Beth Goobic and Nancy Cook

The ProCreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 10th edition of  this scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic 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

Project Metamorphosis

ART: Beth Goobic
Metamorphose is an ongoing conversation in clay about the journey of becoming a mother and being a mother. It takes place in this study of a common utilitarian household item, the mug. These mug forms are endowed with the presence of both vulnerability and strength. They celebrate the glorified transformation of the pregnant body, but they bring visibility and conversation to the continuing
transformation of the body and person after birth. That they are mugs points to the commonness of everyday lived experiences by wo/men in motherhood and motherwork.

Each mug is entirely different reflecting the fact that the experience of mothering is unique to each individual person, even though motherwork is quite often mistaken as a universal concept. These kinds of assumptions about the universality of mothering
actually makes the personal experiences of each person doing it invisible. Metamorphose is meant to resist that kind of assumption.
The mugs are a reflection of the pregnant body, the very beginning of the anatomical journey of the female body as it enters motherhood but the mugs also celebrate and acknowledge the transformation of the female body after pregnancy, post
birth, which in our society, is a less celebrated transformation, and a less visible journey. Post birthbodies deserve the patience, celebration and glorification that childbearing bodies receive. Post-birth bodies are spacious, healing and rehabilitating,
while still maintaining a new additional life. The mugs acknowledge, give presence, and beautify the body post birth.

These mug forms acknowledge the more subtle but continual anatomical journey our bodies endure during motherwork and also a person’s transformative and altering personal journey throughout motherwork. Pertaining to motherwork this conversation in
clay is not exclusive to birth mothers, but opens up this conversation to all caregivers that take on motherwork. A man, or a non -biological parent may not physically go through the birthing journey but that person can experience the altering and changing of
their own bodies and spirits throughout the journey of motherwork. The common daily motions endured during motherwork, and the effects and marks that motherwork experiences leave on our bodies are also portrayed here in these mugs. With the unknown journey and struggles that each child brings, caregivers are altered in person as they journey with that child through the highs and lows of each experience. This altering of person throughout the lifelong journey of motherhood, so private and personal, joyful and painful, messy and beautiful is celebrated and acknowledged in these basic everyday utilitarian objects.

Like motherwork, the mugs are individual, unique and beautifully imperfect.The forms are altered, and asymmetrical, with undulating rims and drippy glazes. I choose to alter the form as a way to represent and interpret how we are altered in person and body in motherwork. The mugs are fired in a salt and soda kiln resulting in much surface variation among the cups. Each of these mugs are a functional sculpture and an experience, inviting the viewer to apply their own experiences in motherhood and motherwork to the conversation. The vulnerable yet commanding forms salute the invisible labor of caregiving and everyday experiences of motherwork, which involves a metamorphosis of person and body. Metamorphose is an artistic attempt to make the invisibility of motherhood and motherwork visible in households and workspaces via an everyday utilitarian object. [LINK TO MORE ART]

Mama n10


WORDS: Close to the Heart

by, Nancy Cook

I am planning the perfect tattoo.  Where to have it applied is not in question:  It is going to cover my entire chest. But beyond that, I have some decisions to make.

My relationship with my breasts has always been complicated. So much different than Joel’s relationship with his penis.  Joel’s penis has a name. The penis is named Max, basic and simple. Max has a personality, so Joel believes, a life of its own, completely separate from Joel’s. Well, not completely separate, of course. Our son Aaron views his little penis in much the same way. Aaron thinks his penis is his friend, although he hasn’t given it (him?) a name. Joel is convinced this is evidence of relational capacity. I say if you are in conversation with a body part, addressing it as Other, that’s distancing, not intimacy. But to be candid, I don’t care enough to get into a real discussion about it.

It’s strange to me because my breasts have always been part of the integrated whole that is my body.  This was true even before I had real breasts, when I was a kid pushing my flat chest up and out so I could look like my Mom or Charlie’s Angels or Madonna. I’d check out my reflection in a mirror or a sun-glared store window, and there they’d be, future boobs, more real than imaginary. It’s like my body always knew breasts would be part of the family, and now they’re participants in a full-fledged collaboration, right in there with my ears, my toes, my heart. My body parts communicate pretty well, the soles to the brain, the nostrils to the spine, the nipples on direct-dial to the vulva. My breasts are as essential as, and no more essential than, other parts, say, my tongue or my hands.

At the same time, I’ve often felt as if these beauties were not mine alone. They’re so, you know, out there. Visible. Available for public notice. Something like marigolds in a house-front flower bed or news of winning even a minor prize. Joel would probably take issue with that. He likes that he has private viewings. He coos, he tastes. Sometimes he plays them, left side against the right. He might grasp tightly, squeeze hard, but never roughly. I understand Joel’s attraction to my breasts, if not his proprietariness. I like personal time with my breasts too. They are nice to touch and very responsive.  Especially when an effort is made.

Not that I’ve had much private time with my breasts in recent years. Aaron made his claim on them as a baby, then the girls, Emma and Josie, had their turns. And, most recently, the doctors. I suspect that Joel has not liked any of this, although he’s too nice a guy to complain.

But back to the big question: what is the perfect tattoo?  What will pay tribute to feminine beauty, strength, sensuality? Motherhood. Solidarity and survival. I could go with a Xena the Warrior, the whole Amazonish thing. I’ve considered an artful rendition of a dinner feast, grander than Thanksgiving, smoky and steamy meats, a colorful overabundance of shining fruits and bloated roots and huge leafy sprays, a mountain of fresh bread loaves, luscious pies and puddings and creamed pastry puffs. Or maybe a circle dance, women of every size and shade with hands joined. Then, with every twist of shoulders, the women’s bare feet would boogie, their heads would float musically.

One inspiration, an early morning rumination, involves whales. When I was pregnant with Aaron, Joel and I took a whale watching cruise. I’d been warned against it, the risk of nausea being so unacceptably high. But the threat of an emotional breakdown if I were denied this outing convinced both Joel and the cruise hosts that a little boat vomit was the lesser of two perils. It was a good decision. The ocean was my friend that day. I never did get nauseous and the whales surrounded our boat not once, but three times. Their glossy bodies parted the waves, rose skyward, dashed below, made showers of foam. It was early summer and young black calves by the dozen alternately clung to mothers’ hides and flashed fins above the sea’s swells in bold proclamations of self-reliance. With every orca sighting, unborn Aaron danced and applauded in the womb.

What I keep coming back to, though, is a profusion of roses. Roses, fragile and impermanent. Roses, red and amorous and daring, their thorny stems hidden but still there, close to the heart. Roses and roses and roses and roses, every single one’s complex delicate exacting lines traceable with a fingernail. Generous gardens of roses that will take a lifetime to explore. Wild spring and summer roses, wall-climbing roses, Molly Bloom yes I will yes roses. Roses spread all across my empty chest, a gift to be bestowed after the medical healing, after the chemo and radiation are done. A gift to myself. A gift that is myself.

Nancy Cook currently lives in St. Paul. For years she has been attempting to integrate various parts of herself: sole parent, community lawyer, teacher, and writer. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of literary and social policy journals, including the Chrysalis Reader, Adventum, Nebo, Westward Quarterly, Emory Law Journal, and Prime Mincer.



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