“You Can’t Create if You Procreate”

On March 29th, my firstborn, my baby boy, Jacob, turns 11.  Hard to believe the big boy he has become – he is just centimeters away from being taller than me.  (Not hard to do when you’re a measly 5 feet tall, but he is only 11!)  I can see my authority slowly vanishing.  Last week at ice skating, I skated at least halfway around the rink, oblivious to the fact that he was giving me bunny ears.  Each time he passed me on his rotations around the rink, he would smack me in the butt.  I was indignant. “I am your mother!  That is disrespectful!”

He still likes to cuddle and hug despite the fact that he is all sharp elbows and knees.  More often than not, he clocks me in the face.  When he comes to me for a hug, I instinctively cringe for fear of being inadvertently hurt or having my coffee spilled all over me.  The other morning he sensed my reticence:  the corners of his mouth went down and quiet tears rolled down his face.  I told him, “I hug you when you’re sleeping.”  This is true.  He is peaceful when he sleeps and looks just like the newborn he once was, lying in the bassinet next to my hospital bed.  I hug him and then the tears roll down my face.  He is growing up.

A mother’s love is strong. My ex husband’s mother claims that a grandmother’s love is even stronger than a mother’s love she loves my two children so much. She really believes that she loves my kids more than I do and now that I left my husband – further proof!

One day, Jacob asked me “what happens when you die?”

“Some people believe that you go to heaven, some people believe that your soul lives on, some people believe that you are born again and come back as another person…” No answer felt right.

Jacob, my sweetheart, replied with great conviction, “Mommy, if I come back as a different person and you come back as a different person, I will find you.”

When I first began composing this blog, my goal was to find art that dealt with motherhood.  The pickings were slim – most of the art was super-granola-ey: paintings of  goddess mothers cradling their radiant infants.  But then, I came across these photographs by Heather Gray – they made me laugh out loud.  My above reminiscence about being a mom to my no-longer-a-baby boy verges on the saccharine.  Heather’s work adds a little spice to my sugar.

In Heather’s own words, she describes the genesis of her art:

“I first began making art about motherhood when I entered into the MFA residency program at Vermont College of Fine Arts three months pregnant.   When the word got out at the residency that I was pregnant I was overcome by all the attention.  Older women would tell me their birth stories, complete strangers felt the need to touch my belly and the question of whether I would return next semester kept arising.  During the critiques of some of the women’s work, I sensed the resentment they had for their children.  Several of them mentioned that having a child postponed their ability to make art.  One woman stated, “You won’t be able to do it.  I had to take two semesters off when my son was born.”

Women artist are told they should not have children, and the “you-can’t-create-if -you-procreate” myth is common…  Only in the past few decades have women artist had the choice to have a career in both motherhood and art.

It is obvious that becoming a mother has a tremendous effect on your lifestyle.  Being a mother and creating art are both part of the human experience.  Why can’t we do both at once?  Having a child is a very important experience in a women’s life, so why isn’t there more art about such a wonderful subject?  It seems that women/mother’s would find more time to create if they used the subject of motherhood to their advantage.
I finished my MFA through the Vermont College of Fine Arts program and never took a break.  I went into labor the day after I left my second residency and graduated from the program when my son was only twenty two months.   My son Aasha is now seven and I continue to focus on developing an understanding of the broader social and cultural context of my personal experience as a mother and woman and address these insights in my art practice as a photographer.”

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To purchase Heather’s work, please visit her Etsy site: Hgphotograpy.  To view more of her work and to learn more about Heather, check out her website.


About buyoriginalart

I am an painter living outside of Philadelphia. I founded the artist's cooperative, MamaCita, A Mother's Cooperative in the Arts. My mission in this blog is to raise public awareness about the relevance of buying original art (as opposed to cheap reproductions.)
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7 Responses to “You Can’t Create if You Procreate”

  1. Gioia says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The problem is not procreating (I started painting again thanks to my first child’s birth) is the kind of crazy life that we need to carry on that can be really tricky to cope with…..

    • Oohh… I love your work! And I agree with your comment. I didn’t become the artist I am until my son was born. Less time to paint, but the time spent is more inspired, more directed, more meaningful.

      • Gioia says:

        Thanks! Yes, the time is not much….but when she was born I said “Now or never!”. The most important thing is NO STOP again! 😉

  2. karoline says:

    thanks for posting this, love the titles and the work. I think its really important that this work be made. they are hilarious and exposing. “fixture” is my favorite, i have sent my self to the corner ( time out in my bedroom) when needed when the kids were younger. I like meatlocker too. great for discussion.

  3. brenda says:

    thanks for posting/exposing yourself. Love this artist’s work. Fixture is also my favorite.

  4. Having my daughter is what spurred me to make art…..starting with a torn paper collage I made of her for my husband as a Father’s Day present….it just naturally sprung up from the core of my being, with no effort at all. Motherhood unlocked my creativity in so many ways. More often than not my girl is the subject of my art as well. One of the many gifts she gave me by coming into my life.

  5. Dave says:

    Moving and inspiring, thank you for writing this. I feel parenthood seems to be missed or taken for granted by some. It seems people feel it’s common ground to complain about their kids, like the weather. I have been inspired by my wife’s (what seems to be sudden) leap in creativity and art since the birth of our daughter. Perhaps fear causes people to shut down and art forces us to face things.

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