Here goes my first post on my new tumblr page. I haven’t blogged much this year and I feel it was because of the staleness of my old blog holding me back, so I’ve moved on to tumblr to start afresh.
I want to share with you three artists, all very different, whose work has touched me for what it signifies of the bond between mother and child. Without going into too much detail on this post, lately I’ve been facing the toughest time of my life – being told at late-term pregnancy that my baby will not survive beyond birth. (I have talked about my emotions in depth on my flickr stream, and I’ve posted a link to that at the end of this post). But first let’s look at the art that has affected me over the past few weeks…
1. Kirsty Mitchell, ‘Gaia, The Birth of an End’
You’re likely to already know of Kirsty Mitchell’s ‘Wonderland’ series for the amount of publicity it has had lately, as Kirsty nears the end of the intricate 4.5 year-long series. But if not, be sure to go check out her work and let the spectacular series speak for itself.
There is plenty about this artist (who I am lucky to also call a friend of mine) that is deeply inspiring in terms of her hard work and dedication standing out a mile from today’s quick-buck, fast-fame culture; but here I’d like to mention her most recent piece, ‘Gaia, The Birth of an End’, below. Kirsty creates all the costumes in her images, so everything you see is real.
When I first saw Kirsty’s new piece, I was struck by the title’s relevance to my own current situation (and later saw she’d bequeathed a dedication to me, at which I was deeply touched) but even before I saw the picture, I had thought of Kirsty this past few weeks. Kirsty’s whole Wonderland series is based on incarnating her feelings following the loss of her mother, and manifesting, through the art, the beauty in the stories her mother read to her as a child. I saw that there was a role reversal in my own situation… lately, here I’ve been, reading stories to my ill-fated baby inside me (even some of the same Enid Blyton stories Kirsty and her mother enjoyed)… making the most of the time we have together.
Kirsty says on her blog post:
“‘Gaia, The Birth of An End’… I named after the Greek equivalent of our Mother Earth, and this picture represents her incarnation, surrounded by an explosion of vibrating, shimmering energy. After losing my mother people often ask me what I imagine comes afterwards, and my only answer is my belief in an endless energy, the circle I feel we are all a part of.
"My mother is with me always… the body may cease, but I feel the vibrations of people continue, like ripples from a stone cast in a lake, and it was this power of spirit that I have tried to express within the picture.”
Kirsty’s Wonderland series is a testament overall to the love between a mother and child. A child who has graduated that energy into the powerful expression of art, that is not only beautiful and would make her mother proud, but importantly that touches other people’s lives… speaking to their own pain and losses, and filling the gap with beauty and light. I feel that pain and loss myself right now, and that growing desire to turn it into something new, a visual legacy.
2. Busy Mockingbird
Moving now onto the second artist, or artists plural…
During one of those Facebook feed scroll-throughs one day, a post caught my eye: ’When an artist allowed her 4-year-old daughter to finish her drawings, something awesome happened’. Artist and mother Mica Angela Hendricks one day found herself collaborating with her own child. After Mica drew one of her vintage heads, her daughter took her sketchbook, added a body and other unexpected, delightfully infantile additions. And their partnership ‘Busy Mockingbird’ was born.
“Mica was given a new perspective on her art, and on the process of creation. No longer was the portrait her own idea of perfection, but a dynamic collaboration between adult and child, technical precision and pure imagination.”
An exercise in trust, in letting go, in acceptance of the final unexpected product… I find the concept so very interesting, and instantly fell in love with the images, so I ordered myself some canvasses of it for my own wall. This to me is ‘art’ I wanted to buy: modestly affordable, yet magnificent, and delightfully peculiar fusion of the mother and daughter’s energy; years of experience apart, yet bound by blood and simply the love of creativity. They currently choose to stave off commission requests and not to kill the joy of what they do… having a child involved preserves the importance of whimsy.
3. ‘I open, I transform, I bleed, I scream, and I smile.’
And for the third artist, totally different from the other two.
In 2005, Ana Álvarez-Errecalde responded to a recurring dream she was having and decided to take self portraits of herself, and her newborn daughter. The resulting images she has titled “Birth of My Daughter (El Nacimiento de Mi Hija).“
Instead of posting an image I will show just a link: here. Warning – it is graphic. Don’t click the link if you don’t want to see a picture of a woman holding a newborn baby still attached by the cord, in her arms, bloodstained.
I don’t find it disturbing or gross at all, though I know many people will. If you do, I’d question exactly why you feel that response.
Art is, of course, not all about what you would like to necessarily put on your wall… whilst you might like a print of Kirsty’s Gaia or a Busy Mockingbird mug, this art is about making point. Social, even political. A statement. A documenting. The artist did not even intend to share the final images. She just took them, because she felt she had to. And then shared them, because she felt they ‘had to be seen’. This is the same how I feel about my present experience of losing my baby. I don’t necessarily want to share my private life, but I have an urge, a duty to share it because this is life, this is truth… especially for an issue that we don’t tend to talk about, but affects so many. In that kind of expression (whether through writing or visuals) there is a curious collapsing of narcissism and more a call to arms, a vocation that calls us to reach out to fellow humankind about our existence. Whilst all art does this to some degree, art like Ana’s does so in its rawest denominator, reminding us what the purpose is of art at all.
Here, the woman and the baby are, themselves, the ultimate work of creation, conveyed in the most simplest on a white backdrop.
You can listen to Ana talk in this video.
"To see a picture of a woman giving birth, smiling, bloody, and breastfeeding her child with the placenta to the side, is groundbreaking because we are not used to seeing it – but I do not consider myself a rule-breaker.
"I expose myself as much as the viewer is exposed, because I expose my experience, but the viewer can also be exposing their prejudices: their rejection of the unknown, or their empathy and admiration.”
And there we have it, 3 female artists, all involving children, all exploring the bond between mother and child. One child commemorates their late mother with memories of the stories they shared, one child jumps on her mother’s art and redirects the product to collaboration, and the other is an artistic manifestation of the simplest yet most magnificent ‘creation’ there is, both mother and child at their most raw and magnificent.
I am inspired by all three, the energy and passion behind their creation. My own art is unlike any of them, but they excite me for future possibilities, and where I can take this intense powerful energy I feel right now. Finally, here’s the link to my post ‘life force’ on flickr where I talk more about my experience of loss at this time.
Above: my own image made recently – ‘Scarlet Song’ from Surreal Fashion, curiously connected to my present emotions.