Mothers, Mothering, Motherhood

By

MAMA: Art Interview with Mother Artist Carla Danes; Poetry by Hannah Brockbank [LINK]

A VISIT WITH CARLA DANES:

I want to share an artist love story. This goes back twenty-something years. When I lived in SoHo, New York in a funky six-flight walk-up loft, there was an amazing woman who took care of toddlers in her home on Crosby Street. After having my first, and then my second baby, I was desperate for some childcare and also I was hungry to network with other neighborhood creative-types. One of my friends put me in touch with Carla Danes of “Crosby Kids” and the rest, as they say, is her-story. Carla and her husband Chris, both artists, continued to live, work, and care for children while making art in Manhattan until empowering their daughter, Claire Danes to move to Los Angeles to pursue work as an actress. Carla and I were now on opposite coasts but we stayed in touch. I was lucky enough to visit her studio recently, which is part of a sprawling collection of gardens, outbuildings, and even a yurt in Santa Monica, California. It was wonderful spending time together again. Carla, Chris and I talked feminism, families, and mother-made art whilst sitting around their kitchen table, sipping juice, and appreciating the beauty of life’s grand arch. Below is a segment from an interview with ARTPOST featuring Carla Danes and a few of the photos I took during my trip.

Carla Danes and Joy Rose

Carla Danes Art

ARTPOST INTERVIEW:

Yes! I see myself as this middle-class lady who was taught by my mother and my grandmother and by every magazine in the house about taste and fashion. So I like to play with that; art about what is fashionable, about what’s tasteful and what is art. This goes back to the idea that women have always been allowed to make art at home. Rich women painted ceramic cups and did needlework. Poor women made mittens, hats or quilts. But women have always been allowed to work at home. My work is an extension of that female territory and expanding on it.

I was in my twenties at the height of the Feminist Movement. Now women are allowed to go to college and they are out of the house. Women will buy a couch— big things for the house like bathroom fixtures. But we don’t buy our own jewelry. Sometimes we buy flowers for ourselves, but certainly, we don’t collect art—the men do. Our opinion is considered, but we are rarely the art buyers in the family. Ultimately, I’d like to make art for women to feel safe with. I mean it’s a joke. We have more women than men in many art departments. We have curators, teachers, art makers—but we don’t buy art? This is crazy. See the full article ARTPOST article here [LINK].

*Carla donated one of her prints to the Museum of Motherhood. Make an appointment today for a tour to see our latest collection. Write: info@MOMmuseum.org

Carla Danes Art

POETRY AT MOM WITH HANNAH BROCKBANK

Since I’ve embraced the opportunity to “go personal” this November, I am also happy to share some of the wonders of hosting poet Hannah Brockbank as part of the Museum of Motherhood’s Residency Program. Hannah has been here for two weeks studying the contents of the museum and making use its library. This has been grand opportunity to spend time engaged in serious discussion about everything mother. We first met briefly in-person at the ProCreate event in London over the summer after he accepted to the Residency. Since that time, we’ve wandered the grounds, explored St. Pete. watched the movie Momz Hot Rocks, perused books about mother studies, and of course Facetimed with her kids. It’s been a blast. I’m going to miss Hannah when she goes back to England! ~ Martha Joy Rose

This from Hannah:

I am a mother, writer, and Ph.D. student from England. My creative Ph.D at the University of Chichester involves the creation of a new book-length collection of matrifocal poems exploring my experience of mothering. Whilst at the Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.), I’ve been able to research matrifocal narratives, but also use M.O.M’s excellently curated collection of books, exhibits, art, and photographs (including Procreate Project’s Photozine Archive) as inspiration for my writing. Having time to write without the interruption of family life, has meant I have been very productive, and I look forward to spending my last days at M.O.M. focussing on my creative writing.

One of the first poems I wrote was inspired by an exhibit of a breast and uterus offering. The card by the exhibit read, ‘Uterus and breast offering from Fatima, Portugal to be offered to the Virgin Mary.’ I found this to be a very powerful image and I immediately began to consider my experiences of fertility and wanting to conceive.

It took 6 months to become pregnant with my first daughter and during part of that time, my husband and I visited Japan. We saw many temples and shrines, including the Site of Enazuka – a placenta mound which contained the afterbirth of Tokugawa Ienobu (1662-1712) the Sixth Shogun of Japan. There were many white and vivid pink azaleas, elegant buildings, and copper coloured carp in the ponds. Everything was blooming and coming alive. I also remember the many women who walked along the paths between the azaleas, towards a thick plume of incense where they cupped the smoke with their hands and drew it to their bellies and prayed.

Hannah_NotebookI’ve carried this image with me for six years knowing it was a significant one, but wanted to find the right moment, and inspiration to use it. It was wonderful to commit it to paper. For me, most poems begin as a strong image. I then unpick images on the page. This can sometimes take the form of a sketch, a mind-map or sometimes, as in this case, in note form:

As you can see, I pay no attention to neatness, grammar, or punctuation at this stage. It’s really about getting the image committed to paper. I then include as many of the senses as possible, sight, smell, touch etc. Once I’m satisfied with that, I may add research. For example, the phytotomy of an azalea flower. Interestingly, at this point I start to find connections, or what I like to call ‘serendipitous moments’, where relationships between words, images, and idioms make happy alliances. Truthfully, this doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it feels rather special.

I then start to free-write, beginning to shape sentences into lines, carefully considering the placement of line ends, internal rhyme, and structure. As the poem is continually redrafted and workshopped, it becomes tighter and stronger.

Below is my first draft which has been given the work in progress title of ‘Nezu Shrine’. I will let it ‘compost’ for a week before redrafting. After that, the poem will be emailed to my workshop group in England, where I will receive feedback. I will make any amendments necessary and then send it to a publisher for their consideration.

NEZU SHRINE (Work in Progress)

You pinch a lace bug
from the underside

of a white azalea.
Pearls of pollen

drop from its stamen
and fill the creases

of your busy hands.
And later,

you take my hand
and lead me

passed a pond
of copper carp,

(their swollen bellies
visible from the surface),

to a shrine.
You clap

your hands twice
then cup and guide

the blue smoke
from smouldering

incense
to my empty belly.

By Hannah Brockbank

Happy writing!

Hannah

MAMA_Logo_2015

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. 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 creative, 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. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

By

History, Foundling Wheels, and Experiments in Public Health

During the years that M.O.M operated out of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, posters adorned each of the 2,500 square space’s pillars. These posters focused on quirky and sometimes tragic facts spanning ten centuries of childbirth. One of the most curious posters, and the one that most often elicited conversation from students was the photo and description of the foundling wheel of The Ospedale degli Innocenti in Italy.

Interior courtyard of Ospedale degli Innocenti

This hospital, cum orphanage, history tells us, was an experiment in social welfare and public health fifteenth century-style.

Completed in 1445, the institution received its first abandoned infant ten days later. What the text books tell us differs a great deal from what research anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy discovered and wrote in her provocative book Mother Nature. While I am not at my desk as I write this blog (travels continue to take me through Italy and the surrounding regions), my memory of her book and scholar Jocelyn Fenton Stitt’s 2014 online MSU course on Motherhood Studies stands out. Challenging romanticized notions of caring mothers fawning over their newborns, the foundling hospital tells a different story.

Artifacts left behind along with abandoned newborns were catalogued & curated

Of all the places on our scheduled visit through Italy this summer, this was the destination I was most excited about. According to Hrdy, hundreds of thousands of abandoned newborns died behind these walls, victims of illness, starvation, and a vast population of women, who through circumstance for a great number of reasons were unable to care for their infants. Challenging the assumption that all mothers can or will care for their babies, most of these children born illigitimately, during times of social unrest, during plagues, amidst starvation, and for so many other complex and wide-ranging reasons, were abandoned in the middle of the night and left to fate.

The hospital was envisioned as a charitable institution six hundred years ago and continues to operate as a museum and advocate for youth through various programs. The museum today tells the story of its abandoned children through artifacts left along with the newborns who had to be tiny enough to squeeze through the grated entrance, pictured below.

The author, M. Joy Rose pictured in front of the foundling wheel gate

Once abandoned, a bell would ring, awakening attendants who would then feed and care for the children. For many reasons, Hrdy tells us, the vast majority of these stories end in death. There simply was no baby formula available (it wasn’t invented until the middle 1800s), and there were not enough wet nurses to go around.
The notion of abandoning a newborn, while repugnant to most, is actually evidence for the ongoing argument that women need to be able to choose when and if they will get pregnant and give birth. Baby boxes and other legitimate contemporary options continue to be available to mothers unwilling or unable to care for their newborns in the U.S. and around the world. The Ospedale degli Innocenti stands as testimate to the social history and personal stories of countless children and their families.

Wet nurses hired to feed and care for the babies

Join me by checking in at my personal blog as I spend the next several weeks traveling Europe ~ MOM Founder, Director, M. Joy Rose