Saturday, November 1, 2008

the incredible lightness of heaviness

(A meditation on the art of maternity)

As I was standing in front of the mirror in underthings as dainty as late pregnancy will allow, trying desperately to draw my right arm using my right arm, it occurred to me that some might think it strange that I am so anxious to paint my own bloated and partially exposed body repeatedly and then show it to everyone from my parents to random strangers signing up for piano class.

But you know what? It's not really my body.

Seriously, when i'm pregnant, it's like wearing a costume. This isn't me. This isn't my body. This isn't who I am, or how I picture myself. So I honestly don't feel very modest about it at all. Luckily, when it comes to art, Dr. Crog doesn't mind, either.

I have now drawn myself over 50 times, mostly in a bra and boy shorts or pajama pants; never showing my face. I have drawn myself with red hair and blond hair and dark hair. I have drawn the beautiful lines of my taut belly and curvy hips, and I have drawn the hideous lines that I hate, the ones where my underarms get a little jiggly and my back wrinkles with the extra weight of pregnancy if I bend the wrong way. A few images even show my c-section scar from the wacky trainwreck that was the birth of the Biscuit.

And i'm pretty proud of it all. I'm not going to tell you that i'm one of those women who think of stretch marks as medals of honor or tiger stripes, because i'm just not. Dr. Crog and I have actually had discussions about what to take care of first once my birthing and nursing days are over-- getting my poor little mole eyes Lasiked or getting my permanently flabby-wabby belly tightened and de-lined. I miss working out and bellydancing and walking fast and feeling good in my smallest jeans. Let's face it-- to be an artist, you've got to have some degree of vanity.

But for now, this body is a gift. Not only because it creates and nourishes new life, someone I absolutely cannot wait to meet. But also because it's like having my own personal model in my studio 24 hours a day. I can find the exact pose I need and hold it as long as I need, provided I can still find a way to hold the board while i'm drawing. And the paintings covering every flat surface of my dining room are somehow completely removed from my mental image of *me*, as foreign as the sketches from ART 102 in college showing models from a Native American elder to a dude with the biggest jew-fro i've ever seen and too much dangle to ever show my dad.

There are many indignities to pregnancy; and i'm not going to list them here, because I may have to look some of you in the face again. Google "pregnancy woes" if you are unfamiliar and like a good horror story and are considering adoption. But there is an amazing beauty here, too-- an abundance and fulfillment found nowhere else.

That's what i'm hoping to capture in my show this January-- the expression of the pregnant body as a landscape, a season, an archipelago, an archetype, a fleeting impression all the more beautiful because it doesn't last, yet leaves behind something far more powerful. It's the longest and shortest 9 months of your life, and holding that perfect, tiny baby in your arms, there is still a sadness in knowing that your belly is gone forever.

Although it's nice to lay on your back and see your feet again, I readily admit.

If you're going to be in the Atlanta area this January and would like more details, please let me know. Unless you're a creep, because I don't need creepy people ogling my goodies, even if they're covered.


Valerie said...

I want to see your show! Can you give details?

Jess said...

you're in Atlanta? my husband and I moved here (Missouri) from there.
I've been reading a few of your posts, and I just had my first baby 7 weeks ago, so I am nodding in agreement with all the pregnancy talk.
I love the idea of the pregnant body as a landscape, a season, etc. It IS the longest and shortest 9 months, fleeting yet permanent. Thanks for writing all of this - it's good to read.