Some thoughts on being an artist and a mum

At the opening of the group show “Of Light” in Sydney

More than a few times over the past months I have had to remind myself that there is a lot more to me than just being Anakin’s mum. I have been a practising artist for years and all of a sudden my art has had to take the backseat for a while. It was hardly noticeable at first, but in the past couple of months I have really begun to miss it.

During my pregnancy I struggled to go out and do large photo shoots. The last successful photo shoot I did was at 3 months at Hanging Rock in Victoria, Australia. It was cold, wet and the hardest shoot I’ve ever had to do, both technically and physically.

A Tail of Transformation (2011) © Dida Sundet

I make light paintings (they are photographs, not paintings) so I work outside at night. As I got bigger this represented more than one issue; I got too tired at night to last very long and I couldn’t manage to log all my gear around. My shoots usually involve larger set ups and a lot of planning. I attempted another one around 5 months, but dealing with water rats due to my use of a pig’s head and other edibles in a creek was too much and I had to abandon it. So while my belly grew I resorted to building props and planning for future shoots thinking I’d be back in the game in no time.

Before Anakin was born I had a lot of ideas of images I wanted to do with him in them. I pictured everything from the classical newborn portrait as a light painting to larger set ups with various taxidermy and other props that would be included in my current body of work. But I didn’t count on my little man not being a good sleeper, and there is just no way of light painting anyone that isn’t perfectly still for the duration of the exposure. So a few days ago I had to come to terms with the fact that I will never get those images. For Anakin to be a part of my night work he will have to grow a lot older. This realisation made me fairly sad.

Hellion (2009) © Dida Sundet

What I miss most about my work is that it creates balance in my life. My work is dark, it plays with ideas around horror and humour, it reflects on issues of displacement; both cultural and from reality. Now that I am a mum everything can sometimes become just too cute, too adorable, too goo goo ga ga. I need balance. I need to feel like I am still me.

In December my maternity leave ends and I’ll have one year to finish my Masters and write my thesis, or… a couple of months to upgrade to a PhD. And my project is currently way too big to finish in one year unless I evolve into some sort of superhuman. All the while I will still be a full-time mum. I still find the idea of how to pull this off mind-boggling. But in having said that I am very excited about getting back into it. I am itching to get back out in the night as soon as it gets a bit warmer and I can’t wait to get a bit of gore out of my system.

Lusus Naturae (2009) © Dida Sundet

The above image is Anakin’s favourite. It hangs in our stairwell and every time we pass it he smiles and has a giggle. Perhaps he senses his uncle Eirik under the mask though they have never met, or perhaps he just gets my kind of humour.

So far the only participation Anakin has had in my life as an artist is coming to the opening of the show in Sydney, and at that he did remarkably well considering it was way past his bedtime.

I suppose it’s just a matter of learning the balancing act between work and baby. I have never been particularly good at time management because i have never had to be, and my post-Anakin life has never had enough hours in the day or days in the week. And the very few hours of free time I have at night are only so precious I haven’t had it in me to use them for work.

As I write this while Anakin is napping it seems only ironic that I spend this time ranting about how I have had no time for my art when I in fact could have spent the past hour or so doing something about it. But then again, I deserve some lunch and a time out too, don’t I? I take comfort in that my mind never stops thinking about my work or coming up with ideas for images regardless of what I am doing, so I guess it’s only a matter of time, right?

xx Dida

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