MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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Year End Report [CLICK]

Thank You To Our Friends, Supporters, and Partners

This has been a wonderful year for collaboration. M.O.M. saw three new initiatives launch in 2015. They included the Procreate Project along with The Mom Egg Review, Project Afterbirth, and the Jewish Biennale 2015 at Hechel Schlomo Museum in Israel (download press about this Jewish Biennal_Report here).

The Museum director Martha Joy Rose, also had opportunities to write and teach this year on behalf of M.O.M. She contributed to the M/other Voices Column, Demeter Press‘s forthcoming book on New Maternalisms, and was active teaching courses in Families and Social Change at Manhattan College in New York.

It is necessary and important that collaborations like these thrive. Programs that support mothers in the arts, acknowledge the economic value of caregivers, and promote education in the areas of mother (and father) studies are good for families and society. They help humanity evolve consciously and thoughtfully benefiting all people: they spread joy, they enlighten, lift, and create a communities of shared values.

Together we are creating our future today!

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Read the M/other Voices full essay here (and below).

A M/OTHER MOVEMENT FOR THE MASSES

Standing at the podium, about to begin a lecture to the twenty students in front of me at Manhattan College, I pop on a power point and click through the images of women creating mother-made art. In this particular slide-show there are curated photos from the Procreate Project, Project Afterbirth, m/other voices, Ima Iyla’a: The Art of Motherhood, Mamapalooza, and Demeter Press, as well as striking text from the Mom Egg Review. The students seem interested. The images are provocative, often including everything from menstruation blood to musical instruments. I have known for a long time how important it is for women who are mothers to have an arts movement of their own. And yet, gaining traction has proved to be harder than I thought. For many reasons, social, political, and cultural, women still lag behind globally in the arts world. From filmmakers who reportedly comprise a mere 4.1% of the top grossing directors of major motion pictures,[1] to the Guerilla Girls-inspired rants calling out major contemporary museums for their lack of equal exhibition time, women in the arts still have a lot of catching up to do.[2] Motherhood complicates these inequities further for reasons that are difficult to identify, but let me try.

There are three major forces compounding mother’s visibility in the arts: identity, consensus, and physical dis/ability. Let us first look at identity. Before we can even begin to dive into the idea of a mother-inspired arts movement, we need to clarify what is a mother? You might feel like arguing with me that there is no need, but in fact there is a need. If one is going to create a mother-arts movement one has to know whom one is including, and what the point of your movement is. Are you going to call your arts event a celebration of motherhood? What about those who do not think it is an elation, but rather a great misery heaped on them when they were least prepared? Are you concerned about the procreative act itself? The carrying, and waiting for the development and birth of the future child? What are you going to do with the adoptive mothers who did not birth their babies but are finding their mother-identity through the act of caregiving? And what about the ones who lost their children along the way? Are you going to include parents; meaning the mother and the father? This is a lovely idea, but, if you include parents, what do you do to amplify the unique experience of one who cellularly divides? The one whose body goes through embodied changes? Then, what about the “single” mother, with no likely partner or spouse? What are you going to do with grandmothers, stepmothers, gay couples, and the surrogates? Unlike many other objects or identities, from the very beginning the notion of mother is fraught. She is not a simple creature. She might not even be a woman. Therefore, conceivably a mother might be a he. Likewise, politically speaking, a mother might be a religious, right-minded, anti-abortion, Phyllis Schlafly kind of character, or she might be a forthright, left-leaning feminist. She might be an advocate of something you hate, and therefore you are tempted to hate her, or she might be a killer, a thief, or an addict. She might be absent. Is she one whose story you want to include? Are you going to share your arts movement with her? Herein lies the crux of the number one problem of a m/other based movement. There are so many kinds. I have been masticating on this for the better part of 26 years trying to sort out its complications.

While writing my thesis for graduate school I struggled not only with a definition of mother, but also with a definition of what the academic study of mothers might include. My reasoning for this was twofold. In my experience as the creator of an arts festival, which has aimed to highlight the varying voices, art, comedy, music, theater, and literature of motherhood, I consistently wrestled with what to do with the women who were not mothers but were other-mothers, aunties, and nannies insisting they wanted their experiences to be included. I wrestled with what to do with the caregiving partners, fathers, grandparents, and children of these creative-types, mostly because thy also often inquired about being included. Sometimes mothers wanted to blend their families in their art making and even if they didn’t, non-mothers often wanted to feel they too could exercise their voice. This challenged my vision for mother-made art, if only in the sense that it constantly required me to question whom to include or not include? If the art is about family, what sets these mothers apart from the others they are connected to? What makes them unique, or special, or why should they have a festival, movement, arts-based collection all their own? We all know that historically women’s voices have been silent relatively and mothers even more so. That could be reason enough, but in the end, maybe not. Questions and complications remain. No one, including me, seems satisfied with exclusionary practices.

The second part of the dilemma is, if we could identify the specificities of what mother is, how do we gain consensus on whether she is worth studying or whether her art is specifically noteworthy and deserving of its own category? Considering that we have left the first question somewhat unanswered, then the second question of cooperation creates its own challenges. The status or category of mother is often fraught. She does not represent all good things despite the fact that we have expected her to be everything: creator, collaborator, connector, and caregiver, for free, forever, unconditionally? Mothers manifest their fair share of resentment, both for socially constructed reasons and for psychological ones. Feminist movements reluctantly embrace motherhood if at all, and even mothers themselves seem unsure whether they care more about activism, equal wages, or getting dinner on the table. There is not enough time in this essay to adequately address this, although many have tried including Adrienne Rich[3] and Phyllis Chesler[4] for example. Let us for the purposes of this article simply say that it is extremely difficult to get people to agree on a consensus regarding mothers, mother-art, and motherhood.

Finally, leaving the answers to the first two issues ambiguous, we can now move to the very real challenges most mothers face, which include ability, time, and perspective. As any mother of a young one will attest to, creating anything other than limited cleanliness, order, income, and edible food can be a full-time occupation. Mix in the ephemeral nature of art and challenges arise. How does one find the hours in the day (or night)? The space? Some regularity? Should one buy paints or food? Make music or buy shoes? Natalie Loveless claims in her curated exhibit titled New Maternalisms that “mama-artists [need] to find creative ways of integrating their practices as mothers, artists, curators, writers, and teachers. By taking seriously the need to create from local and embodied conditions, these practices bring visibility and value to the maternal in and as art.”[5] I agree with her. But, as I have articulated, distinct challenges remain.

Ultimately, the notion of exactly what makes a mother, be it birth, caregiving, egg donation, or identity can all be debated. However, we define what a mother is and what the art-movement looks like, it must include relational aspects. Words like m/other, m/otherness, or mother-ness attempt to describe this. Any idea of mother must include the concept of transformation, inclusion, and evolution. Both the personal and relational status of me + other = m/other proposes an examination of how m/otherness or mother-ness is the experience of being connected, or disconnected, to one who is part of you. Or, of being a person who, as part of another and also linked to another (genetically, through caregiving, or by association), might inform action in a world conceived as relational. This view differs from our current social system. Current systems have been motivated by alienation, and by violent, external, institutional, and hierarchical social constructions. Herein’ lies the call for change. As Rothman asserts in the Book of Life, “The world that I live in, and the world that I want for my children, is not a world of scattered isolated individuals, and not a world of walls. It is a world of communities, of social solidarity, of connectedness between individuals and between communities, a world in which people and communities grow from and into each other.” (p.233). She explains that motherhood is “otherhood.” Or, as I theorize here: a mother is one who who divides, yet through that division he/she is paradoxically increased. Therefore, the division is also a multiplication. A theory of mother-ness privileges the conversation of difference (or division) and insists on tolerant engagement (connection) as well as intense intellectual curiosity as a fundamental practice. Therefore, as we make art, explore motherhood, and find ways to move forward, let us lift each other up. Let us continue to explore our victories as we lament our losses. Let us speak not with one voice, but with many voices and most of all – let that be okay.

BIO: ART, RESEARCH, THEORY: In the December column we are pleased to feature Martha Joy Rose, (USA), a New York-based performance artist, scholar, and the mother of four young adults ages 21-26. Having been named as “God Mother of Mom Rock” by the CNN, Joy has been making music since the early 1980’s in New York City. With the birth of her first child she created the Housewives On Prozac band, which has enjoyed international success and spawned a mother-made music movement. In 2002, seeking to identify the unique expressions of women who are mothers and to amplify their voices, Joy founded the Mamapalooza Festival, currently being administrated each May through the New York Parks Department. In 2009, she directed the film The Motherhood Movement: You Say You Want a Revolution, which promotes, showcases, and makes visible maternal discussion, disseminating information on the subject of Feminist/activist Mothers and the missions of International Maternal agencies. Working together with a team of academics and activists, Joy opened the first-ever Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2011. Currently she is teaching “Families and Social Change” at Manhattan College. Joy’s Master’s Degree in Mother Studies is a herstoric first, and she has written for Sage Press, Demeter Press, and assorted literary journals.

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Metamorphosis/ Close to the Heart

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]

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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.

LINK TO NOVEMBER 15th EXHIBIT with RUCHIKA WASON SINGH is HERE.

 

 

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MOMENTS OF WEIGHTLESSNESS while WAITING FOR WORDS [Link]

Project: MOMENTS OF WEIGHTLESSNESS
Pianist, inventor and performer Sarah Nicolls developed her unique ‘Inside-Out Piano’ to explore the belly of the instrument and to coax out some of its hidden sounds. In this solo show, she explores the extraordinary unexpected characteristics of the instrument, moving it around the stage to gradually reveal her parallel journey into motherhood. See this monumental piano in surprising motion, hear the beautiful melodies and textures of Sarah’s piano-songs mixed with stories of creativity, and contemplate the moments of life where everything seems to stand still.


About the artist: Sarah Nicolls is a UK-based experimental pianist, at the forefront of innovations in piano performance. She has worked extensively with interactive technologies and invented the ‘Inside-out Piano’, to enable ‘extended’ piano techniques. The second prototype was built in 2014 by Pierre Malbos, Paris.

In the rest of her concert career, Sarah is a frequent soloist, performing in events like the London Design Festival, a recent Wellcome Trust/BBC Radio 3 weekend, the PRSF New Music Biennial and Matthew Herbert’s 20 Pianos project. Sarah has given countless world premieres, is regularly broadcast and features on several CDs. She is a Senior Lecturer at Brunel University, is Artistic Director of the BEAM (Brunel Electronic and Analogue Music) Festival, and curates interactive music exhibitions with ACCORD. Sarah has two children: Stan, born 2012 and Sylvie, born 2013.

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WAITING FOR WORDS

By Cynthia Patton

From Mom Egg Vol. 11 “Mother Tongue”

I was in bed when Katie slipped past, heading for the stairs. My slender, caramel-haired daughter didn’t look at me or speak. She was a shadow, receding with the dawn.

I huddled beneath the down comforter, filled with foggy, nameless emotions. I knew I should go downstairs and engage her as the specialists instructed me. Make good use of our precious free time. With an autistic child there’s always something to work on: social skills, sign language, speech. Instead a prayer rose unbidden. Please give me words. I can do without hugs and kisses, but I need more words, need them like air.

Katie was five yet spoke like a two-year-old—when she spoke at all. A knot lodged between my shoulder blades. What if conversation never came?  Katie was smart enough, but speech remained a challenge. Her mind was a secret garden, the thoughts overflowing with nowhere to go. I wanted to hear her stories, her emotions, her feeble attempts at jokes. I wanted her to look at me, smile, and say Mommy.

I released the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. My tears rained down as I prayed for the day the words broke free, flooding fallow fields.

Katie was nonverbal for two years, eight months. At three, after a year of intensive therapy, she had a spoken vocabulary of 50 words. By four she used two-word phrases. By five she assembled short sentences.

Special needs parenting is often a strange blend of gratitude, sorrow, pride, and guilt. I was excited and proud when Katie mastered a new sentence. Yet I was sad she had to work so hard and guilty I wanted more. Why couldn’t I simply be grateful? I was, but when I looked in her eyes I saw an IQ boiling, just out of reach, and wanted to smash something on her behalf.

It’s hard to watch your child struggle, especially when there’s nothing to do but wait.

At six Katie answered simple questions. By seven she used adjectives and worked to master possessive pronouns. I fought for additional speech therapy and finally the long, slow slog ended. Her speech gained momentum.

One night shortly after she turned eight, Katie asked for the blue dolphin as she climbed into bed. Her words were crystal clear, so I praised her as the therapists trained me.

She asked again, and I showed her the blue cat.

“No,” she said. “Want dolphin please.”

“We don’t have a dolphin.”

“Dolphins swim in the water.”

“You’re right,” I said. “They’re good swimmers.”

I reached into the basket that contained her stuffed animals. “Do you want the lobster?”

Katie smiled and reached for the toy. She played with the pinchers while I felt smug about discovering the glitch where her brain veered off course.

She looked up. “This is red. Red lobster.”

“I know, but it lives in the water.”

Her pained look said I was the one with the neurological problem. “I want blue dolphin.”

She clenched her teeth—the beginning of a tantrum. I thought fast. “Why don’t you pick the animal you want to sleep with?”

This wasn’t the routine. After a long pause she rolled out of bed, rooted in the basket, and yanked something out. I laughed when I saw Eeyore. “That’s not a dolphin. It’s a donkey.”

“Blue donkey,” she said, climbing into bed.

Katie knows the difference between a dolphin and a donkey. Sometimes her brain scrambles the words.

We recited Goodnight Moon while Katie stroked Eeyore’s ears. I said, “I love you” as my hand automatically made the sign.

She signed I love you as Max, our cat, entered the room. “Good night, sweetie. Max says good night too.”

“Goodnight, Mommy.”

I froze, unsure I’d heard correctly. Katie had never spontaneously greeted anyone. She could say the words, but I needed to coax them out.

Max meowed, and Katie giggled. “Good talking, Max.”

She’d done it, twice in one night. I wanted to cry and shout and jump on the bed.

So what if it happened a few years late? So what if it wouldn’t happen again for months?

These moments sustain me.

A few months later, I was reading yet another progress report. Katie was in the kitchen studying cookbook photos. “That’s soup. Soup is hot. I like soup. Soup is good. I can make it. I’m stirring soup. Let’s make chicken tortilla soup.”

She flipped the page and talked about pumpkin pie. I didn’t know she knew what pumpkin pie was. More pages flipped, followed by a long discourse on chocolate cake, then meat, then pasta, then salad with cranberries. It was as if she wanted to say every sentence she could that included the particular food item.

To say I was stunned would be an understatement.

It went on for 15 minutes, maybe longer.

I listened as the words poured out, barely breathing. Then it hit me. This was it, the moment I’d been waiting for. The words were breaking free, spilling into the kitchen and filling up the room.

They filled me up. Better than any meal.

Cynthia Patton is an award-winning author, speaker, advocate, and attorney, and  founder of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit organization.

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This is Where I Am and Mirror Mirror [Click]

 

 ‘This is where I am’ (2013) is part of the M.A.M.A. – Mothers Are Making Art initiative. Read More by Clicking Here.

‘This is where I am’ is based on ideas of Transactional Analysis (TA), a theory of behaviour that emphasiseshow our adult behavioural patterns originate in childhood.  The theory describes three ego states (Parent/Adult/Child);

Parent is a state in which people behave, feel, and think in response to an unconscious mimicking of how their parents acted, or how they interpreted their parent’s actions.

Adult is a state of the ego in which we process information and make predictions absent of major emotions. While a person is in the Adult ego state, he/she is directed towards an objective appraisal of reality.

Child is a state in which people behave, feel and think similarly to how they did in childhood. The Child is the source of emotions, creation, recreation, spontaneity and intimacy.

The aim of change under TA is to free ourselves from our childhood scripts and move toward constructive problem solving as opposed to avoidance or passivity.

Inspired by observations of my daughter learning to walk and reflections on my personal ego-states led to the performance ‘This is where I am’.  This was a durational performance working with two focal points: The Wall (a symbolic anchor for the Parent) and The Floor (a symbolic anchor for The Child). I am slowly walking between both for two hours, falling on the floor and picking myself up again, then trying to hug the wall. Using chalk (favourite childhood material) I carefully outline as much of my body as my position would allow me each time. The physical and emotional difficulty of this performance is unexpected.  

About the Artist: Nuša Pavko

Born in 1978 in former Yugoslavia, Nuša graduated in sculpture and ceramics at Famul Stuart school of Applied Arts in Ljubljana in 2005.  Also a qualified and practicing social worker, Nuša combined her twin interests in art and society in her Sociology MSc which considered the therapeutic value of postmodern ‘death art’ in 2010.

Primarily interested in performance art and installations, Nuša draws inspiration from a wide range of sources but regardless of the form, her artistic work could be considered as some type of ‘social commentary’ as it is often inspired by people and events in her vicinity.

Nuša has been living and working in London for nearly a decade and has a small ceramics studio in her home. Most recently, she has been producing artworks with her little assistant.

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Mirror Mirror by Sandra Ramos Obriant

Originally published in Mom Egg Vol. 10 The Body

My mother told me I was beautiful. She was always saying stuff like that, telling me what a gorgeous baby I was, and how I’d won a Beautiful Baby contest and had my picture printed in a calendar. January was my month. She compared me to movie stars, and in high school tried to draw me out of a nerdy adolescence by telling me that I had sex appeal, an important item in her lexicon of female virtues. She never explained how to use that gift, but encouraged me to date.

One night, we watched an old Ava Gardner movie together — The Barefoot Contessa. I sat on the end of her bed and brushed my long hair, my head tilted to the side. She must have been watching me. “Your neck is the same as Ava Gardner’s,” she said. I looked at Ava, seductive in a gypsy dance, and couldn’t get past the cleft in her chin and the valley between her breasts.

“No, it’s not,” I said, more harshly than I intended.

We watched Jane Fonda in Barbarella together. “You look like Jane Fonda,” she said. My hair was lighter then, and laden with curls, like Jane’s.

“No, I don’t,” I said, and walked out of the room.

Many years later, my son was two years old and I still looked pregnant. “I’m too fat,” I told my mother.

“You’re beautiful,” she said with conviction, and looked at me with appraising eyes from my top to my round bottom. “You look like Jacqueline Bisset, only she’s too skinny.”

“I do?” I said, and studied my profile in the mirror.

My son’s in college now, and I still look pregnant. But I carry an image of myself that defies logic. I pass a mirror in my house, and out of the corner of my eye see a stranger. Who’s that matronly woman, shoulders slouched and with a crease between her eyebrows? I stop to examine my reflection, and a slow morph occurs. Straighten the shoulders, suck in my gut, and smile, and yes, there she is. Yes, tilt my head — yes, I still have it — Ava Gardner’s neck. The same.

About the Author: Sandra Ramos O’Briant’s work has appeared in Café Irreal, Flashquake, riverbabble, In Posse, LiteraryMama, Whistling Shade, La Herencia, latinola.com, and The Copperfield Review. In addition, her short stories have been anthologized in Best Lesbian Love Stories of 2004, What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (University of Texas Press, Spring 2007), Latinos in Lotus Land: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature, (Bilingual Press, 2008), Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery (Arte Publico (2009), and The Mom Egg (Half Shell Press, 2010). Read her work at http://www.thesandovalsisters.com and http://www.bloodmother.com.

 

 

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ICYMI: Mother’s Day Week in Review

Flyer_B&N_FinalAfter our two-week long Mother’s Day blitz, we at the Museum of Motherhood are feeling a range of emotions: engaged, curious, tired, brave, inquisitive, grateful, overworked, eager, empowered, loved, etc. (all of which resonate with the self-described experience of motherhood!). Our annual conference, and subsequent week of special readings/appearances at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble and award ceremony for our Motherhood Hall of Fame were all a tremendous success! In case you missed any of the events, here’s a brief recap:

On Thursday, April 30 – Saturday, May 2, we grappled with concepts related to “New Maternalisms”, including visual depictions of motherhood, doula work, motherhood identity, maternal storytelling, mothers navigating disabilities, institutional barriers to motherhood, work-life balance, body/breastfeeding issues, and motherhood theory. We heard a keynote from Barbara Katz Rothman on “Mothers as Fathers.” Our own Joy Rose introduced the formation of her burgeoning field of Mother Studies and associated academic journal.

On Wednesday, May 7, we heard from Marjorie Kessler and selections of her compilation from a series of mom-centric authors, The Mom Egg Review.

On Thursday, May 8, we honored Ann Fessler and Amber Kinser with their induction to the Motherhood Hall of Fame. Both authors spoke about their pieces – The Girls Who Went Away and Motherhood and Feminism, respectively. We got a more in-depth perspective of their writing/research journeys through a Q & A session with both women following the recognition ceremony.

On Friday, May 9, we welcomed select authors from Listen to Your Mother, a collection of 56 soul-bearing essays on motherhood, childbearing, family, and parenting.

On Saturday, May 10, we got to meet family nutrition guru, Laura Fuentes. Laura shared insight on family food, children’s health, recipe development, and mom-trepreneurism.

Lastly as a special Mother’s Day treat, on Sunday, we had the privilege of hearing from back-to-back speakers. First, Katharine Holabird, author of the famous Angelina Ballerina series enchanted us with a glimpse into her whimsical world. Then, Susan Konig – editor, journalist, radio host, and writer – spoke about her new book, Teenagers and Toddlers Are Trying to Kill Me. Then, we celebrated Mother’s Day with a bang!

Written by: Jenny Nigro, MoM Online Intern