Muddle, Puddle

11.01am (at my desk in the studio)

Playing with the cheap black and white copies of my blog posts. Hanging them on a line of string with small clothes peg paper clips. It looks ok, it suggests the domestic. It will do. I have to make do. Ideally it would be colour copies, or poster sized extracts, but I haven’t the cash for that. This will do. Its a sketch. Better to just get on with it than wish for something that cannot be at this moment in time.

Naoise ran up the ramp after his friend. We were just to school on time. I had dressed him in his half sleep, given him extra time on the sofa, winced and looked the other way and tried not to show that I was really wound up by him teasing me with not brushing his teeth when I had asked.

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I woke up really early at five, but I had slept since around 9.45pm. I got up to send the mail out about the open studio weekend. I had meant to send it last night, instead I collapsed in bed with Naoise reading Moomin and the Comet.

I fell asleep listening to Naoise cry, he was hungry. He refused to eat the tiger bread with only butter, he wanted marmite as well. P refused to get him the marmite he requested. I couldn’t be raised from my sleep. I felt bad falling to sleep as he sobbed, but I did’nt have the energy to make things better. Thats what mothers are meant to do isn’t it, comfort, calm, wipe away tears. Last night I gave up. I am too easy to give up. It is just as well I only have two children. I did feel neglectful and guilty. I am not perfect, I am far from it. I am not even good enough. I am just me.

I hardly saw Syd last night, he did his homework, then went to the gym with his friend. I need to find a way to reconnect with him. The years will fly past. I need to find time for Syd. Maybe he is just doing what teenagers do, putting a space between me and him, pulling out. I let him go and I want to pull him back in.

Naoise demands my attention. He has it. He has it.

I took photographs of the playground, a mother stopped me and asked what it was I was doing. I am not sure that I explained it very well, but art cannot really be explained away.

Why?

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I am taking photographs of the tarmac of the playground as this is the space that my child occupies when I am not with him. I am writing about motherhood. I am ranting. Its a daily rant about family life. The tarmac is hard, unfamiliar, solid. The tarmac stops a fall, causes a bruise, a cut. The playground is barren apart from some graphical lines and shapes, defining football game, hop skotch, snakes and ladders.

I am constantly throwing the dice and landing on the snakes. I am slivering back down, rolling  the dice again, and again. Why is it that ladders hold the key to success?  Why does reaching into the heavens pertain to success? Don’t all parents feel as if they are never really achieving anything and just running around in ever decreasing circles?

Like the circles you see in puddles.

The ladder is important it enables the cleaner to climb up to the window pane, and wash the view clean. The ladder allows us to look out. The ladder allows us to reach the apple balanced at the top.  Yoko Ono’s ladder. The ladder. The circle.

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I have been thinking a lot about artists pay this week. If I don’t engage with any opportunities that are not paid will this mean that I will be paid ? If I don’t engage with unpaid opportunities will this mean that there will be no opportunities ? What is an opportunity ? Unpick it ? Unpick the unpaid. There are too many unpaid opportunities. An unpaid opportunity perhaps is no opportunity at all?

Artists cannot live off thin air. I cannot afford to print, frame or post out any of my work. I am stuck in this limbo land until I actually get a job. I need a job to support my family and my practice because there are not enough paid opportunities to go around. I need to get back into that job hunt project again. I thought that it would be worth applying for a tiny slice of what is left of public arts funding, especially seeing as I am sitting here in the studio, writing, making thinking, doing, I might as well try and get paid. I need to het paid.

I need to be able to pay my bills. P is picking up the tab. I am not sure where I would be without his support. Impoverished I guess. I also wouldn’t be sitting here unless my mum had helped me, my friend who paid for an art commission and my other friend who paid for me to do a days work with her.

P had a dream that a volcano had exploded in the lake district, we managed to escape the lava flow by heading for higher ground.

I missed writing this yesterday. I feel guilty when I don’t write M(other) Stories. I feel that a day has been lost to the wind and the rain and the muddle. Mothers feel guilty about whether they are doing the right thing. I never know if I am doing the right thing.

This project needs to come to some kind of conclusion. Its not a film, its not a novel, it hasn’t got an exciting narrative. Its very mundane and slow and small things happen. I sort out the recycling from the cellar. P tells me he has been a fillyjonk, and has cleaned all the hooks and the rack above the stove. He cleaned it and sorted and tidied it. The lids of the saucepans sit in order. The oven dishes are stacked in a line.

Life is messy. Housework can order some of the clutter of the mind. Its satisfying. Simple. Maintenance.

My mind needs maintaining. I photograph puddles as they are mirrors. They hold clouds, faces, school gates, a fenced perimeter, a ball being thrown.

Puddles hold memories. Puddles are temporary. This project attempts to record things that shift and change constantly. This project holds on. I hold its hand. It wants to be fed. I feed it words and thoughts and time. There is no time to clean up the words and the thoughts afterwards. Perhaps its just verbal dihorea. Its not worked on,  carved out language. I am not a writer, I am an artist. Words are not my thing. This is a stab in the dark. Its clumsy and messy and its just what it is.

I am not a mirror image of any of my children. I am me and they are them. I give them kisses goodbye, I demand that my teenager hugs me strong before leaving the house. A mother is a woman and a woman is boundless. I am strong. I am strong. I am resilient. I will not become invisible. I will fight back with art. I will fight to get it seen. I will fight all those cynics and critiques and people that expect me to do it for free, or of the love of it.  Art needs to be valued. Art cannot be made out of nothing. Art cannot be made out of love. Art is critical and thinking. Art is not just an object to be bought and sold.

Parenting needs to be valued. Care needs to be valued. Cleaning is boring but we all have to do it. Emotional work is tiring but like domestic chores it can be undertaken by any man and any woman.

So what is this project about. Its a long rant. Its thinking. Its trying to write what is in my head, to empty the thoughts out, there is too  much in my head. Its bubbling to the surface, it has to be let out. Drained.

Its a flood. I am a river.

Its the irritation that I feel when my sons wee on the toilet seat and I sit in their puddles of urine. Its the frustration that I feel when I cannot get it all the work done. There is no balancing of career and art. There is this. There is this and this is art. It cannot be pinned down, it cannot always be explained away.

A student contacts me, she is writing a dissertation about the myth that a woman cannot be both; a mother and a successful artist.  This is a subject that totally is at the heart of what I do and make and research, but more recently I have been thinking of what is it that gets in the way of making art? Being a parent does not stop you from making, it can make things difficult, challenging. Being a parent means that time is structured by the needs and wants and demands of raising children.

The real thing that gets in the way of art production is money. Art has to generate an income. It has to at least provide a living wage, If you cant get paid for work. If it is not valued by others. There is nothing. There is art and air. There is life. There is this.

Artists need to get paid. If you are paid then you can pay for childcare etc. So yes it is a myth. It is a myth that a woman cannot be both a mother and a successful artist. As too is the myth of the starving artist in the garret. I don’t want to continue that myth. I am being honest. I am letting down my golden hair. You can climb my hair. You can join me in this story. I can write you into it. Help me to dispel the myths.

What do you see in the puddles? Why am I looking in puddles? I am looking for something, I haven’t found it yet? There is no great conclusion. There is just looking, watching, observing, making, questioning, recording, writing, and thinking what is next? What is next?

Research

 Life, birth and motherhood: women at the end of their life reflect – video, Whitney McVeigh, Oskar Pimlott, Juliet Riddell and Dan Susman, The Guardian, Monday 30th November

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