How does motherhood impact the lives of contemporary artists?

In a statement to ARTEQUEACONTECE, five artists revealed how motherhood influenced their work and careers

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Renata Felinto
The Great Coup (2021) by Renata Felinto

How do mothers manage to reconcile their dual journeys within the art market? Even today, it is almost impossible to be a mother and build your professional career without judgment from others. In the artistic world it is even more difficult. There are several layers that come into question here: the struggle for the profession of artist to be legitimized, the challenge of establishing itself in the market, gender inequality – when not also race inequality – added to the moment of generating and creating a new human being. 

The obstacles are many and the learning even greater. Therefore, with the celebration of Mother's Day approaching, we invite mother artists to share their experiences, challenges and inspirations with us. 

Is it possible to have a complete life after being a mother? | with Gretta Sarfaty, mother of Pedro, Rafaella and Vitoria

“When I exhibited for the first time, with a group of three other artist friends, called GRAL, between 1973 and 1974, I was already the mother of three children. A little later I got divorced and started to divide myself between Europe and Brazil, so I could be with my children and at the same time be able to advance with my work as an artist. Back in the late 1980s, when I lived in New York, they also stayed with me for periods of time. So they coexisted with the dynamics of the studio and everything else. It was very complicated to have to deal with the criticism they made, as if being a mother I couldn't devote myself to anything else, I should be exclusively a mother and I don't think that's the case. At the time, my work was associated with feminism, with questioning the pressures on women and seeing me as if I was neglecting motherhood. But, that was not true, I was just trying to have a full life. I remember the external criticism and even complaints from the children, like my eldest who asked me once: 'Is there no way you can be a normal mother?'. Today, after 50 years of career, being recognized and studied by critics and academics, exhibiting in important museums, it seems that there is a reconciliation. They are proud of it and understand better. My daughters are mothers too, they know how it is!”

Gretta Sarfaty
Gretta Sarfaty at the individual exhibition “Retransformações de Gretta Sarfaty”, Auroras – São Paulo, 2022.

How does motherhood directly impact artistic creation? | with Brisa Noronha, mother of Lina

“I see my work as research on delicacy and unstable orders. I am interested in the adaptations and rearrangements necessary for the life of a system (not necessarily human) to proliferate. In this sense, motherhood radically affected my trajectory, in a way that I started to understand and observe my own work dynamics as a system that had to adapt to survive. For example, I tend to work a lot with clay, which requires time and space that I haven't had for over a year. So I started experimenting with drawing and painting and this ended up being reflected in my work with clay. I needed to find a new balance, understand another perception of time and I came across a new kind of sensitivity. My research is closely related to scientific concepts of physics and chemistry, a mostly male and objective universe and, therefore, there was a concern to maintain a discourse that was in accordance with this place. After Lina was born (she is now 4 years old), theoretical research was complemented with information from other universes in a very subtle, almost imperceptible way. The intuitive and sensitive part of the work was strengthened, perhaps it is the structure that sustains the new order, chaotic, disturbing and wonderful, which is in constant formation after motherhood.”

Brisa Noronha
Noronha breeze

How does motherhood impact routine? | with Mônica Ventura, mother of Arjuna

“Motherhood directly impacted my priorities, my routine and work methodologies. I didn't have such a clear and objective methodology for artistic production, with motherhood this became necessary. I still can't apply everything I propose to organize my productions. So I have to adjust my commitments, always taking into account that the baby is a priority, especially in that first moment where I have a greater role, because of breastfeeding, for example.”

Mônica ventura
Monica Ventura with her son Arjuna

Is generating a human being an inspiring process? | with Keila Sankofa, mother of Maria

“It is only possible to create works with the power I create, because I have her by my side. My daughter is my friend, encourager, a great fruit of low expectations and much love. Nature is the manifestation of God on earth. If for some reason you disbelieve in the existence of a god, look at the storm that forms, the wind and its sound, the lightness of a bird floating or the eyes of a baby that has just come out of you. My artistic production is not separate from my life, work is just the bureaucratic part, the rest is existence.  I am a black woman and my motherhood involved helplessness, loneliness, precariousness and fear, but seeing my reproduction in flesh and blood is sensational, it brought me a delicious feeling of loving and being loved.” 

Keila Sankofa. Photo: Maria Dias (11 years old), daughter of Keila

How do you incorporate the theme into your production? | with Renata Felinto, mother of Benedita and Francisco

“I have always represented pregnant women and other approaches involving gestation. After entering the maternity ward, the creation process was modified by the routine with the children and ended up being incorporated into the subjects that are my priorities in life. As my life has been my artistic nurturing, it is evident that being a solo mother often appears. From delicacy to violence, all dimensions of this condition are in my work., in my thinking and doing, from the time to do it, to how it is, or how it ends. In addition to romanticization and idealization, the works deal with denunciation, but also with love, which develops from the organicity of daily routine”.

Renata Felinto
Benedita Nzinga, Renata Felinto and Francisco Madiba. Photo: Jacqueline Rodrigues
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