Updated: Jun 30, 2020
This project Konstnärernas Mamma Kollektiv, with a new project name 'Mothers In Residence', just received a grant by the art council of Gothenburg city, to develop into a full potential.
Setting up a collective of artists that are mothers and want to work together a new platform, with events, ambulatory mentorship, discussions and hopefully finding a place or way in creating a local artist in residence for mothers with purpose to get back in to their art practise.
It means a lot to me personally as this project has been brewing since I was on maternity leave 2016
and it was in 2016 Elseline Hoekzema, a neuroscientist and her team came out with data providing the first evidence that pregnancy confers long-lasting changes in a woman's brain, the MRI study showed a dynamic change in the brain *1, “a significant loss of grey matter during pregnancy. That signals both a loss and within that loss an added focused activity in the social cognition region”, supposedly for attachment purposes in motherhood. A change that still was there two years later. “Other changes, according to anecdotal reports from pregnant women, are not so salubrious, like forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating”.*2 This is proved science, though it is unclear how this manifests further.
This information aroused my attention. How does this brain change throughout pregnancy and motherhood affect creativity and focus when getting back to work as self employed artists, craftswomen and designers?
A similar grey matter “mass decay” has occurred previously in all of our lives, during puberty. It is actually signalled by hormones. The outcome and events of puberty can easily be communicated and understood through genders, whether they’ve gone through parenthood or not. Since who hasn’t had a personality change during their puberty?
Beside the brain matter, the procedure of getting back to work also depends on where one were pre-pregnancy; workwise, locationwise, socially, emotionally, economically etc. As with the brains synopses that cluster together when a new task is learnt through repetion, one’s life disposition determines where one start up again from this new brain evolving post-pregnancy status called motherhood. I personally know so many fellow makers that has either stopped working or changed their usual work ways from pre-motherhood.
This information created a wish to collect stories together and to make them communicate further.
While I myself was in my mothering muddled mind I started looking into the ‘artist in residence in motherhood’ created by the artist *3 Lenka Clayton, finding guidelines into a creative mindset again as some of it seemed quite helpful. She has set up a website with useful questions and suggestions.
These guidelines helped me narrowed a focus in my work practise and by using workshops with invited makers and mothers we could to see whether it could prove helpful through a community created in this environment for this solemn purpose.
*4 Sue Gerhardt has written books on receiving affection or the lack of in childhood and its affect on society. How affected are we by motherhood and our creative work? Might there be a timeline, using the children as a measuring stock in their development on when we could be back to our work?
How aware are we, and especially how aware is our society on the strange and magical though sometimes frightful changes that affect us going through a pregnancy?
Motherhood has been seen as holy throughout times, with traits of sacrifice, which is beautiful as it is receiving to be the nurturer.
In the wester culture motherhood has become political over the last century, with movements on the right to work, with the revolution of nurseries.
And now in our time breastfeeding is causing outrage and disgust, probably much to do with the sexualisation of breasts? Female nipples are being censored from social media, breastfeeding mothers are banned from cafes and restaurants.
And in the midst of all this research shows that pregnancy affects the brain in a restructured way most probably in order to pursue connection with the baby, creating skills to 'read' baby language and feel that motherhood intuition that one should trust. Biological magic? Holy yes, I think so.
And getting back to world of art, where the artists that become mothers has a harder time getting back to work, and receive no help in doing so, you need to have an updated portfolio or being active in showing work to be able to get any work or grants or residencies, where families are rarely accommodated for. And from personal experience it is seen as unprofessional if mixing family life with the work outlet.
But, in receiving this grant we are hopeful in proving that there can be structure through connecting with others, finding ways to narrow focus and a platform to set off work again.
Building something new like this feels humbling and is indeed an excitable sensation. We are welcoming you to join in, no matter where you live, how many children you have, no matter hold old your children are, if you are expecting, or if you are just interested in the project.
Please drop me a line or your story on how you handled your art practise and motherhood, that could be helpful for others.
Much grateful for your time.
Anna Maria Hedman
*You are more susceptible to gingivitis during pregnancy
Solid silver tooth pendant by A.M.Hedman