Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

By

Out of the Darkness? – Interview by Shauna Ricketts [CLICK]

This week I interviewed Celina. Celina is a current resident of Newburgh, NY who lives with her 4 year old son Ricki. Prior to living in Newburgh, Celina was a member of the residential community of East Harlem. As a predominately Hispanic area, East Harlem served as a cultural hub for Celina, however the area left her with much more pain than pleasure. At the age of 18 she began to romantically see one of the local drug lords. Celina described her attraction to the man as

“espontáneo (spontaneous) and libetador (liberating).” However the invincibility and liberation that Celina felt in her relationship resulted in physical abuse enhanced by drug use. Celina left the hostile environment in East Harlem and moved in with a friend in Newburgh, upon discovering that she was pregnant with her first child. The concept of the American dream fueled Celina’s hope, as can be seen in the optimism she expressed while speaking of her move to Newburgh. “Los ángeles de los Estados Unidos me salvaron (The angels of the United States saved me),”stated Celina.

Celina’s journey of motherhood is a story of personal development in response to environmental change. One month after moving to Newburgh, Celina was informed that the father of her husband had died from heroin use. This news triggered depression and “oscuridad (darkness)” for Celina. She now lost financial support and the man that loved Ricki as much as she had. The father of Celina’s child had been the critical agent in suggesting that she move to Newburgh in order to raise their son in a safer area. Though the environment was much better to raise a child, Celina felt more removed from the community and therefore did not have the same community support as she had in East Harlem. Week to week, Celina works as a cleaning woman however the pay is not remotely sufficient to cover the costs of living for she and her son. Motherhood for Celina has brought new challenges and standards. Celina expressed that her standard of living significantly increased when she had Ricki because she wanted to provide the best for him.

In her times of darkness, Celina turned to her belief in God. “Dios está siempre conmigo (God is with me always). Celina said that combatting the darkness in her life as a mother is more rewarding than the battles she has had with darkness prior to motherhood.

Shauna_Ricketts_Darkness

About the Artwork: The artwork featured this week with Celina’s story represents the darkness that she experienced and the dream of safety that was not fully achieved in terms of her mental and emotional health. As a mother, Celina said that she felt as though she was drowning in information and in anticipation of the future, however the serenity of her surroundings helped bring some peace to her life. Celina continues to dream and move forward in her life, but more emotional assistance needs to be provided for single women in our communities. Sympathetic looks and kind words are not enough to emotionally support a mother and her child.

By

Jubilant, Yet Real – By Shauna Ricketts

This week I interviewed Jess who was accompanied by Addy, her jubilant one and a half year old daughter, during my time with her. As a straight A student at the age of 19, Jess did not intend to have a child but her journey of motherhood has provided her with lessons in love and self worth. Jess left an alcohol dependent partner to escape the “ugliness of drinking” and the environmental impact that alcohol use and abuse pose on the development of self in a child. Faced with custody battles, traditional values, the expectation and desire of earning an education and her age, Jess voiced the stresses that existed in her life as the result of her transition into motherhood. After the initial reactions of her family, the dust settled and support and comfort from her family eventually followed, specifically her older sister who bore her parent’s their first grandchild. The social pressure to have an abortion presented itself, but Jess did not allow society, her family or her partner dictate the future of her body or mind.

Shauna Ricketts ArtJess expressed thoughts and difficulties associated with single motherhood and the absence of a father figure in her child’s life. “Fatherhood is not solely focused on the father himself, but rather the father-child relationship,” stated Jess over our conversation and coffee. The day created to honor fathers does not consider those who lack a father figure in their lives, but rather the father void is highlighted. Jess aims to enforce an optimistic position for males in the eyes of her daughter, which is evident in the emphasis she placed on Addy’s first Father’s Day being a time to establish a positive space in Addy’s memory. Addy’s father though estranged, agreed to see Addy for an hour on Father’s day, but unfortunately he decided for personal reasons to not attend the meeting. In this moment of silence, Jess had the realization that the title of father and mother do not validate love. As the daughter of a divorced couple, Jess reflected on her memories of tension and the comparisons she drew between herself and other families, but comparison, which fills the eyes of many with tears, leaves the heart too heavy to focus on the light that exists regardless of family form. “When I had her (Addy) my eyes were opened to the support that I needed,” and for Jess this meant genuine care, love and responsibility for her child, not necessarily a family with a perfect and present father figure.

Balance was a topic of repetition throughout my conversation with Jess. Emotional and mental health in her life is achieved in the moments when she focuses on not only the well being of her child, but her personal happiness. As a server for a catering company, Jess is able to have a more concentrated workweek that allows her to have more flexibility. She uses the extra time to decompress and to spend time with her daughter. An aspect of finding her personal balances in life involve moving forward in her education each day, which is reflected in Jess’ online class work and the consistent expression of her goal of becoming a nurse one day.

After speaking with Jess and Diana (who I interviewed last week) it has become even more apparent to me that colleges need more resources to support single mothers in their educational pursuits, which should involve mental health services. Jess and Diana both spoke on behalf of financial assistance provided by WIC, however this service did not compensate for emotional and mental taxes that are the result of motherhood. The experiences of these women solidify the notion that compensation for the “Mommy Tax” is not provided or acknowledged within our society. Ann Crittenden coined the term “Mommy Tax” in the book The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued which draws attention to the lack of societal value that is put on motherhood and the centrality of motherhood to the progression of society.

“Young mothers should not let people influence their decisions or force them into discomfort.” Jess advises mothers to “feed off their intuition” and not the pressure to live up to expectations or images of the ideal and normalized mother or family form.

By

Meet Shauna Ricketts – Our Summer Intern [CLICK]

Meet our summer intern, Shauna Ricketts. Shauna is a full-time student at SUNY Geneseo in Western New York, originally hailing from the Hudson Valley. Her studies focus on Sociology and Political Science. She is also interested in art and photography. She believes that art is an amazing tool to spread awareness and engage in social messaging. Family structures fascinate her both personally and academically. She has been given a position as a Teaching Assistant for a Sociology of Families course, which she is super excited about. She has also watched the development and maturing of so many different children around her through the years. Her mother is one of twelve children and she has always analyzed interactions and outcomes within and around the family structure.

Shauna’s summer project at the Museum of Motherhood has been spurred by her studies in sociology. She writes “I am always amazed when I talk to people about social services such as food stamps and they are quick to draw assumptions about the people involved, this can be seen in the Welfare Queen ideology.” Her project aims to dismantle some of the stereotypes formulated around marginalized populations of young mothers.

The target population of her summer research will be single mothers, who are classified as living in poverty by the Federal Poverty Guidelines (http://familiesusa.org/product/federal-poverty- guidelines). Her work will focus on single, low-income mothers from minority backgrounds. The main theme of this body of work is going to involve understanding how these women see themselves within society juxtaposed with how they believe they are viewed in society. The women will have an opportunity to tell their stories using their own authentic voices. We hope this will be experienced as empowering.

In Shauna’s words: Each week I will release an interview either in a video format with the woman speaking, a photograph with a written piece, or a story with a photo that I have drawn of the woman (if she wishes to not be pictured via photograph or video) or a picture that the woman drew of herself (representing how she views herself) followed by a picture that the woman drew of how society views her next to a photograph of what she currently looks like. I want to draw attention to the stigmas that exist within the social welfare system, specifically programs such as WIC and TANF. I want to explore whether or not these stigmas influence the target population and if so how, specifically in their period of pregnancy. I hope to interview some women who are pregnant, but also women with younger and older children. I want to draw upon their experiences in discovering that they were pregnant and the outlets that they were able to draw upon for support. I would also like to focus on the expectations that these women have for their children and ask them to select words that describe their ideal child. In the event that women natively speak in another language such as Spanish, I would like to keep parts in that original language but provide translations in order to maintain the authenticity of the woman’s story.

MEET SHAUNA RICKETTS  HERE {LINK}

6/11/2016 – READ HER FIRST INTERVIEW WITH ERIKA HERE [LINK]

6/22/2016 – READ HER SECOND INTERVIEW ABOUT RACE & CULTURE HERE [LINK}

6/28/2016 – READ HER THIRD INTERVIEW WITH DIANA [LINK]

7/12/2016 – READ HER FOURTH INTERVIEW WITH JESS [LINK}

7/21/2016 – READ HER FIFTH INTERVIEW WITH CELINA [LINK}

8/03/2016 – READ HER LAST INTERVIEW HERE [LINK}

(read more about the goals of this project below photo)

Shauna.jpg

Overall goals of my work
-to tell the stories of single, low-income, pregnant mothers from minority groups
-to document the stories that I hear from these women and to consult them regarding the type of media that is used
-TO EMPOWER WOMEN and supporters of women!! By promoting positive body image and self-esteem, providing the mothers with resources that will be of use to them, listening to their thoughts and respecting the position from which they speak.
-to create art that captures how women see themselves, how they think the world sees them and what they actually look like (photograph).
-to raise social awareness and to de-stigmatize social welfare programs
-to gain insight into the ways we can help this target population
-to expose the barriers that exist for this target population and their unborn children

Shauna will be posting on the following weeks throughout the summer: June 13, 20, 27, July 11, 18, 25