highly recommend asking yourself and sitting with what you come up with 🙂 And then turning it into a nice graphically satisfying poster also feels good.