Friday, January 20, 2012

Artists and Mothers

Some questions that have been on my mind awhile:

Is it only in America that women feel that they must choose between their art and the possibility of becoming a mother?

Why is the female artist and the mother so often placed on opposite spectrums of thought?

And does this poem by the female artist Ann Lauterbach attempt to answer these questions at all?

Indictment Without Subject


Ann Lauterbach

From the bourgeoisie tribe an aspect of looking.
The near settles in.
The near is rejected by the bourgeoisie tribe.
The bourgeoisie tribe
Settles among its kinsmen
And adds to itself.

It watched the wasp struggle in bleach.
It erects implausible glass.
It brings into view the hanging man.
It enjoys the spectacle.
It copies out the printed day.
The bourgeoisie tribe makes babies.
The babies cry I want.
The babies cry more.
This is how it learns to count.
The ropes are already in the fire.
The despot has been abased.
The shelter has been committed to film.
Weathers have reduced the population of herring.
Statements are made from

Statements that have been made.
It, the tribe, is small among acts,
Invisible from the erased horizon.
The sky is purring, engorged.
Steel has been seen to melt.
Steel with the strength of mutants and despots
has been seen to melt.
The articulating angel mauls the insentient thing.
The thing, a fiasco of nearness, erupts.
It seems to know fire; it seems to collapse
Into whatever is without conversion,
No hand nor orifice, no babble, no touch.
It takes its place outside of the near.
The near comes on in, dragging a map.

The language here is striking: "The bourgeoisie tribe makes babies./The babies cry I want./The babies cry more,/This is how it learns to count."
Are we as artists--but especially as female artists--so alienated by our industrial, consumer economy, that we've unconsciously constructed a false dichotomy: create art to free ourselves from the contrivances of a dehumanizing system OR create another human being to add to the system's army ranks? The last line in the above stanza, "this is how it learns to count," is a clue as to why women might fear maternity: the  bourgeoisie tribe, i.e. the industrial machine, she seems to be saying, is made more conscious of itself with each new baby crying "more!"

How do you as artists and/or mothers feel about the way our society views each of these roles? How did Ann Lauterbach's poem strike you regarding art and maternity? Discuss.


  1. Someone commented to me a few months ago that I wouldn't need to worry about pursuing my photography or writing, now that I am becoming a mother. I didn't respond, as it was sort of in passing, and because I honestly was so taken aback by her assumption that my daughter would negate any need or desire (or, she seemed to imply, a wrong pursuit of personal fulfillment outside of maternity) to express myself in artistic ways. Thankfully, I can think for myself; my art will go on ;)

  2. Are you serious?! This is seriously something somebody SAID to you? *shakes head in sadness*

  3. Having had a child a year ago this month, I can tell you I have in no way lost my desire to write or express myself creatively. My daughter is a very important part of my life, but that doesn't mean I'm not the same person I was before having a child and that I have suddenly lost the desire to write. I do think that women are expected to give up a part of themselves when they have a child and I don't understand this at all. I know many women who manage to be wonderful mothers and still have a professional/creative life at the same time.

  4. Thank you for stopping by, Tara! I couldn't agree more with you. I fully intend to manage both parenthood and my creative enterprises when I become a mother!



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