I used to be one of those night owls. Working into the wee hours of the morning, always at my most productive after dark. I guess that’s partly why I got into light painting. Daylight just wasn’t as good a friend as darkness was. In the dark I could control the light, mostly anyway, and I wasn’t at the mercy of this big, burning ball in the sky. I was just like any other art student, full of passion and bad habits.
And then there was motherhood. And I became an other kind of night owl. A sleep deprived love zombie always caring for someone other than myself and my art in the dark. And my camera became a daytime thing. For a while anyway.
These days I’m trying to perfect the balancing act between the two. Most certainly easier said than done, but I’m working on it. I know I refer to what I do a lot, but rarely show any of it (except briefly here) and I realise this must leave some questions in regards to what it actually is that i do. There’s definitely a gap between my artworks and the photos I take of my son. So I figured I’d show you a couple of images from my most recent body of work. I haven’t got around to updating my website yet, so for now let’s consider this their unofficial internet premier of sorts.
It goes without saying that these images are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without my explicit permission. I hate watermarks, but it seems you can’t be too careful these days.
A very brief introduction to this project; I’m actively displacing and re-situating Norwegian myths and folktales in an Australian landscape to see what happens when traditional things are allowed to grow and are inserted into a new and unfamiliar context. I’d love to tell you more, but in fear that I might bore you to death by getting into the conceptual and theoretical nit and grit I’ll leave it at that. (click on the images for a larger view.)
Anakin loves looking at my work. He has two old pieces hanging in his room (not too scary ones) and some are hanging around the house in various places. Hopefully he won’t grow into a fear of clowns from this one. 🙂
Anyway, there you have it. A very brief insight into what it is I’m working on these days. Once I finish the series I’ll show you the whole thing, I may even link you up to my thesis once it’s written in case you’re interested. I’ll be showing this work in Bendigo in September next year. There’s a few more trips out into the dark to be made before then. With more creatures, more costumes and always a lot of fun.
I am starting to sense my ship sinking. I don’t know what possessed me to think that 100% stay at home mum + 100% postgrad student would amount to anything other than imminent failure. I just don’t have 200% time, in fact I don’t have 200% anything as percentage only goes to 100.
It hasn’t been the easiest of starts. We have had visitors for 6 weeks now, and as much as I have enjoyed that, it has made it hard to focus on getting work done. And let’s not ignore the fact that after a year off, it’s damn hard to get back on the horse, let alone remember what I already have done, read and so on. My entire pre-maternity leave research catalogue is stuck on a machine I can’t start. Great thinking letting that happen, right?
Giving up is not an option, but I am struggling to understand how the 1+ hour of nap time every day will amount to much unless I start dedicating all night every night to study. Then the question becomes how far away is that big wall I’ll smash my face into, what speed will I be traveling at when I reach it and how long will my journey there take.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll manage to get my visual work sorted, but the amount of research I need to do to write my thesis, and the even bigger amount needed for upgrading to a phd is terrifying. Actually, it’s worse than terrifying, but I can’t think of a word to describe the sense of horrific doom it fills me with.
There, I’ve had a whinge about it. Now excuse me while I have a short panic attack before continuing my search for fellow artists working within similar conceptual framework as myself before my son wakes up from his nap and claims the rest of my day.
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.
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.
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.
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?