The ProCreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the continuation of this literary and scholarly discourse which 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
Silent scream– paint,marker and menstruation blood on paper (2015)
Artist Statement by Dagmara Bilon
My current practice is an expression of liberty and defiances to taboos and conventions. Opening up awareness to my wonder-es cycling self, gluing plastic bags with gaffer tape to make a gigantic placenta, feeding my plants menstruation blood and using the earth as material to make body prints. In a self-preserving, modern capitalistic and digital, detached society; I seek authentic expression and an intuitive exploration of felt experiences and impressions involving in a direct way the body.
Creative frameworks allow me to investigate a visual language that layer various realities to express surreal depictions of the female body as a source of vulnerable confinement and humerus provocation. The process of making is an invocation and reality is dissected into images fusing the imagined and the real. Scenes form out of the process of bringing together objects in relation to body, space and text. My work is process based and unfolds through experimentation, embodied investigation and collaboration with other artists.
More about the artist:
Dagmara Bilon is a performance artist/maker, who have been making work since 2003. She creates durational, action based and one to one performance work, for live audiences and for video. Dagmara is also a Dance Movement Therapist, a Purple Lady and lives with her two daughters in south-east London. Work has been presented in England, France, Romania, Iceland, Denmark, Croatia and Spain.
For more information on her work see website www.dagmarabilon.com www.thepurpleladies.com
On Friday Nights by Gabriella Burman
Originally published in The Mom Egg
Lately, my four-year-old thinks she is old enough to strike the matches. On Friday evenings at sundown, when we light candles to usher in the Jewish Sabbath, she climbs onto the countertop, and grabs the slim box with chubby hands that resemble her oldest sister’s.
Without fail, each week, she does this, and without fail, each week, her father and admonish her that matches are dangerous, somehow not mastering, ourselves, the lesson to keep them out of her reach at the moment we take them out of the cupboard.
Every family has its variation of how the blessing is recited. Some light a pair of candles; some, as we do, light for the number of members of the family. Some recite the blessing in order of seniority; others, in unison. In traditional homes, only the women light; in others, the men participate. But the Hebrew words, whether sung or spoken, remain the same: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with
His commandments, and commanded us to light the Sabbath candles. In our family, the blessing is sealed with a kiss. This is how I was raised. As soon as Shabbat began, my sister and I stood by our mother’s side as she lit her silver candelabra. It stood on a shining mirrored plate on a buffet in the dining room, in front of an octagonal mirror that reflected us, watching her.
She placed her manicured hands over her eyes, and silently said the blessing, followed by a lengthy moment of quiet that indicated a dialogue with God. What she asked of Him, she never shared. When she was done, my sister and I each took our turn, and then she kissed us with great force. Shortly thereafter, we sat down to eat.
In my home, I bless five candles in the kitchen, atop a paper covered with Sabbath-themed stickers, stuck to a layer of protective, yet scratched, acrylic. It was a preschool present from Michaela, our oldest daughter, who died unexpectedly when she was five. I never added a silent prayer to God the way my mother does, but now, I offer up a silent “Fuck You.”
This is especially true on the eves of Jewish holidays, which are also ushered in by candle lighting, and to which we add a second blessing thanking God for enabling us to “reach this occasion.” The phrase sounds more powerful in Hebrew, no more so than when David Ben Gurion exclaimed it upon the establishment of the State of Israel, or when my grandfather, a survivor of Auschwitz, proclaimed it at my wedding. To me, now, that second blessing is, simply, offensive. I thank no one for arriving at this moment; I feel scorched by my daughter’s death, and have neither the envy for, nor the capacity to emulate, those who retain faith after catastrophe.
But this is my heritage. To have created a Jewish home after the Holocaust was a source of pride for my Zaide, as we called him, and it has been paramount to my mother, who refers to the imperative every chance she gets. It is all she can do for her parents, I believe, after what they endured, their forearms branded with numbers, their dreams blazing forever thereafter, despite the prescriptions they took.
The truth is, when I was a child, I loved being a Jew, the stories of our patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, the fall of the walls of Jericho. I took pride in speaking Hebrew, mastering text, and feeling completely secure, as when I walked into a synagogue during a college semester in Paris, opened a prayer book in the sanctuary, and immediately felt at home.
And even when, as an adult, I became more skeptical of religion, coming to view it as a man-made construct, I continued to observe Shabbat and to keep kosher. When Adam and I married, we agreed to raise our children the way we had been raised. If, playing out the quintessential Jewish parental nightmare, they ultimately reject our lifestyle, we reasoned, at least, they’ll know what they’re leaving.
Michaela, who had cerebral palsy and could not speak, told us in her way that she enjoyed Shabbat, her eyes widening along with the rise in a melody, and “mmming” at the cold grape juice she tasted after Adam blessed the wine, and I suspect this would have gone on forever. While it is too soon to tell with the more emotional Maayan, I am doubtful that Ayelet, our middle daughter, will ever rebel. Ayelet’s heart flutters with devotion that is absent in my own heartbeat; her soul shines through deep, brown eyes.
She loves God even more than her parents, she says, “because He gave me you!” and she truly believes, at age six, that God is responsible for everything, and that we must thank Him every day.
She is the one who leads us in blessing on Friday nights. Standing at a safe distance from the flames, her hair swinging like a drape, she covers her eyes and sings in Hebrew, using a tune she learned at school. Maayan copies her moves, and sings along in a voice that would be lovely if she didn’t scream so much. I accompany them; if I am too quiet, they shout, “Louder, Mommy!” After we’re done, we grin and hug like happy apes, and then the girls return to their cartwheels.
I linger a moment, before setting the table with challah, silver goblets, and what will always be the wrong number of plates. I gaze at the passport-sized pictures of each of my daughters, which I’ve set next to my own candelabra. For a fine-haired moment, I take small comfort in knowing there is something I continue to do which still involves the number five. I will always, always light five candles.
Gabriella Burman was born and raised in suburban Detroit and graduated with a degree in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University, where she studied with Robert Stone and Chaim Potok. Gabi has been sharing her life story since she first picked up a diary as a child. She now writes non-fiction from her home in Huntington Woods, MI, where she and her husband are raising their daughters.