Jessica Singerman in studio with son

On Motherhood and Being an Artist

In a 2016 interview with German newspaper Tagesspiegel, the performance artist Marina Abramović said: “I had three abortions because I was certain that it would be a disaster for my work. One only has limited energy in the body, and I would have had to divide it. In my opinion that’s the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There’s plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children – a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.”

In 2012 when my husband and I were living in Australia, we had a baby. I was in a typical new parent sleepless daze for months. After two months I realized I was losing my sense of self, and the best way I could think of to regain it was to make things every single day. I had been browsing books at the local Michael’s on a trip Stateside with my parents, and found a book called 365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every day and Change your Life! by Noah Scalin. The book is full of prompts for projects to make every day for a year, and it struck a chord. That night I made a small drawing project and vowed to continue each day for the next year.

Let me back up a few years. After I completed my Masters in Fine Arts, I had trouble making things consistently. I worked on commissions and made things for exhibits. I made collaborative work. I even got a grant for a public art project in Adelaide, Australia. But I wasn’t making work every day, and it gnawed at me.

After I had a baby, time seemed to speed up and I got the feeling that I had no time to lose. I felt a sense of urgency to make work – that I had to make work to exist. Having a baby gave me a clarity of purpose and made my priorities very clear. I am here to make things, to paint, to create. 

We now live Stateside, but I have this same sense of urgency in my practice. Up until January 1st 2019 I had another job, so I had to be ruthless about my studio time. I moved my studio time according to the needs of the family. Over the years my studio time varied from early in the morning before anyone was up to late at night after everyone was in bed, and everything in between. It is important to me to show up every day and make work.

I have figured out over the years that I am my best self when I regularly sustain my artistic practice. I have a visceral need to create. It’s how I connect to the world and how I make sense of things. Now it’s also my full time job, so I juggle my studio practice with the work needed to sustain that: writing, photo/video, marketing, web design and web building, accounting, setting up exhibitions, etc…

I also believe that Mrs. Abramović and all the other people who think that women must choose between making good work and being a parent, are mistaken. Being a parent has made me a more dedicated and more professional artist. It has given depth to my practice and given me vision both for my work and for my life. I am grateful to my son for helping me uncover my path.

Read about how my family motivates me in my work in this blog post.

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