After I became a mother to a girl, I started falling in love for other women. I always had many female friends, I was always a woman who likes to have women nearby. But I never thought of this as something good or something at all. I always thought I was just a “regular girl,” while my mother prided herself for having many male friends and preferring them “because they are more fun and less complicated.”
But after becoming a mother to a girl, I started to notice that what I feel for my female friends is love, pure love, if one might need an adjective for this already-complete word. I can see who I am in other women, and I have, thankfully, learned how to love myself too.
This week, I had a moment in which I forgot everything. I fell through the empty hole of meaninglessness, of abject solitude, or if you are into using more popular medical words, of depression. For a couple of days I couldn’t understand why I was in Texas, why did I put my family through such hardship just so I could paint more — an activity that I do at home anyways!
And now, by the serendipity that is life, I read this poem by Proust, and I remembered: I fell in love with Katarina through her paintings. And if my sentimentalism isn’t enough for you, as an art historian I saw the value and cultural strength of what she is building with her artworks, the international connections, the critical and tender views of family, the crumbling of heteronormativity, the unending mother role that keeps our society alive.
It is easy to say that it’s been a privilege to stay these days living with Katarina’s painting process. I learned a lot about her and about myself, as these things go. But it is really necessary to say that what moved me then, and what will continue moving me is love, love in movement: passion. In this case love for women: for our courage, our openness, our capacity to see beyond, to build new and better futures.
A painting by Dumas of her daughter Helena, titled “The Painter.”
I came to know Katarina’s work while I was interviewing for the MFA Image & Text at Cornell, in January this year. I was accepted in the program, but decided to decline the position, which is definitely a story for another post, why I decided NOT to do the MFA, and how important it’s been for me to say one of the hardest “no” in my life. Anyways, after showing the work I was doing with Helena at that time to the professors in the interview, Catherine Taylor asked me if I knew Marlene Dumas and her painting history with her daughter. I googled Dumas and one of the results I found was a IG post that Katarina had done with Dumas’s paintings. I started following Katarina, and soon after that she posted with her residency idea. — a curious coincidence, Dumas’s daughter is also called Helena!
Now, ever since I had Helena, I’ve been dreaming with creating a motherhood residency for artists in postpartum. My vision, which might never be realized, was to support women in every possible way right after they had their babies so they would create art while going through the discoveries of having a newborn. I say that my vision might never realize because having a baby and caring for them is extreme hard-work, so it might be too much to ask anyone to also make art while going through that, given that making art is also such a consuming activity. Not to mention that the baby deserves undivided attention and I wouldn’t want to be the one creating the structure that would take their mother’s attention away. If anything, mothers need peace of mind above all else. Yet, after both my births I had such a surge of creativity, such a strength of desire to “make the world,” that I can’t stop wondering what would I have created if I had the means to fully pour into the world all that was coming through me. It might be that all that creative energy was exactly what my babies needed to grow strong and healthy, and I just needed to do exactly what I managed to do: quit my jobs and stay home breastfeeding the babies in the most strenuous kind of meditation, seeing my mind go in every possible direction. I thought that this residency would be an absolutely radical space in the sense of supporting a woman’s entire creative moment, a way to learn from and observe women’s creative power. A strong statement of love towards a woman in one of the most challenging times in her life. All the results of such a residency would certainly be a gift to society and to human knowledge.
While such a postpartum residency doesn’t exist, I did managed to do a few residencies in motherhood after having Helena, with focusing on the fact that being a mother reshapes all that we can do. And now, with Katarina, I see that my desire to support mothers in their creative journeys has resonance. I hope she finds other mothers who will be moving through passion too, to keep building up a nurturing culture in this part of the world that needs it so much — I’ll write more about what I experienced in Texas in another post too!