Friday, November 25, 2011

Artist-mothers, there's a new MAN in town...

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by two incredible women, dancer Jo Pollitt and artist Lilly Blue, to help them launch their online Mother Artist Network (MAN).

Jo and Lilly are the editors of BIG Kids Magazine, a gorgeous mag jam-packed with creative ways of inspiring kids to respond to the world around them though story, art and film. There are also interviews, photos and a free print contributed by a contemporary artist.

Their aim was to produce a magazine that encourages "bravery, imagination and generosity" (hence, B.I.G.) through collaborations between children, parents, artists and diverse communities.

Looking through this mag, I ended up spending a whole morning just doodling and making pictures with my kids -- something I haven't done for ages (usually too busy, too much work/housework to do, blah blah blah...). One activity in the book is to have a go at your own BIG logo, and this was mine:

Bit fiddly for a logo, I know, but I got a tad carried away...

The Mother Artist Network blog is an offshoot of the BIG creative project Jo and Lilly have embarked on, a place that invites an ongoing discussion about creative practice and motherhood.

As I've said in my little launch rave over at MAN HQ, if Lilly and Jo's glorious magazine project is anything to go by, MAN promises to be an extraordinary forum for artists to share their experiences of navigating mothering and the creative process -- a place to flee to when the littlies are finally asleep and you're in need of some solace and inspiration from kindred spirits!

If you want to contribute, email all artwork/stories/rants to with MAN in the subject line and they will post the material as part of the series. They are interested in "work/questions/artwork that invite response and talk to the 'divide' or otherwise of the ongoing mother dance".

Look forward to seeing you there...

Monday, November 14, 2011

An interview about The Divided Heart (three years on...)

It's funny how things come in waves. I haven't been approached for an interview about The Divided Heart for a while, and then I suddenly received three requests all in the one week.

All the requests were for great websites/blogs run by impressive creative types. I will link to the interviews as they are posted, but the first cab off the rank is a chat with bookseller Nina Mansfield over at typset, a blog offering "book dirt for book worms".

I am always surprised when women without children tell me they loved The Divided Heart. It's really heartening to know that it spoke to them anyway, whether they're wrestling with the question of whether or not to have children, or because they found it emblematic of broader questions about what it means to be an artist, or at least live a creative life.

Nina apologised for her "rambling" questions, but they weren't at all. They were very thoughtful -- and it was nice to have the chance to revisit some of the issues.

It's funny, too, that she used the pic above with the post. It wasn't until after I published my book that I realised "the divided heart" most often gets used in a religious context. Ah well, it's all about the internal conflicts that come with devotion, I guess!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Vale Sarah Watt

As most of you probably already know, artist and filmmaker Sarah Watt passed away on Friday. Readers of The Divided Heart often mention her chapter to me as one that especially spoke to them. The photo to the left is the one she sent me for possible use in the book -- Sarah with her kids, Clem and Stella.

Sarah was easily the most unassuming, down-to-earth artist I've ever met. She had the pure creative spirit of someone who makes art because she has to -- as a way of coming to terms with, but also celebrating, the world around her. And by that I mean the ordinary world. The mundane, the suburban, the everyday was her territory -- a reminder that there's beauty, solace and humour to be found everywhere.

The last time I saw her was when Sally Rippin and I attended the opening of her film My Year Without Sex at the Sun Theatre in Yarraville. I laughed so hard I was weeping through the whole thing. Afterwards I told her that it had been like watching my own family on screen -- but funnier. Later I tried to express in an email to her how much I admired her unique talent for describing what lurks just beneath the surface of daily life.

I'm so glad now that I sent those messages while she was here to receive them. Like many, I hadn't realised how sick she had become until very recently, hearing her husband William McIness speaking of it on the radio, and her death seemed very sudden.

As McInnes said, she was incredibly courageous. But so is he, I think. It is rare to hear someone talk so openly about their love for their partner and her bravery in facing her own death.

After seeing My Year Without Sex, I interviewed Sarah (over the phone) for a profile piece for The Big Issue. She told me that all of her work is about “the most basic stuff of life. How you get through your day; how you find meaning.” She was interested in the way we absorb the precariousness of existence — “the randomness of good fortune and catastrophe”.

Sarah had all the difficulties and distractions common to women artists, as well as profound struggles with grief and illness. But despite that she stayed very true to the art she wanted to make. Her art and films are bursting with heart, with her over-active imagination, her steely eye, her playfulness, great sense of the absurd and anxiety-fuelled whimsy.

Few artists have made work that has affected me like Sarah Watt's. I am already grieving the films she might have made next. It was just luck that allowed me to meet her in person.

After hearing that Sarah had died, I re-visited our conversation in The Divided Heart. For all who fear their domestic, suburban lives are not the stuff of art, let Sarah Watt be your inspiration.