MY OWN STORY ABOUT THE ART OF MOTHERHOOD
In 2014, I was nine months pregnant with Max, our first child, and wearing a toga when we were shut down at our Main Street Studio by the fire marshals during a Burlesque fundraiser - oh-so-cleverly titled “Empire of Pleasure: A Night of Colossal Indulgence”.
As it turned out, our building had no certificate of occupancy and hadn’t since the 1950s when it was a Coca Cola bottling plant. It most certainly was not zoned for an artist collective and occasional bawdy fundraising event.
Remember that name drop list I used to get the building? Well, this time, I didn’t have a name drop list to share with the fire marshals. I did ask very slow and repetitive questions while people finished their beers, and thanked the nice fire marshals for waiting until the end of the event to shut us down so that we could make some money - a fact they shared with me as evidence that they were, in fact, very nice fire marshals.
I spent all 6 weeks of maternity leave with Max learning a new name drop list, the ins and outs of zoning, parking variations, how to read architectural plans, and which employees at City Hall could help versus hurt the cause.
5 years later, I’m now on the Richmond 300 Advisory Council to update the citywide master plan, in no small part because of these hard lessons learned as a brand new mom, worried about a colicky newborn and terrified of losing all I’d worked for to the whims of bureaucracy.
And in the end, after all that learning, we decided to move. We’d outgrown the space on Main Street in 4 years time and had to take a leap of faith. We had to ask for faith from those friends, family, strangers and acquaintances who had become family and friends. We had to build an even wider network, to ask more people to become family and friends and help us fund the renovations and relocation to a new home in Scott’s Addition. And with generosity, luck, tenacity and a lot of elbow grease, we did it.
I wore Max in an Ergo Baby Carrier while on walkthroughs for the building renovation, breastfed him while inspecting finishes and electrical outlets, he cruised around the new Scott’s Addition studio in his baby walker before any furniture moved in.
Now, at 4 years old, on days off from school he sprays down table tops and sometimes helps organize materials for workshops. More often than not, he helps un-organize materials. He is confident and proud of his mommy’s work - he tells people he’s going to be an artist just like his mommy when he grows up.
In 2016 I became a mom for the second time, when I gave birth to baby Zoey, my magical little imp. We call her the house elf because she’s wee and full of mischief.
I came back early from maternity leave, having to let a wayward employee go, and wore Zoey while righting the ship, preparing for our Winter Print Fair, hiring and training Hillary, our Assistant Director (who is amazing). The whole time, the house elf was with me, loved, held by interns, artists, visitors, and growing while surrounded by a village of support and the joy of making.
My creative process now involves Max and Zoey. Max turns 5 next month, and he can make prints with mommy. We capture moments and trends in Max’s life - last year it was birds, we made the print Max’s birds together, evidence that Max and mommy were here, loved each other, and worked together.
I made the print I Love You More (for Max), when my 2.5 year old came home and replied to “I love you” with “I luhhhh you mohhhh” - breaking my heart forever and making life so much richer.
Somewhere in having children, the old you dies. You lose who you once were, most of it, at least. This loss of self is very real, but a new self takes its place.
I’ve been reading and re-reading “A Love Story” by Samantha Hunt because of how true it is. She says:
“But there is no self left. Why would there be? From one small body I made three new humans. I grew these complex beauties. I made their lungs and noses. It took everything I had to make them. Liver? Take it. Self-worth? It’s all yours. New people require natural resources and everyone knows you don’t get something for nothing.
Why wouldn’t I be hollowed out? Who can’t understand this math?
The strangest part of these calculations is that I don’t even mind. Being hollow is the best way to be. Being hollow means I can fill myself with stars or light or rose petals if I want. I’m glad everything I once was is gone and my children are here instead. They’ve erased the individual and I am grateful. The individual was not special in the first place. And, really, these new humans I made are a million times better than I ever was.”
My latest print series is called “I Made These Complex Beauties.” My children, these complex beauties that I made, get to grow up in this magical space that I helped make.
They are loved by a village of artists, they draw with wild abandon, they construct forts from Amazon delivery boxes and bits of string they found in a closet, they dance spastically to the Ramones in our event space on late nights while we prepare for our annual auction, they overindulge in the candy that is somehow ever-present on the table by the studio door. This is my Art of Motherhood and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But there are still more answers to the question: Why Studio Two Three?
THE ART OF ACTIVISM