Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Op-Ed by Candace Gottschalk

Today in our Op-Ed Series we re-post a very thoughtful piece written by Candace Gottschalk. Technically this makes this not an Op-Ed piece as Candace is a co-founder and editorial member of the collective, however Candace speaks of central issues facing women artists and we think it important to keep the discussion going.
Most women are nurturers and caretakers, and even those without children often take on great responsibilities in their families or even with regard to friends. The single mindedness and perhaps even selfishness necessary to succeed (short term & long term) in the arts does not come easily to most and are difficult to combine with other aspects of life. Candace eloquently writes about her experience of becoming a mother and remaining an artist.

Pregnant: 8 months © Candace Gottschalk

"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.

Candace Gottschalk is an artist living in Brooklyn with her son and husband.


nina corvallo said...

you know I love the post, but I also love this picture!

Anonymous said...

Candace, your life will get easier as your son gets older. You are in the hardest years right now.My daughter, Leah, is 13 years old now. I decided to raise her in my studio and hired a nanny who could also work in my studio, so my daughter was with me at work. I remember the early years and I think most women do lose their identity, because our kids needs take priority. When your son goes to school he will have "his own life". Even though you will be there to be his mother, his needs won't be as demanding as they are now. By bringing him to the museum, even for a short time, you are doing something for yourself, even though it stinks that you have to leave earlier than you wanted because he gets ant-cy. I know what you are going through and it will be all worth it when you look back and see what a good person he has become. In the meantime, keep up the good work both being an artist and being a Mom. It is possible to do both at the same time! "You go girl"!!