In a previous blog, I wrote about the pleasure I had of talking with a group of young women about my art, and about being an artist who is a woman. When asked for some advice, one of the things I mentioned was that they should practice saying into a mirror "I am an artist" or "I am a writer" -- and leaving out those qualifiers like aspiring. It is hard for most creative women I know to do this. Why?
This week my art group (made up of only women) screened the documentary "Who Does She Think She Is?" The film follows the lives of five women and asks the question "why does everyone expect women to choose?" Choose between making art, and being a mother, a partner, an income earner, a nurturer. The women profiled were amazing in their artistry and the tenacity with which they pursued their creative dreams. But their artistic lives were often interrupted by relationship challenges, the demands of mothering, and the realities of economic circumstances.
Elizabeth Busey, The Muses. Woodcut, 2006.
My first multiple block chiaroscuro woodcut.
For me, the film brought home many conflicting realizations. It is hard to create art full-time, when full-time means school hours. Or to keep creating when you worry that you should have a full-time compensated job to help pay for college. Or when your job is the one that gets put on hold during times of family illness or crisis. I will often pop in my DVD copy and watch a bit when I am feeling discouraged or exhausted, because I find these women motivating and encouraging.
My other realization, however, was not portrayed in the film. If I was not a wife and a mother who stayed home to care for her children, I probably would not be an artist. I enjoyed making art with my young children, and went back to take university-level classes when my younger child went to first grade. My husband earns enough for us to live on (conservatively), so I squeeze in my passion between the departures and arrivals of my family. And for this I am eternally grateful.
I may never have a show at the Guggenheim -- which the film points out is statistically unlikely anyway. My goal is to continue to make better and better prints. And yes, maybe help with those college bills that are coming.
Women, repeat after me: "I am a(n) (you fill in what your passion is.)" Claim it and live it. And if you haven't seen "Who Does She Think She Is?" you can find it on disk through Netflix. Or order your own copy. Mine was a Mother's Day present.