In partial protest, I am putting the mother in the gallery. She is not the idealized mother painted with glowing beams of light smiling down at her child, but the real, subjective, elated, grumpy, sexy, frustrated, proud mother who wishes to express herself in that space, not to be spoken for. I’ve been researching and making work along these lines for ten years. In that time, I’ve been able to organize the work into three seemingly arbitrary categories of moments, holes, and stuff.
Moments address the sometimes fleeting, often repetitive, usually mundane, moments curated from ‘life with child’. Slices of life are culled out and edited through my maternal lens. These are the times while folding clothes that I realize she is just a miniature of me with similar clothing, just smaller. Or it is the time in the restaurant when she is cold and gets into my sweater while I’m wearing it. These are the moments that I explore further such as the video, Sharing Space, or through performance and sculpture.
The holes refer to the parts missing or cut out of a material. They reference both the material itself being of the same as that which is removed and the lack experienced from birth onward. The materiality is based on the constant state of construction that a relationship is in which is neither finished nor fixed. As with the performance, How Do You Get Through Words, the holes are literally the words that are cut out of drywall, wood, steel, or paper. They are both the marker and the thing that is marked.
The stuff in my work refers to the objects that perform themselves. They are the things around the house that attend to the child. The books, toys, soccer shoes, balls, hats, gloves, dolls, doll clothes, computer, iPad, movies, crayons, markers, photos, drawings all perform the presence of a child. As referenced in the work from the Mother Lode exhibition, In Balance With, and Symphony of the Domestic II, without her, there would be none of that stuff. Stuff also exists mentally that is all-consuming. Holding her hand while crossing the street or hoping that she’ll call takes up space in my mind as a mother. My work sources inspiration and representation from the home, so its presence is such in the gallery.
As my daughter grows, so do my interactions with her and my work. Early iterations of In Balance With (now an annual performance piece) show a 5-year-old shy from the attention performing with her mother in the gallery to a lanky, aloof 11-year-old playing on her iPad, legs nearly touching the floor. The newer piece, Making Up, is a collaborative action in which she had one hour to dress me, put on my make-up and do my hair. The results are surprising and absurd and exist as 14 life-sized digital prints. Through this piece, it was my intention to both spend time with her and create art. My current work and research is focused on anthropologic magic and customs involving the transformation rituals for girls coming of age as my daughter turns 13 this fall.