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Being an Artist and a Mother 

 Miriam Villacastin

 

In this article, I'll talk about how challenging it could be to pursue an artistic career while raising children and the difficulties faced by mothers who are also artists in finding a balance between their artistic passions and family life. To do that, I will be having a conversation with three mothers, in an anonymous way, who are completing a degree in contemporary art at ATU, and I will draw some broad conclusions regarding the obstacles that they confront in their daily lives while chasing their dreams without getting into their personal lives. Finally, I will give some examples of successful mother artists, and I will talk about organizations, projects, and other efforts that have been established in some parts of the world to support the work of these women’s.

Finding a balance between work and family life is critical to being able to satisfy both your role as a mother and your creative ambitions.

 

In a scene dominated by men, women found it difficult enough to succeed as artists, but when they succeeded, they faced criticism for how they performed as mothers.

 

I am going to quote a phrase from the contemporary British artist Tracey Emin that was especially harsh in this sense in a 2014 interview: “There are good artists who have children. Of course, there are. They are called men.” 


The general conclusion I have reached, common among all the mother artists that I have interviewed, is that combining artistic and family life is an arduous task. There is agreement in this sense, because integrating both aspects presents a multitude of struggles, from which I have determined the following:

 

  1. Limited time: It is difficult to find time to develop an artistic practice when a mother has countless responsibilities in addition to household chores like dropping off and picking up her kids from school, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and helping them with their homework. Not to mention the quality time that some mothers want to spend with their kids. With everything going on, you don't have much time to be creative, or at least to have any interrupted time.

 

  1. Interruptions: It's hard to find a setting that fosters creativity. Unexpected events that are out of one's control, like sick children that require one to stay at home and care for them, are a common part of being a mother. There are infinite circumstances that lead to a lack of focus and attention on the artistic matter.

 

  1. Guilt: A huge proportion of mother artists are constantly in a battle with uncertainty and guilt because they are troubled by questions and doubts about whether they are spending enough time with their children and whether they are acting correctly. Despite their desire to follow their passions, they are self-critical and judgmental.

 

  1. Financial demands: Pursuing a career in art can be economically demanding, and there are financial pressures such as the need to support the family and pay for all the services that the child needs, like after-school services or activities, daycare services, and much more. As a result, many artists mothers experience stress and anxiety.

 

  1. Restricted Possibilities: Mothers encounter enormous barriers regarding possibilities; these include the inability to apply for residencies, scholarships, jobs, and attending events; also, there are preconceived notions held by colleagues in their field regarding their availability and commitment.

 

  1. Social Isolation: Mothers may experience a certain level of isolation as a result of their familial responsibilities, making it difficult for them to connect with anyone outside their family. At the university, there is a good community and a rich and secure environment where we can exchange ideas and experiences with our colleges. However, outside of this setting, it could be very difficult to establish connections with anyone else, first for the lack of energy and second for the impossibilities of attending openings and other exhibitions, where you can network and meet new individuals related to the art world.

 

A way to cooperate with these complications is to find a support mechanism, put self-care first, and embrace flexibility and creativity.

 

I've discovered several artist-mother collectives that empower mothers in both roles, communities that support, recognize, and value them as a mother and as an artist, and that provide a safe environment for women to connect, share experiences, collaborate on projects, and stand up for their needs and interests.

 

  1. Mama Creatives is an is an Australian community-based organization that provides training, events, and networking opportunities to assist creative mothers.

  2. Mother Art revisits British organization and presents exhibitions, seminars, and other activities that question conventional views of motherhood and highlight the varied experiences of mother artists.

  3. Mother in Arts is a is a global internet community and network that links mother artists worldwide.

  4. The Motherhood and Creative Practice Research Group is a community of researchers, artists, and academics who cooperate to do multidisciplinary investigations on the relationship between motherhood and creative practice, based in the United Kingdom.

  5. Art Mum United An online platform that offers information, networking opportunities, and online exhibitions to empower mother artists.

  1. The Mothership Project is an Irish network of artists who are parents. The intention is to foster a more inclusive atmosphere in the arts for artists with children and to support artists who are also parents in expanding their activities. Since 2013, The Mothership has conducted seminars and workshops on the issues faced by Irish parenting artists.

  2. The Artist Residency in Motherhood in 2012 offers templates, stories, tools, and mentorship to help mothers remain creative and find support.

 

 

Finally, I am going to name some of the artists who have managed to be successful, combining both facets, and who are an example and inspiration for me for their commitment, imagination, and resilience, and perhaps, if you are interested, you could learn a bit more about their lives and the adversities they had to overcome by doing some research.

Alice Neel (1900–1984), Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) Nikki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002). Luchita Hurtado (1940-2020).

 

 

As a final thought, I would like to say how much I admire all the creative mothers who are dedicated to their families, and keep pursuing their passions, and always try to find a balance between their roles as mother and as an artist.

 

Luchita Hurtado Untitled,1969, oil onCanvas

Margaret Evans Pregnant, by Alice Neel

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