Letting Go

Letting Go was created for the exhibition, Separation Anxiety, curated by Denise Johnson and Rebecca Trawick for the Wignall Museum at Chaffey College in Southern California. Drawing from the curators' own efforts to balance the demands of motherhood with creative and professional endeavors, Johnson and Trawick consider how contemporary artists have explored modern parenthood under the pressures of changing economies and evolving definitions of familyhood. Artists in the exhibition explore the often unacknowledged worry and unease that all parents, traditional or not, must navigate. Through these investigations, cultural anxieties and debates over the definition of family, parenthood and childhood are explored in surprising and interesting ways.

As a working single parent, I spent way too many hours away from my young daughters during most of their early years. With a full time job, evening teaching assignments, and much effort put into building my art career, not much time or energy was left for parenting. I raised my daughters during a time when children were out of fashion in the art world and I often didn't even admit to being a parent, let alone devote the necessary resources to my two daughters.

One particularly harrowing evening I came home from work (an hour's commute away on the LA freeways), and ran into the house for a few moments. As I went back out to go teach a class, both girls came out on the front porch crying, "Mommy, don't go." That did it. For many years I gave up teaching and art-making, vowing to try to become a normal person with a regular 9-5 job. That lasted a short while, but ultimately I returned to art and education.

I haven't been making much art lately. I've been raising our chickens and cattle, tending the garden and orchard, watching my grandsons grow, and running an organization that focuses on building strong local community (not necessarily in that order). This is a huge change from teaching at a university and making art full time. It has taken a great deal of adjustment and caused some separation anxiety of its own - leaving an old life and entering a new stage. It has also taught me a great deal about what is truly important in life and where I need to put my time and energy.

So here I am, living on an island in the Pacific Northwest on our six-acre farm, thinking about all the ways we become separated from the people and things we most care about. Each time I say good-bye to my grandsons I feel a loss, even though I know I will see them again soon. It’s just never soon enough, and the visits are never long enough. As with my daughters, my grandsons permeate my life and my art in every conceivable way.

My art has always been about dualities, as has my life. This piece, like most of my work, draws from the things in my life that tug at me, often pulling me in many different directions. When my children were young, they were often the subject of my art and the angst in my life. Both daughters are of course still forefront in my heart and are represented here to some extent, but now my daily reality is marked by the images here. My farm and the organization I run are about finding connections between the personal and the political. This is true of my art and my life in so many ways as well. My grandsons are the strongest pull and although they live nearby, each separation is way too difficult. Some reasons for this may be revealed in the piece, or it may not be important.

Suffice it to say there is great separation anxiety.

Installation Stills