My eldest son becomes a teenager this year, its hard to remember back to a time when I wasn’t a mum. Yesterday a friend asked me ” What did you like to do before you were a mother ?” I honestly found it difficult to think back to a time before children. I guess I probably did a lot more dreaming and went out more. Time was expansive it continued forever over the horizon, there was an abundance of it. Time now is fractured, broken up, distilled, interrupted. I probably make better use of it now, yet I still haven’t come to terms with the frustration that I feel when I am unable to create.
A burning desire to want to get pregnant, to have a baby began after I graduated from Winchester School of Art in my early 20’s. I knew it was something that I wanted to do, yet it all seemed completely unattainable. I played out pregnancy in my friends bedroom, stuffing a football up my top. It was fun, I imagined myself with a baby inside. As the ball dropped out of the dress that I was wearing, I remember laughing with my friend at the ridiculous fictional birth.
Pregnancy was a subject that occupied my thoughts and creativity. I painted Mince Her in 1996, 4 years prior to being pregnant with my first child. It was painted during a residency on the site of an ex mental hospital. I was interested in interweaving my own personal narratives together with those that had once lived on the site. I was thinking specifically of the women who were incarcerated on the site for having children out of wedlock.
When I look at this painting now it seems to me to be more about my desire as a young woman to become pregnant, and of girlhood lost. Its a phantom pregnancy.
It also made me think about Paula Modersohn Beckers Self portrait on Her Sixth Wedding Anniversary 1906, the one she painted when she was not actually pregnant that was a “metaphor for how she felt about herself as a young artist: fecund, ripe, able for the first time in her life to create and paint freely in the manner that she wished. What she is about to give birth to is not a child but her mature, independent, artistic self.” (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/great-works/modersohnbecker-paula-selfportrait-on-her-sixth-wedding-anniversary-1906-744437.html)