Mothers, Mothering, Motherhood

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M.A.M.A. Welcomes the NEW YEAR – 2018 with Melissa Thomas and Megan Merchant

Artist: Melissa Thomas

Last month Melissa Thomas had a piece of reflective non-fiction writing published on the Mom Egg Review website in relation to her salt labyrinths work. Her latest projects some are due to be exhibited at the Shelf gallery in Cambridge, England in January 2018.

The Mother and the Lemon.

As the sun glows, radiantly flowing through the bedroom window, my daughter wakes by the dawns glimmer to ask if I remembered to buy lemons to make lemonade. In the bright morning light, before the displacement of home life, the kitchen is silently prepared with equipment set in place where two bags of lemons rest in the fruit bowl. Lined up on a chopping board like a diagram of the solar system, each lemon is a surface of its own. Displaying an intimate citrus topography, woven together in similarity through the common characteristics of colour, texture and markings, yet, subtly unique in appearance. Reminiscent of a fingerprint, each inimitable indentation is as distinctive as the dots of pores upon skin. Sliced around the plump centre each half is squeezed, extracting its juice for the recipe. Once the liquid is retrieved, I scoop out the remaining flesh, separating it from the dimpled, delicate rind. The scent arising from the anatomised lemons is sharp and sour, permeating the air and nostrils. Cleansing the debris of domestic duty, they become miniature vessels of material gift, bearing ripe nourishment for the senses.

Through the process, the fruit of the lemon is altered into a pile of translucent skin and fragments of flesh. Examining the squashed segments, soft and pulpy in their consistency, the texture induces memories of a placenta. A life sustaining organ, transferring nourishment from one source to another, the placenta is the forgotten phase of birth. Once a baby has arrived, we do not tell stories of the afterbirth, it remains an invisible entity, labelled as medical waste. Alternate meanings and values attached to the symbiotic unit of a baby and its placenta deviate from the codes of accepted social boundaries, rigidly defining normality. The placenta belonging to my youngest child was shaped like a heart, coloured in rich and vivid shades of crimson, sheathed under the loose and wrinkled pinks of membrane, mapped by sprawling thick blue hues of veins. Rooted at the centre, the thick, white umbilical cord, a twisting helix extending like a bridge between mother and child relays communication unheard.

The touch of my skin against the lemon remnants evoked the residue of the experience of birth. The lemons possess a gestational quality that render the juice amniotic, the pips translate as foetal. Attached to the interior, gentle compression enacts effacement as the seeds emerge in continuum. The dried pips are arranged in three lines, neatly spaced one after the other. They become pauses in the dissection of the fruit, punctuation marks to the story, commas dividing a sentence, separating items on a list; peel, pith, flesh, juice. A composition of the inbetween, they highlight negative space, drawing our attention to the blank. How does something emerge from nothing? Categorisation offers a framework to deduce quantitative meaning. Individual components become labelled and isolated from the whole. Mother, daughter, womb, placenta. Where does one begin and the other end? The linear route of experience ruptured the moment she crowned, transpiring from my body, taking with her the comfort of what is known as I exploded into a new realm, reverberating as the hot nebula of a celestial sphere. Reintegration within the symbolic apparatus of language required my children to become gramma within my story, interspersing the concrete with the fluid, subverting boundaries.

Each persistently fruitful contraction acts as a messenger, despatching significance between the body and mind in a language we must decipher. Fluently breathing through each tightening of her muscular uterus she dressed slowly, preparing to relocate to hospital. Shifting through this passage of momentous transfiguration together, we strode down the wide, white corridors side by side, each step asserting strength and fortitude. The labour room is small and square, decorated with attempts to neutralise the clinical atmosphere; colourful painted pictures filtering the bright daylight through the window, fairy lights strung across the wall in celebration. Rather than blending a sense of unity, the differences seem to contrast. Two ideological philosophies jarring against one another, a nexus located in the physicality of birth, unravelling around the mythic quality of experience. A sonogram affirms the elusive positioning of the baby wriggling in her womb; transverse. Validation becomes immediately distinguished, she had known all along. The emotional apprehension dissipates as the course ahead becomes clear and consent for a caesarean is acknowledged.

The operating room is bright and busy. Her naked skin sits at the centre of bustling bodies veiled in sterile overcoats, manoeuvring between the concentrated landscape of wires and machinery. I observe the surgeon’s fingers tracing the ridges of her spine as the positioning for the needle is located and anaesthetic administered. Sitting by her side, caressing her soft arm, the process is quick and smooth. A green screen draped between her torso and the surgeons work creates the illusion of two halves. A mind and a body divided at the centre, I witness her wholeness through moments of disarticulation. She is the centre of the universe as tears roll down her cheeks like rain falling from the clouds, nourishing the fertile soil, eternally giving and receiving. The baby nestled sideways within her womb, emerges purple and quiet, safely tucked inside her gown, skin to skin. The surgeon begins the process of suturing her abdomen, each layer of flesh dexterously adjusted under the bright overhead spotlight. With nimble hands, a threaded curved needle draws the deep incision together into a rippled seam tracing the contour of her swollen uterus, a threshold on the edge of the fabric of creation.

I returned home in deep exhaustion, my body heavy in a haze. Romantic and visionary ideals of expectation are torn away by the wild, bold autonomy of parturition. There is no personal, there is no political as division dissolves, blurring dreams and nightmares. I awake. Upon the floor, next to my bed there is a single lemon. I stretch my legs to begin the day and I stand upon its oval shape. Beneath the weight of my body, the fruit splits across its ellipsoidal meridian squirting citrus juice onto the soft, beige carpet. I pick up the injured lemon, its form encased within the palm of my hand, bearing resemblance to a tiny body, perhaps of a bird or a small mammal. With flesh and liquid contained beneath its surface, it appears to be breathing. Squeezing the supple, waxy peel between the gentle pressure of my fingertips, the pulp contracts and expands, it’s alive. Transformed into a subject, not solely an object, becoming more than an ingredient for culinary, domestic or medicinal purposes but emerging from its own stories and history.

 

June 2017 Melissa Thomas

Poetry by Megan Merchant

Working the Night Shift

 

String a white sheet

from the body of trees

in the wild,

 

set a lantern

behind its screen

and wait

 

for the flush of

mottled wings

to lisp and net

the light,

 

note how some

are frayed as

edges of a rug

beaten against

wind,

 

how the brightest

markings allow

the most brazen

behavior,

 

a wingspan—that if

crumpled

inside a mouth—

will tart a tongue.

 

Wait as they collect

like silk eyes

twitching,

 

paper darts

that shred rain,

 

and can trace the scent

of a wounded leaf

to know where

to slip their young

safely.

 

Wait long enough

and they will show

you how to be reborn

into night.

From Mom Egg Review Vol. 15 2017

Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, Arizona where she spends her days exploring, drinking too much coffee and avoiding the laundry.

Her poems and translations have appeared in publications including The Atlanta ReviewKennesaw ReviewMargieInternational Poetry Review, Diode  and more.  She holds a MFA degree from UNLV and was the winner of the 2017 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize, the 2016-2017 Cog Literary Award and the Las Vegas Poets Prize, She is a multi-year Pushcart Prize nominee.

She is an editor at the Comstock Review, and the author of four chapbooks: Translucent, sealed, (Dancing Girl Press, 2015),Unspeakable Light (Throwback Books, 2016), In the Rooms of a Tiny House (ELJ Publications, 2016), and A Thousand Paper Cranes(Finishing Line Press, 2016).  Her first full-length collection, Gravel Ghosts, is currently available through Glass Lyre Press and was awarded the 2016 Best Book Award.  Her second full-length poetry collection, The Dark’s Humming, won the 2015 Lyrebird Award and is also available with Glass Lyre Press.

Her first children’s book, These Words I Shaped for You, is now available with Penguin Random House

http://meganmerchant.wixsite.com/poet/about

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

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Visit M.O.M. Today [CLICK]

VISIT MOM: Eight months after re-opening the Museum of Motherhood in St. Petersburg, Florida, the M.O.M. Art Annex has enjoyed visitors from all over the country. To schedule a visit write us: info@MOMmuseum.org. See just a few of our visitors here:

CONFERENCE: Our first “I ❤ MOM” Conference” titled Mothering from the Margins was a truly inspiring two-day event with a packed house that took place during Valentines’ week in February. We are in the process of editing and uploading content from the conference to the Journal of Mother Studies (JourMS), as well as crafting next year’s CFP.
COMMUNITY: The local Historic Kenwood Artist Enclave has been busy organizing of community events, including the Arts Walk last March. Their new enclave motto “where art lives” is particularly salient considering we really do live and work at the museum.

RESIDENCIES: Thus far, M.O.M. has hosted three residencies. In January, artist and activist, Christen Clifford arrived as our first guest and spent two weeks editing her latest work. She returned again in July. Also, we saw the first summer Spirited Woman Residency with Dawn Louise Parker who has been hard at work on her manuscript titled Forty-Seven Days of Love. Dawn continues to manage the M.O.M. space while editing her manuscript and we are grateful for her participation. In October, we will welcome Hannah Brockbank who will be joining us for a two week residency. Hannah is a poet hailing from Sussex, England. Her pamphlet Bloodlines will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2017 and she is a Kate Bett’s Award winner (2016). Hannah is a PhD student and will be utilizing the Demeter Library onsite among other things. Read more about our residencies here [LINK]

INTERNSHIPS: We currently have several calls out to local college students for internships for the fall of 2017. Our high school intern, Andres’ has been with us since the spring and is a St. Pete High School senior. He is hard at work cataloging our library and creating a new student exhibit for the fall.

ONLINE: In July of 2017, according to our google report 4,239 conducted searches and found us online. We are happy and proud that people are thinking about us. We hope that we can continue to expand in our new location. If you have ideas or want to get on board, please write Museum Director: Martha Joy Rose at MarthaJoyRose@gmail.com Introduction to Mother Studies classes will re-launch with a new partnership sometime within the next six months – stay tuned.

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Internship Opportunities at the Museum of Motherhood [Click]

Each year the Museum of Motherhood (MOM) welcomes interns from a variety of disciplines. Each internship seeks to balance individual goals and needs with those of the museum’s. Study labs, online courses, individual projects, visual displays, research, and guest docent opportunities are just a few of the ways MOM has worked with university and graduate students since 2011. Onsite and remote internships are available for the 2017 academic year. Write Director, M. Joy Rose, 538 28th St. N. St. Petersburg: info@mommuseum.org

Seeking students for extra credit lab-work with the Museum of Motherhood for six weeks, beginning October 2017. MOM is launching a new online course called Introduction to Mother Studies. This is an introduction to mothers, mothering, and motherhood through a critical lens. The class uses articles, statistics, film, media, and literature to examine the perceptions, experiences, and identity of mothers. The goal of the course is to offer students insight into evolving notions of family, while sharing a multitude of perspectives. We analyze and explore motherhood in the private as well as the social sphere where mothering is performed.

  • Time commitment approximately 3-4 hours per week for six weeks, October 1 – November 12, 2017.
  • Exit survey completion and final report
  • Participants will be invited to share their class perspectives and final projects at the annual academic MOM Conference in St. Pete/Tampa, February 15-17, 2017.

Seeking self-designed internships at the Museum of Motherhood in St. Petersburg, Florida. Students bring their passion and perspective to an individualized study program focused on mothers, fathers, and families. Create a community outreach project, launch a museum display, or conduct research on a specific topic or category. Business students and those interested in the non-profit sector also welcome.

  • Time commitment is flexible. Students have worked between 4-10 hours per week.
  • Remote or onsite opportunities available
  • Participants will be invited to share their projects at the annual academic MOM Conference in St. Pete/Tampa, February 15-17, 2017.

“….the rules of motherhood are being radically rewritten–with a snarl, cymbal crash and power E-chord that would make the lads in AC/DC stand and salute.” –USA Today

[FIND OUT MORE LINK]

Internships at the Museum of Motherhood

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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

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Residency At The Annex [Christen Clifford]

Here at M.O.M., residencies offer an opportunity for an intensive focus on your writing, art, research, or special project. M.O.M. accepts one residency per time period and we are pleased to announce our first opportunity beginning January 1st, for two weeks, with artist, performer, and academic Christen Clifford. Find out more about the requirements to participate here and access our online calendar.

The M.O.M. Art Annex Residency Program is currently open to students, artists, and scholars engaged in the study of women, mothers, fathers, and families. This live/work space in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, Fl is an opportunity for those wishing to focus for an extended period of time on research, writing, or art-making in a quiet setting, close to amenities, in a supportive environment. If the residency doesn’t work for you, but you want to visit, then you can plan a trip on AirBnB  as well [Link].

M.O.M. has a long relationship with universities and art organizations around the world including: Materials for the Arts (NYC), St Petersburg Arts Alliance (FL), The Mom Egg Literary Review (NY), Procreate Project (London), The Artist Parent Index (Virginia), The Mamapalooza Festival, Demeter Press (Canada), M/other Voices (Rotterdam), Columbia U (NYC), Teachers College (NYC), Manhattan College (NYC), Marymount Manhattan College (NYC), Eckerd College (FL), and more.

About Christen

Christen Clifford, a feminist writer, feminist performance artist, curator, professor, actor, and  mother artist whose performances and writing use her experiences of maternal sexuality, menstruation, rape, and the female body as material, is launching a new project called Pussy Bow.

The Pussy Bow is silky blouse with a long, floppy bow attached to the neck. Currently a popular fashion item, Clifford reimagines it as a feminist action disguised as a fashion accessory. Hers is real pussy bow, printed with images of her own pussy.

Last September, as part of a performance hosted by the dance group AUNTS at New York’s Ace Hotel, Clifford used the wireless internal-camera vibrator Siime Eye to broadcast photos directly onto the walls of the hotel (and to remote viewers through Periscope) from inside her vagina. She took these images and created a pattern that she then printed onto silk and fashioned into a long, thin, stylish scarf. Clifford will donate 10% of each Pussy Bow purchase to Planned Parenthood.

The Huffington Post writes, “there’s an entirely new way to wear genitals,” and Style Mic proclaims the Pussy Bow is “making waves,” and “capping off the biggest fashion trend of 2015.” The Daily Dot lists ideal Pussy Bow models: “Donald Trump. Also: Michelle Obama, Lena Dunham, Cecile Richards [President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.] Anyone who loves pussy, anyone who loves equality and style.”

We will be updating you as the new Art Annex continues its mission in the new year.

cc_birth

Christen Clifford Live Performance

Featured image on homepage by http://www.anyaliftig.com/

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Spend A Night At The Museum (now on AirBnB)

The Museum of Motherhood Art Annex Guest Cottage is perfect for your quick trip or your extended stay! Whether you’re a student interested in sociology, motherhood, women’s and gender studies, or you want to enjoy the local restaurants, culture and soak up the beach vibe in St. Petersburg, Florida, we are here to welcome you.

(read more below, or click the picture to see our listing on AirBnB)

airbnb_logo

The Space

Our Cottage, off the main exhibit space, boasts a queen size bed, writing desk, and mini-kitchen. At approximately 450 square feet, the converted property was designed for contemplation and rest. Guests can expect a comfortable space for two.

There is a memory foam queen-size murphy bed and room to hang your clothes. The mini-kitchen has sink, stove, fridge, as well as pots, pans and dishes. There is a bar-height counter, free Internet, and a secret garden for sipping your morning coffee. A trendy corrugated metal shower and composting toilet round out your tiny-house experience.

Ideal for singles, students, pregnant couples, and travelers from afar, your stay includes a private introduction to the M.O.M. Museum with access to current exhibit features. Simply make arrangements with your host for the date and time of your detailed tour.

The Neighborhood

St. Petersburg is a City of the Arts. St. Petersburg’s thriving arts and culture scene reaches far beyond the state of Florida. Represented by outstanding museums, scores of independent galleries, a successful, close-knit community of working artists and crafts-people, and a stellar performing arts community, St. Petersburg’s cultural scene is one of the best in the southeastern United States, and it is located on the Gulf of Mexico. What could be better?

Getting Around

The nearest airport is Tampa International. The SuperShuttle from Tampa to St. Pete is approximately $50. Ubers and taxis are available too, as are rental cars. Once in St. Pete there is public transportation by trolley, bicycle, and cab. However, a car makes getting around super-convenient.

Other Things To Note

We especially welcome those interested in family studies, pregnant couples, PhD students, travelers curious about American motherhood, and art-lovers. This is my home, live/work space, so your appreciation, respect, and interest are greatly appreciated. We are looking to educate and enlighten our guests, so bring your curiosity and sense of appreciation, please.

Florida Beach Rental

Redington Beach Vacation on Air BnB. This rental property is owned by museum founder M. Joy Rose. No free residency opportunities- rentals only available here. Click the link to see more info. [LINK]]