Creativity, Motherhood and Self-Remembering
I'm inspired by the boundaries women set to protect their creativity and how often women persevere in being creative even if they only find space for their creativity in the margins of their lives or after the work of raising a family has been finished.
"Urge and urge and urge/ Always the procreant urge of the world," as Walt Whitman wrote. These women participate in that urge by carving out time, summoning pluck, practicing patience and setting boundaries so that their creative desires can flourish.
Luchita Hurtado squeezed in time to paint at midnight (see quote in zine pictured above).
Helen Frankenthaler set boundaries by limiting contact with the outside world. In the 60s, she “refused to have a phone, which meant that anyone who wanted to communicate with them [Frankenthaler and then-husband Robert Motherwell] had to do so either by telegram or by letter. That immediately created distance and allowed them time and space for themselves.”
Rose Wylie went back to studying art after her children were grown. "There are, [Wylie] thinks, advantages to such a break. 'You can get sick of the relentlessness. But if you've had time out, maybe you don't have that. You do one, then start again with another.'"
As "a housewife with three young sons and a respected New York Intellectual for a husband, [Louise
Bourgeois] kept making art, though not everyone knew that professor Goldwater's wife was also an artist."
In Then Again, Diane Keaton includes photos of her mother’s journals and writes about her mother's struggle to find meaning and purpose beyond her role as mother, wife and homemaker. “The process of learning how to explore her own unanswered questions came from the action of moving a pen across paper. How had she found time? Not while preparing the endless tuna casseroles and cheese enchiladas that became leftovers for four lunch boxes five days a week; not at the kitchen counter, with wilting Kellogg’s Corn Flakes sprinkled with wheat germ waiting to be cleared… Mother’s time opened up when I left for New York City and Randy got a job as an usher… Dorrie and Robin were wrapping up their high school years as Mother sat down and began to explore her thoughts on paper. It took the beginning of an end, on the cusp of the next decade, before Dorothy found her voice.”
Keeping that creative light lit is a form of self care. In Sharon Blackie's If Women Rose Rooted, Lucy Pearce describes the Creative Rainbow Mother archetype, who “regularly feels the need to fly free. And if she can’t … well, the flip side of her is the Crazy Woman: depressed, unable to touch her power, tied, numb, self-medicating, addicted. Crazy Woman breaks out if we try to spend all our time out in the world or serving others.”
When my kids were little I was an avid, perhaps rabid, quilter. It was my lifeline and I fit it in at nap time and after bedtime. Without it, I would have gone berserk. I thought of it as a way to take time for myself, but more than that, it was a way to remember myself as someone who was more than a mother. It kept me from being completely consumed by that role. Dominique Christina writes about the creative process as "the one place in my life where I am the most myself. No concealment. No containment. No overemphasis. Just me engaging myself. The wild I find in my spirit is a kind of self-remembering."