Pandemic Parenting Interview with Batnadiv Hakarmi, by Rachael Grad

RG: How did motherhood change your art?

BH: To my surprise, when I became a mother, my work became so much more collaborative. Before I had children, I worked alone in the studio on personal projects. I used the space whenever I wanted, including late at night.The idea of sharing did not work with my entire approach to art-making. The changes began during my first pregnancy, when I had to change mediums because I developed an allergy to turpentine. After my first child was born, I worked at home painting small works in watercolor on a desk. Later, I started working with other moms.

All my support came from other mothers. I was lucky enough to be part of the group “A Studio of Her Own” which included a lot of other young moms with kids. A few of us got together to rent collaborative studio space that was child-friendly, and people used it at different times.  We did a series of site-specific projects together, working on big murals and projects in historic buildings and public spaces.  I love working big and not having to clean up a studio space. My friend Julia Aronson and I did a series of collaborative murals. We discussed the idea, then alternated painting days  with each other, in a kind of visual game of Exquisite Corpse. We had to let go of control and let someone else in. We kept a blog about our last project [Link below].

At home my kids get into my art materials, so I got them their own sketchbooks and supplies. They still always want mine though. 

RG: Were the changes in motherhood a surprise?

BH: I knew something was going to change but didn’t know how. I foresaw needing to work smaller. The opening of working collaboratively with other mothers was a good surprise.

RG: How do you fit in studio time with kids?

BH: My three children are now in kindergarten, pre-school, and daycare, respectively. Until each baby was a year old, I hired a babysitter once a week so I could have painting time, and I attended a late-night sculpture group. During the pandemic, for a year I didn’t have childcare so couldn’t do any art, except what I called my ‘stolen sketch time’. Before then, I found ways to paint or draw daily.

RG: Was there a big shift going from one child to 2?

BH: Yes. Two is more complicated because there’s a toddler to run after. I am always outnumbered. But for me the biggest shift was going from 0 to one child. The actual transition into motherhood has been transformative.

RG: What books, groups, web resources do you recommend?

BH: I find that working with other mothers is the most helpful way to navigate creativity amidst the chaos of motherhood. I am part of a wonderful poetry group called Mama Poets Write who used to meet once every two weeks for a night of writing. For art practice, I have artist friends who I would meet regularly. I worked with Julia Aronson on the mural projects and I participate in a regular sculpture group of women of different ages. I found my tribe and painting friends after having kids.

RG: Is there anything you would change or do differently?

BH: I was teaching before the pandemic in 3 different places. During the pandemic, it was a real struggle to teach on zoom with kids at home. I didn’t go back to teaching until after lockdown was over because it was too difficult to get childcare. I used to teach art at Brandeis University in the summer and I really miss it. I found there isn’t that much flexibility in teaching so between lockdowns and quarantines, I transitioned to giving workshops and doing freelance editing. The work does take away from my art practice – it’s a constant juggle to make time and space.  

RG: What’s your biggest struggle?

BH: A big struggle- quoting Virginia Woolf and her ‘Room of One’s Own’ – is a prescient issue. The lack of space for a mother-artist is huge. I need a space for myself to maintain my art practice. Yet, now even my bedroom is not my own. When you are pregnant, even your own body is not your own. I was never alone during the pandemic and I would like to find another collaborative space. Our original space was located in Beit Alliance, a subsidized cultural center. We had an amazing synergy and did some exceptional projects. But, as mothers of young children, we were not typical artists. We look or behave like people assume artists do. We didn’t attend late night events. We set up alternate events which were well attended, but our landlords did not renew our lease. I do think there is some discrimination against mother-artists and caretakers. I’m currently working in Ha Mifal where my sculpture group has a residency and exhibition. I am sure new things will arise as the future unfolds.

Blog Project with Julia and Batnadiv is here.

Full exhibit with Batnadiv at MoM is here [LINK]

Published by MOM

The MOM Art Annex (FL) is a certified 501c3 designated non profit, connecting Students, Women, Men, M/others and Families through Reproductive Identities, Music, Art, Activism and Education for Cultural, Economic & Social awareness. By creating, producing and presenting visual, literary, educational, academic, performing arts exhibits that celebrate, nurture and support individuals with a special emphasis on identity, experience, and community, MOM acts as a safe space for healing and illumination. We create unique opportunities for people that they might not otherwise have; free of age, race and socio-economic barriers.

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