Guest Blog: Artist Residency in Motherhood

Guest post by Victoria Hoyt, who will be exhibiting her work in the Michael Phipps Gallery of the W. Dale Clark (Main) Library during January and February. More details about the gallery reception on 1/6/17 can be found here.

The work that I’m showing at the Michael Phipps Gallery originates from an idea by the conceptual artist Lenka Clayton. She founded an open-source artist residency designed to structure time and work from within motherhood, not against it. Artist residencies are typically time and space away from your life because that’s what we as artists have decided is helpful for artistic creation. They can be great, but they don’t reflect the reality of being a new parent and an artist at the same time, because in reality, the space of creating is divided between home life and art life. Having a child can sometimes feel like a choice against making.

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Who needs to sketch when your baby just spit up in the shape of ovaries on your sketchbook...

So, I was very grateful for the article about Clayton’s project, called “An Artist Residency in Motherhood,” that I read when my daughter Izzy was about ten months old. I’ve always been fairly jumpy in what I do—I like to paint and collect and print things and take pictures and combine a lot of things together—but since I became a mother, I was really struggling to find focus and value in my work at all. Reading her manifesto gave me a new charge and completely shifted my perspective. Instead of being frustrated that I wasn’t getting time alone, I figured out how to draw while breastfeeding (on my phone). I made “momskills” signs that touted my newfound abilities in a humorous way (at least, to me). I got on Instagram, which might sound like a stupid thing to brag about, but when you haven’t shared your work with anyone in year or so? Posting that square picture was intensely vulnerable, and those hearts—so affirming!

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Izzy painting in my studio.

I share this back story because, one, this project was so helpful for me I want to share it with as many people as possible (fathers can do it, too), and two, I think it helps to understand the fragmentary nature of this show in particular. I have Artist Residency in Motherhood business cards that say:

“The fragmented mental focus, exhaustion, nap-length studio time and other distractions of parenthood (as well as the absurd poetry of time spent with children) will be my working materials rather than obstacles to be overcome.”

I just love that “absurd poetry of time” line. Izzy is now two-and-a-half and there can be desperate tears, talk of monsters, caboose songs, demands that I understand her at all times, spinning dances and spontaneous declarations of love all within an hour. Sixty minutes does not accurately capture that time in and out of those feelings, it just doesn’t.

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M is for melancholy

Those emotions split up and strung out and connected in all these various ways is what I’m getting at with the work in the show. “Twenty-six Forms Relating,” which ­­consists of sewn collages (more accurately, I should say femmages, if you want to check that out) of collected drawings, patterns, fabric and text. I wanted to follow the alphabet as a narrative structure because that’s my life right now (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom) and it was a good way let disparate parts belong together. The words mostly come from children’s books, songs, Izzy, and there’s one line from President Obama thrown in for good measure. I’m also working on a small story to go along with the images, so if all goes well, there will be zines at the gallery opening on 1/6/17! Thank for your interest in the show and I hope to see you Friday from 4-6pm at Main Library!

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