Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thoughts on Catherine Opie and Motherhood

The day after Christmas, I finally made it to the Catherine Opie show at the Guggenheim (with the husband and son in tow, of course). I was impressed and surprised by the amount of work included. Some of the images I had seen before, others I had only read about. As is the case with many exhibits, I responded to some series more than others. But what captured me most, in the hour or so that I was there (...because Jasper, my energetic 2 year old, can only handle so much museum time) was the variety and breath of the work that Opie has created over the course of her career. I found it refreshing and inspiring. In grad school, the dictating consciousness was to find your niche, and stick with it. But with Opie, she finds her niche, creates a strong body of work, and then moves on to the next challenge. I could sense a further shift after she became a mother, her work becomes more introspective and self-revealing, which got me to thinking...

As a mother and an artist, I am constantly in a struggle with being both selfish and selfless. After reading too much Virginia Woolf in college, I learned that in order to create work, you need to be selfish. The art making process is extremely selfish, there is no denying that. Once I had Jasper, I was confronted with the opposite: there was no me, at least not the me that I developed into and had grown to know. Parenthood teaches you things about love, patience, and selflessness that I never knew I could truly comprehend. Now that Jasper is no longer an infant, and is as willful as the rest of them, I need to re-learn the "me". I need to start re-introducing the selfish back into my life and into my work. Motherhood and Artist are two difficult notions to reconcile. They both want you 100% of the time. So, thank you, Catherine Opie, for making the two cooperate and for opening my eyes to the possibility.

2 comments:

nina said...

and thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience.

zoeadler said...

I was really touched by your post and feel the same. as a mom to a 20 month old and a photographer, I haven't seem to have found the balance to concentrate on shooting. I wonder if there are more of us out there and if it wouldn't be interesting to have a little informal collective of us get together once a month or so to discuss and perhaps show images. let me know if you'd be interested...