What do you do all day ?
Today I get a coffee in bed. Today I am a lucky mother-artist for being appreciated and respected. Thats all that I need, respect, lack of conflict, kindness. I ask for little. I expect nothing. It is better if there is some understanding.
What is it that I do all day?
Ensure Syd has his breakfast- a banana
Ensure Syd has money for the bus and his dinner and the gym.
Ensure Syd has agreed a time that he needs to be back home after the gym.
Feel happy with Syd, he is getting more independent and being more responsible for himself. I am pleased that he is interested in getting fit, in drawing, in playing his guitar all of this is good.
Persuade Naoise into his uniform. Provide Naosie with reassurance that it will be ok to wear his school shoes to school even though one is flashing constantly. I tell him I can take them back to the shop and get them replaced. Naoise is concerned that then he would have to wear the shoes in again and they would be uncomfortable. Naoise does not want toast, banana cake, rasberry porridge for breakfast he asks for custard. I tell him that custard is not on the breakfast menu so I boil him an egg instead.Now Naoise wants a tickle fight. Back upstairs a tickle fight. Naoise bangs his head. Provide comfort.Get Naoise jumper and coat on its much cold and grey and breezy today. Take a chapati with us to feed the geese and ducks.
Walk down canal path. See a duck with seven fluffy ducklings. Feed the geese chunks of chapati. The geese families are on the far side of the canal bank in the wooded area eating grass and grubs, they are not interested in our chapati. Get Naoise to avoid walking on the piles of goose poo.
Get distracted by an email, stop writing email responses on the school run, this is not the time for admin.Naoise looks tired, scoop him up, put him on my shoulders. Cross road with the lolly pop man, thank him, wish him a good day.
Walk into the school, up the ramp, into the side door, ignore teaching assistant as she is only interested in my child, not me. If she catches my eye I smile if she does not I concentrate on getting in through the door. Help Naoise into classroom, hang up bag, encourage him to do as the teacher says, sit on carpet, listen to story. I remember that I have not signed a consent form so that Naoise can take part in a bicycle workshop. Request a spare form from the teacher, fill it in, sign it.
Give Naoise a kiss and a hug good bye wish him a happy day.
Wait for my friend to come out and check if she needs me to look after the children. Walk up hill then run.
What is it that I do all day?
I maintain. I nurture. I assist. I care. I plan. I observe. I find. I watch. I reflect. I apply. I tidy and sort. I walk up the hill. I run so that I can maintain my wellbeing and I am able to function as a human being. I run and dodge the sheep shit. I love seeing the lambs and the ewes. I pass the spot where the decomposing leg of a lamb is, I photograph the leg. I am more intrigued than disgusted. I am not afraid to look. I look. I have my eyes wide open. I live in the now and I try not to be anxious. I run as its quicker than walking so I can get to the studio, start my day or work.
As my time is so short to make anything, do anything creative, I try to combine running with art making. I sketch out ideas, I make some notes that can be developed into something more substantial later. Or the ideas may forever stay as notes and sketches, a record of a necessity to make in the moment, before the moment and the idea passes. I had planned to do something with the pram and the redundant childrens stuff in the cellar but I reject this idea, realising that it would need a camera person to help me. Best to work alone, work on what you can do independently, everything becomes impossibly slow and complex as soon as its a collaboration, and so many collaborative ideas that I have discussed typed out spent time over never come to fruition. Best to do what I can do. To be independent.
I think of the legs and I think of my naked legs and I think of the trees and the branches of trees as legs. I compare the texture of my pubic hair to the moss growing on the branches of the oak tree. Is this all too obvious? I don’t want to explain. Art looses its power if you explain exactly what led to its making. This is over analysis. You don’t need to know that the lambs leg led to my legs. Naked legs, decomposing legs, ageing legs, ageing body, life, walking, being outside. One step in front of the next, moving and pushing forward through life. Chest and breast first.
Taking the photographs I felt vulnerable. I need to be careful that I am not caught out by a dog walker. I would not want to be found in the woods with my pants down. I am not ashamed of my body, I just know that other people can feel threatened and embarrassed by nudity and I possibly could get into trouble too. All I am doing is taking photographs of my naked legs in a tree but thats not ordinary is it ? Its ordinary to take your clothes off on a beach, thats acceptable but not in a wood. Its good to be ever so a little bit naughty. Its good to take control to be able to express myself, my body in the way that I want to. I wonder what Anna Mendieta would have said.
Making these images I think also of Sarah Lucas casts of legs and vaginas and bottoms clenching cigarettes, her custard coloured installation I Scream Daddio installation at the Venice Biennale. Fried eggs and spam: behind the scenes at the Venice Biennale with Sarah Lucas- exclusive video.
Her work speaks to me, its cheeky, naughty, plays with the female body, with sexuality, especially her black cats with enlarged breasts. Her cats breasts are full of milk….There is a word for it ? I love her naivety. She does not know the word that describes breasts that are full of milk. The word or rather the phrase is engorged with milk. She uses the word lactating. Her cats breasts are not lactating. Her cats breasts are full. Just full.
I decide to go to the studio rather than stay in the house and listen to the distracting sounds of scrapping and banging and drilling and bashing from the building going on next door. Our walls are paper thin so it feels as if they are in our house too.
On the way to the studio I think what it is I need to get done the application form for Project Afterbirth prepare talk for the conference on Motherhood and Creativity, advertise and prepare the Louise Bourgeois workshop, write M(other)s Stories, buy a wire brush for making mono prints. I will work through lunch, I don’t take breaks there is no time for rest. Need to squeeze as much productivity into the four hours that I have.
I won’t need to collect Syd from school today because he is making his own way back so this should give me another 30 minutes of time to be able to work in the studio.
This is not everything that I do all day. Some things are invisible I don’t measure the words of kindness, the conversations, the encouragement, the hugs, the play, the thought, the love, that is just what mothers do without being asked, isn’t it? Or is all of this expected of a mother? Its my role, its my work, its what has been assigned to me. I will do it without being asked, a mother loves her children regardless of a contract. A mother who is an artist and tries to combine both creativity and maintenance. Maintenance of others. This is what I do all day, but it cannot be measured or paid for or evaluated, it can only be done. The contract is unwritten. The contract of care that I and a world of mothers enter into each day. Must I always except this contract?
I will collect Naoise from school. I will go home play with him, make him dinner, wash up, tidy away, get him in the bath, read to him, settle him down, get him to sleep, then I will settle Syd down, maybe talk to him see that all is ok, then maybe do some more housework or any other work of my own that needs doing and finally I will collapse into bed and maybe dream but I don’t remember any dreams at the moment.