What Will Her Kids Think? Artist Statement UNCUT
Hi! I haven’t written a “real” post for awhile; so in anticipation for the upcoming reading (Feb. 24) on motherhood with momaha.com to close my exhibit at Star Deli Gallery, (details here and below), I thought I’d give my cherished readers some insight into the first draft of my artist statement. When you go you will see it got cut by about 3/4! I tend to take awhile to get to my points…but also I will share a couple of art pieces that didn’t make the show…scroll way down (they’re hidden! :) ). See you soon, and thanks for reading!
Sally Deskins: What Will Her Kids Think. Artist Statement UNCUT
“…Maternity is antithetical to the creative life, primarily because of the prevailing attitude that one couldn’t be a woman and an artist, too; how then to be a mother and a painter? The idea that maternity and art don’t go together has cropped up more than once.” JUDY CHICAGO
“Both roles require sacrifice, devotion and submission. So when a woman already exchanges her identity, in the eyes of society, for that of “mother,” it leaves little room for her self-identity as an artist to not only flourish, but stand alone.” LAUREN BARBATO
“Mothers cannot become artists/because they already are.” AMY SANTO
The quotes above are merely a few, and as recent as 2012. In the 1970s, Chicago’s attitude towards mothers and art making was prevalent among women artists who were mothers—they actively hid the fact, afraid it would harm their careers (“Tales of Motherhood,” Jennie Klein, ArtPulse, 2012).
Moving forward, Chicago herself produced the poignant “Birth Project” (1980-1985), celebrating various aspects of the birth process. Mary Kelly, another significant artist from the feminist movement, explored the mother-child relationship in “Post-Partum Document” (1976) exhibiting her own sense of loss, moving between the voices of mother, child and observer informed by feminism and personal analysis.
There are women currently exploring motherhood; “Breaking in Two: A Provocative Vision of Motherhood” in Santa Monica, 2012; exploring the dual roles and perceptions of artist-mother; “Mother/Mother” at AIR Gallery Brooklyn, 2009. In 2011, editors Myrel Chernick and Jennie Klein published The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art (Demeter Press) discussing the life choice and tensions for creative women with feminist artists, art historians and theorists.
Still, women doing art about well, being women or mothers, is often perceived as “ghettoized” and continues to be seen as “baby art”—the artist doing work about baby until its out of their system, and then they go back to doing their “normal” work (“Breaking in Two,” Lauren Barbato, Women’s Media Center, 2012). The common representation of the genre, too, is the embracing “mother and child” by a plethora of artists in history.
Of course, motherhood and womanhood is ever a topic of popular culture with regards to birth control, pay, abuse, violence, the “right way” to mother, and body image. But how much of this is by women (mostly men are interviewed by the media; just 3% of clout positions in mainstream media are held by women; women comprise just 7% directors and 13% film writers in top grossing films, Miss Representation, 2011); and how much of this is expressively raw instead of politicized or media-spun?
The 2008 documentary, Who Does She Think She Is? followed five women artists attempted to be artists and be mothers and wives. By the end of the movie, 3/5 divorced; 1 did not continue her craft.
Personally being a mother has infinitely impacted my craft—the continuous tug and pull of both artistry and motherhood is both amazing and frustrating. In recognizing my real luck of being able to stay at home with my healthy children and pursue my creative endeavors, I continue to meet resistance within myself and others, most especially to my genre of choice, that is the nude; hence the title of the show, “What Will Her Kids Think?” a common question I have received over my work and role.
Of course I ask this myself, over and over again: should I choose to be a 100% mother, cherish the kids while they are young, prolong my artist yearnings until they leave the house? After six years of questioning this, unfailingly able to decide, I have come the conclusion—I cannot and will not decide. I will embrace both and consciously; as another artist told me; my children are my first two eggs I care for and protect, art is my third.
"Art Time #15," crayon, marker on paper, by H., M. & Sally Deskins 2012
What of my choice of genre; nudity? Shall I alter my creative vision while they’re young, to shield them from nudity, as many people have also suggested time and again? Someone once told me to hang Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” (1486) was inappropriate for a baby’s nursery. Well, perhaps from the angle that it is, once again, a piece in art history idealizing and objectifying the female body. But, in a time when violence and objectification is culture; children are not only unshielded but flooded with images and stories of violence, abuse and objectification of the female body in popular culture in media—it is about time to show them a different perspective of expression and ways of seeing life and the female form.
Life, as we have learned, is fragile; as are my children; let us celebrate the beauty of it, the human form and creativity; not be afraid of what can save us. My body prints are an attempt at abstracting the idea of nudity, and seeing the female form in a new, beautiful, maybe sensual or sexual, but not a cultural-idealized light. My drawings of my pregnant nude form using children’s media of watercolor, crayon and pencil also aim to bring the sheltered hyper-sexualized female form to an appreciated, non-scrutinized angle. By also incorporating my children’s craft (some of the drawings they have painted on before or after my drawing, some of the body prints as well), I connect with them not only with me into the literal process of expression, but hopefully turn the outlook of nudity from distance to affection, as I see it and hope my children do, too.
Some of the body prints I utilized the above quotes and others from mother-artists, from those who have questioned my way of mothering and artistry, and thoughts in my head—by writing those down and printing over them, it is my way of processing and expressing them in a positive fashion, to figure out my own way, amongst the mass of it all, in appreciation of the expressive way of dealing with personal issues—this hurts no one, and can only be a benefit by sharing my story, so that if even one person relates, it can make a difference.
This series builds on my first series of body prints exhibited in 2012 at The New BLK Gallery for Les Femmes Folles: VOICE (co-curated by myself and Megan Loudon Sanders). Inspired by Yves Klein’s “Anthropometries” (1960), my body-prints alternatively work in a feminist fashion; as I work concurrently as the artist/director and model. Too, with regards to the female body image, my prints are obviously that of a woman; as the curls of my pubic hair are evident, to work against the current trend of prepubescent-styled bodies in popular media.
“Art should cause violence to be set aside and it is only art that can accomplish this.”
Feb. 24, 5pm at Star Deli Gallery, 6114 Military Ave in Benson: Momaha.com partners with Sally Deskins and her journal, Les Femmes Folles to present a reading on motherhood with writers Marilyn Coffey, Sally Deskins, Cat Dixon, Fran Higgins, Megan Hunt, Jessica Mogis, Rebecca Rotert, Michelle Troxclair, Felicia Webster, T. Wade, Laura Madeline Wiseman and more. The reading will complement Sally’s show closing that night at Star Deli Gallery, “What Will Her Kids Think?” and feature Momaha.com writer Danielle Herzog. Get there early for free gift bag from Momaha.com!
And for some of the work that didn’t make the cut….
Bum prints on dishes! And undies! I loved this! But did not get a great reception from my peers….ok, so doesn’t really quite follow the rest of the show….and I can see how its kinda yucky….
An old lace curtain!! Goodmorning sunshine, I love this!! Also did not get a lot of praise from my (very generous and kind) group of cohorts who I consulted at about each point of creation for this show…Ok, I see maybe that’s more of a domestic statement, not necessarily motherhood…
Tribute to mother earth!! I love this! Again, not a good cohort reception…I guess the media is kinda random compared to the rest…Next time!!
I made much much more! And will continue to explore…thanks to my group of friends for being patient and always honest with feedback…thanks for those fans who scrolled down to check out the rejects! :) See you soon I hope!