I lay in bed weary and worn after two days of post Covid vaccine flu. I stare at the postcard of The Virgin and child with three angels (school of Piero Della Francesca) (1). Before motherhood I never understood the solemn and still glance of this renaissance mother, how could this figure head not be basking in the joy of the child she had born. It is only with a postnatal understanding that I realise these mothers are bearing the weight of endurance and responsibility. Motherhood does not manifest as the nappy advertising rhetoric of wholesome fresh-faced laughing mothers and their giggling children. There are those moments of joy and overpowering love, but like the Della Francesca mother there are frequent times where you hold your child exhausted and ragged, poised in apparent patience, when internally everything in you is frayed. Auguste Rodin wrote “Patience is also a form of action” (2), an activity which mothers are expected to wear as a badge of honour but the never-ending hours of Covid lockdown make this activity an exacerbated and ever repeating marathon. In my eyes I see the combination of deep love and weighted responsibility and the exhaustion from the call to survive without the non-virtual village we used to call our own. Single Mothers internationally call out “must I be the only one to bear this constant expectation of never-ending patience”.
How as mothers in the face of such demands, do we fulfil our need to create? At times the requirement to satisfy and meet the demands of small children seems completely incompatible with a creative output. However maybe it’s the unrealistic myth that art is created through lightning bolts of inspiration in solitary light filled studios. When the reality may be in fact small sketches done between pressing infant responsibilities. My artist friend and I did a daily sketch exchange with no pressure to create anything of any great significance but more to upkeep and record pandemic impressions. I’ve taken to writing poems, so I record reflections quickly and without the normal judgement I save for my visual pieces. Our maternal patience and resilience may in fact be our super strength. We need to remove the pressure from ourselves to produce our next opus and realise small creations can have a steady and cumulative effect. It is in fact the action of patience that we are so skilled in that can be the saving grace of any maternal artist.
These are the times where we all need mothering, where the fear, monotony and the isolation of our post Covid world has ground down our resilience and made us crave the tender care of a mother near. So, when you see in a mother’s eyes a sombre and preoccupied glance, don’t think she doesn’t care, but more, she cares so much. That the activity of patience, a world of enforced isolation and never-ending infant demands make for a tired and somewhat reserved glance, poised in fatigue in order to survive, love and mother in any way she can. To produce art within this context is a challenge but the very skills and endurance that mothers exhibit on a daily basis are the exact skills that inform and create truly poignant and resonating artwork. Regardless of whether this work is produced in small numbers and through the tired and patient eyes of an exhausted mother, it only serves to show that creation continues and is enriched by women who have endured and survived motherhood and pandemic combined.
“And for tired eyes every light is too bright, and for tired lips every breath too heavy and for tired eyes every word too much” (3)
1)Virgin and child with three angels (c. 1415-1492) – The picture Gallery, No 33, Christ Church, Oxford
2))Auguste Rodin, 1840-1917, French Sculptor, Repeated statement – Eigen’s Political and Historical Quotations.
1) Georg Buchner (Danton’s Death”) Play by Georg Buchner, Act II, 1835
About Dette Allmark
To find out more about Dette and her arts practice see her IG