MAMA Issue 50: Mothers and trees. Roots and families. Art and love.

The Mother Tree

I want to write about mothers and trees. Roots and families. Art and love.

Last year our world appeared to be on fire. Headlines captured devastating events around the globe. From politics to pandemics, the news cycle, as well as our personal lives, were upended in so many ways. In the midst of one of many California blazes, a story about a redwood matriarch dubbed the Mother of the Forest in Santa Cruz, California caught my attention.

Mother of the Forest is one of the tallest trees in Santa Cruz Park. A symbolic womb at her core forms an 8 x 13 foot room, or a hobbit hole, or a sacred space — depending on your perspective.   

I have become obsessed with trees. 

Trees are a testimony to patience and resilience. They offer shelter, contribute to healthy ecosystems, and fight climate change. Redwoods protect and support each other as well as other sapling growth by creating family circles sprouted from the roots of a parent tree. These families may or may not be genetically related. These lessons in cooperation can be a metaphor for humanity in its current fragmented state.

One month ago, I headed back to the MOM Art Annex in Florida after a prolonged absence. Ready to explore the next steps with our community and see to the ongoing growth of the Museum project, I arrived energized. Rising in the midst of display artifacts, art, and birthing objects, a new exhibit towers in the heart of the Annex. Artist Helen Hiebert’s Mother Tree is a brilliant illuminated sculpture made of paper and thread on loan to us for the year.

In preparation for the Mother Tree’s arrival, I pursued the book Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard, a deeply inspiring tale of scientific discovery and maternal care. I pondered our new directions with the Museum of Motherhood and gladly welcomed a guest artist residency proposal by Polly Wood, which included constructing an empty nest as a ceremonial acknowledgement of her daughter going off to college.

“A nest,” I exclaimed. “How timely for the Mother Tree’s arrival.”

Polly and I spent a glorious two weeks spinning magic. A blog about her residency is online at MOM. The next guest artist arrives in mid-December with work featuring among other things, landscapes and trees in gorgeous muted watercolors. 

Polly Wood working on her “Empty Nest” at MOM

As the year winds down, I gratefully acknowledge the manner in which I’ve been able to spend time with emerging mother artists here in St. Petersburg, and also family as well. My son, his wife, and their baby have been on-site for the last six weeks, crowded into the MOM Art Annex’s tiny space– along with the exhibits, myself, and visiting guests. My one-year old granddaughter crawls around the carefully childproofed perimeter while I proudly chase after her.  

In these accompanying photos, I introduce my granddaughter to a world of female sheroes, the art of motherhood, and a variety of messages aimed at empowering women and girls. The images for this MAMA exhibit also include my own self-portrait surrounded by the Mother Tree’s yarn roots in a symbolic gesture of rebirth, renewal, and generational connection. 

Martha Joy Rose ; rebirth with Helen Hiebert’s “Mother Tree” sculpture and Polly Wood’s “Nest”

Every major tree metaphor reminds me to trust in the slow, yet, steady growth of the museum project. Good things take time. Like a redwood, we want the museum to stand as a testament to the ages. We want to collaborate with our community and our surroundings. These things develop and deepen slowly. We are the connection. We are the women. We are the love. We are the trees.

If you would like to donate to our Mother Tree acquisitions campaign, please consider helping us purchase the Mother Tree in perpetuity by making a tax-deductible donation here.

In gratitude and perseverance, Martha Joy Rose

Frank and Sojourner Truth at MOM 2021

Raising the next generation of empowered humans means teaching them about our past: our struggles, problems, issues, and herstory. At the MOM Art Annex we do exactly that, while building towards our future by developing the footprint for the Museum of Motherhood project as an international education and exhibition destination.

I look forward hopefully, understanding deeply the importance of engaging with people of all ages in an inclusive, supportive, and smart environment. Together we can elevate the voices and artistic endeavors of all humans, and in our case, especially m/others, procreators, dreamers, childless by choice, women in history and present day sheroes– as well as those who have suffered loss and infertility.

My granddaughter and I have started this conversation early and often – even though she is still pre-verbal. A picture is worth a thousand words in this case!

Martha Joy Rose: Martha Joy Rose is a community organizer and Museum of Motherhood founder. Her work has been published across blogs and academic journals and she has performed with her band Housewives On Prozac around the world. She is the NOW-NYC recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award, her Mamapalooza Festival Series has been recognized as “Best in Girl-Power Events”, and her music has appeared on the Billboard Top 100 Dance Charts. She founded the Museum of Motherhood in 2003, created the Motherhood Foundation 501c3 non-profit in 2005, saw it flourish in NYC from 2011-2014, and then pop up at several academic institutions. After teaching Mother Studies at the college level, she moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. Her current live/work space is devoted to the exploration of mother-labor & performance art while she oversees the continued growth of the Museum of Motherhood project.

Helen HiebertHelen Hiebert constructs installations, films, artists’ books and works in paper using handmade paper as her primary medium. Her sculpture Mother Tree serves as a symbol of the vulnerability, strength and sense of community she feels as a mother. The seven-foot tall handmade paper dress/tree features single strands of thread which extend from the bodice of the dress, representing mother’s milk, and cascade to the floor, transforming via crochet into roots which pile up, filling the surrounding space as a tree’s roots would fill the ground beneath it. The transformation from dress to tree and root to soil symbolizes the mother as a provider and nurturer throughout human development. Since her inception, hundreds of people have contributed to crocheting roots with messages of family, friendship, and affirmation.

Procreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 50th edition of this scholarly discourse. Literature intersects with art to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the academic, the para-academic, the digital and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. #JoinMAMA #artandmotherhood

#GivingTuesday 2021

This #GivingTuesday we chose to share our mission and ask that you consider making a donation to show your support of these ideals. As we grow our collections, we further establish our presence in the world:

We are the first and only facility of its kind serving as a unique resource elucidating the art, science, and history of women, mothers, and the culture of family. The Museum’s purpose is to provide a place and platform for education, illumination, and inspiration.  We believe a more comprehensive understanding of pregnancy, birth, and the value of care-work, will lead to healthier and happier homes, more productive workplaces, and better social policies. MOM Art Annex, 501c3 Florida Non-Profit I Motherhood Foundation 501c3 NY


  1. Engage with people of all ages in an inclusive, supportive, and smart environment.
  2. Elevate the artistic endeavors of m/others, procreators, dreamers, childless by choice, those experiencing fertility issues, and those who have suffered loss
  3. Educate the public about women’s evolving histories, identities, and roles in the home and in society
  4. Explore the science of menses, conception, gestation, birth, and matresence.
  5. Examine policy and advocacy around parenting
  6. Elaborate on pregnancy and birth as a sacred and creative act
  7. Understand the concept and value of carework 
  8. Nurture those who nurture
  9. Be an international destination for those hoping to learn about  American motherhood
  10. Celebrate our shared human heritage: We are all born of a womb as of 2021. What does that mean to you?
Museum founder, Martha Joy Rose with Mother Tree and Nest in the MOM Art Annex, St. Petersburg, FL

We are currently fundraising for the Mother Tree acquisitions campaign. Please #JoinMama:


Re-encouters ; How are we connected?

During the month of October, Polly Wood came to St. Petersburg, Florida to reflect, make art, and build a nest. More specifically, after ushering her daughter off to college, she realized there was an opportunity to commemorate this significant rite of passage. She came to MOM to build an empty nest.

On top of Polly’s many accomplishments, she is in the process of expanding her career as a musician and artist. She is also in the midst of searching for the threads of the next part of her journey. I didn’t realize the relevancy of the timing of her visit until she arrived on site. We were both engaged in creating big life changes. While I anticipated that I was doing her a kindness by offering her a residency, the opposite was actually true. Polly came with gifts.

The first time I met Polly she performed original music on drums and vocals at the academic ARM Conference in Canada in the early two thousands. I bonded with her instantly. Then, she participated in more performances at the MOM Conference in Manhattan, and I subsequently visited her at her childhood home in Ithaca, New York.

Polly’s first exhibition at MOM, over a dozen years ago, was an online presentation about the Sacred Feminine which launched our first Museum website. In it, she wrote about maternal labor, Goddesses, reproductive rights, and trees. Our relationship roots run deep.

In this online exhibit with the museum, Polly articulated the significance of trees within her own vision of the sacred feminine. She wrote: “Trees are symbolic, metaphoric and metaformic providing relationship, meaning and inspiration.  Cross-culturally, trees are associated with the feminine principle, as well as with knowledge, life, cycles, time, and the connecting matrix between earth, water and sky.”

She elaborated on the relationship between trees and the ways in which “trees are deeply embedded in human consciousness and, physiologically, embodied within the womb of pregnant mothers.”

Her descriptions of the manner in which the placenta is “the only organ in a human that grows when needed – in order to support, nourish and sustain a human life.” Images of the “umbilical cord representing the trunk, and the exposed blood vessels acting as branches,” were included in these early presentations.

When she made the commitment to visit recently, the synchronicity of her willingness to devote time and attention at the MOM Art Annex brought a beautiful focus to our own growing momentum, which includes a search for a new Executive Fundraising Board, as well as an ongoing fundraiser for purchasing Helen Hiebert’s Mother Tree for our permanent collection.

Over the course of the two weeks, we shared conversations, sourced materials, and made art. The affiliation I felt over what we have shared through the years, as well as the ways in which both of us have continued to grow, does indeed remind me of the unfolding branches of the intertwined sacred feminine, which I am fortuitous to witness within the walls of the museum, now flanked by one magical empty nest, crafted by this soul sister, Polly Wood (Pictured above and below this text).

There are stretches where time appears to inch forward incrementally. Movement can be difficult to perceive. This can be true for people, landscapes, and even plants. Tree and forest seedlings take anywhere between twenty and one hundred and fifty years to fully develop. Growth appears almost imperceptible. In the case of Polly and myself, so much has happened since our last encounter, but the last two weeks felt comfortably familiar. We picked up right where we left off.

The photos shared here, of the nest she built, the Mother Tree, and our own entwinement represent a personal celebration of life unfolding, our individual development, and maturation, as well as the manner in which we are inextricably linked through our art, womanhood, and our m/otherness. In each of these experiences, we are born anew. First in conception, then inception, then again and again in the counterpoint of connection. EnJOY! And, please consider joining MOM in some capacity or other, either by donating to the Mother Tree (Link below) or joining us in our ongoing efforts to expand.

Together we are strong. Together we are marvelous. Life is a circle. We are the trees. ~ Martha Joy Rose

Mom Residency Highlights Actor, Singer-Songwriter-Drummer, Artist & Independent Scholar Polly Wood

Singer, Songwriter, Drummer, Artist & In, Actor & Independent Scholar Polly Wood

The most recent addition to our residency program has been Polly Wood, MFA, MA an accomplished singer, songwriter, drummer, artist, actor and independent scholar. In her various areas of expertise and representative media, Polly strives to focus on the “preservation of the sacred feminine.” Through her residency, you will come to see her passion for her art, her community, her love for family and her vivacious spirit. 

Polly began her artistic journey through fifteen years of dance training and performance in the styles of tap, jazz, ballet, acrobatics. Dance and youth theatre led her to study performing and visual arts in college, where her focus shifted towards Acting. Prior to graduating, she took a hiatus to grow as a musician and artist, gaining performance experience and inspiration from creative collaboration within her community. It was also during this time she explored her passion for the female experience of pregnancy and birth. Building up a career as a doula– a non-medical professional child-birth assistant- she provided support to women and families throughout their pregnancy, and the process of labor, delivery, and early post-childbirth experiences. She also led mother-baby movement classes, birth-art-workshops, artfully created plaster belly casts for over 50 beautiful pregnant bellies, and produced and choreographed A Birth Dance–a modern dance performance and community birth celebration.   

Almost a decade after dropping out of performing arts school, Polly returned to college with a toddler in tow to complete her Bachelor’s degree from the California Institute of Integral Studies. From there she earned a Master’s degree in Women’s Spirituality, and an M.F.A. in Creative Inquiry, both from New College of California. She focused on global economics & the sacred feminine; cross-cultural rites-of-passage; ritual performance and art as a sacred practice. Her master’s thesis The Menstrual Origins of Money was published in 2006. As a singer-songwriter-drummer Polly has performed her original music across the United States and bit in Canada. Much of her visual art over the years followed the themes of pregnancy, birth and the divine feminine in the embodiment of whom she calls Radwoman. 

Above are samples of Polly’s visual artistic works. From left to right: Radwoman Placenta Power (1), Radwoman Fire Songs (2), Radwoman Earth Mother (3), Miss River’s Moon (4), Birds of Change 2 (5), Into the Nest (6), Birds of Change (7), Tree of Life of Instillation (8 & 9).

As a multi-disciplinary artist, Polly’s creative work goes where she feels most lit up. Most recently her passions have come full circle to a creative pursuit of her youth: Acting. This past year offered her baby steps into entering the film & television industry. She is represented by the talent agency Phirgun Mair Worldwide. Feeling grateful for her agent and loving the auditions that come her way, she looks forward to booking future gigs. 

This is Polly’s third engagement with the Museum of Motherhood. In early 2010 she curated a 12-week Sacred Feminine exhibit online and later that year was a guest artist for the Mamapalooza/M.O.M. Conference in New York City. 

After nearly two decades of birth & postpartum work; visual/performing arts and scholarship focused on themes of mothering, the sacred feminine and rites-of-passage, Polly comes to the M.O.M residency to create What Is Left in an Empty Nest? 

Inspired by a recent phone conversation wherein she offered (both ‘good’ and embarrassingly, ‘bad’) advice to her daughter regarding one of her college assignments, Polly envisioned what would happen if she were able to take and apply her own advice as easily as it was for her to dish it out. The next step became evident, and applying for the M.O.M residency was a part of that. 

Polly is looking forward to being Artist-in-Residence at the M.O.M Art Annex, as well as experiencing what unfolds as she engages both her personal community and the Museum of Motherhood community in offering their ‘advice’ towards her creation. In addition to using this collective advice the help stitch and weave the nest together, Polly will be working with themes of grief, emptiness and expansion that can arise when children leave home -whether to spread their wings on their own, or to spend time with another parent- as well as the theme of invisibility that can accompany the gift of being in a step-parent role. Polly will be building an ‘empty nest’ for the Museum of Motherhood, both highlighting a common experience and as a personal rite-of-passage. 

We can’t wait to have Polly back as a returning resident artist and are so grateful to have her fantastic contribution to M.O.M.’s archives. 

To learn more about Polly, her amazing works, and any additional publications, please check out these links to her personal website, additional Resume, and projects:

Also be sure to follow her on Insta and FB for updates as well as more of her thoughts on our residency!

Instagram: @ms._polly_wood

Facebook: Polly Wood

If you are interested in applying for a residency here at MOM, please go to our website HERE:  to find out more. BE SURE TO HURRY! Spots have been filling FAST! We hope that future tours of the space will be available soon, but they are by appointment only in Artist Enclave Historic Kenwood: “where art lives.”