My week has been spent on trains: I’ve been to London twice, once to be in a panel discussion and once for a workshop. The train is a good place to work. Yesterday I spent 5 hours on trains and did a lot of stitching. We also took Abie to on the train to Gatwick Airport for a meeting (a mid-way point between collaborators) which was a strange experience, there wasn’t really a contained public space to sit and talk while he could play so we arranged club chairs at Giraffe into a circle and he crawled around and fed and napped while we talked.
I’ve been working in the evenings, making drawings and doing preparation for the workshops with women in Ealing. It’s easier to work at home after Abie’s in bed, and I rearranged the furniture to use the dining table as a base for the map – tablecloth piece I’m working on.
Today I am in the studio reading a book a friend gave me called “Invisible Spaces of Parenthood” (I have had it for months and am finally getting round to reading it). It is making me feel both glad and angry – glad to find other artist mothers talking about the issues and frustrations which I recognise, such as trying to find or set up childcare, and crèche facilities in order to study, practice or visit exhibitions – but angry that these are clearly such common problems for women who are mothers and try to continue their practice.
It’s inspiring to hear about projects like Culture Baby and Crib Notes where women have set up groups in galleries so you can go and hear talks and tour shows with your baby. But I am not in London and therefore cannot access these things and its difficult to get to see exhibitions if I add on the cost and additional time of going to London and back, so I only go for paid work.
In the book, Martina Mullaney talks about her campaign group ‘Enemies of Good Art’ which came from a quote: “There is no more solemn enemy of art than the pram in the hall.” She quotes Maureen Paley gallery at a professional practice seminar at the RCA saying that if you don’t hit it and make your name by 30 forget it. So where does that leave space for having children? The discussion also points out “the changing economic climate has been felt much more acutely by women than by men.”
This is in 2012, and 4 years down the line, things are getting worse if anything, as the Government continues wholesale with austerity. Reading an article in Art Monthly by Morgan Quaintance about the corporatisation of art institutions this week (Illiquid Assets, AM398) it seems recent much-touted prizes for women artists might come with an unsavoury private finance association. The question is, is it better to be visible or invisible?