interview is the result of a three-way conversation between the artist,
Monica Bock, and
the two curators, Erin Valentino and Kerrie Bellisario Mileski. [This
interview originally appeared in the catalog for the Maternal Exposure
exhibit at ARTWORKS, April 13-June 3, 2000.]
EV: What does Maternal Exposure, the title of your exhibition, refer
each bag before lunch. So I became self conscious of everything I put
in ...you know, bologna is not something perhaps that you are supposed
to feed your kids. But then as an artist, I became really interested
in my own sense of being watched as a mother. This lunch issue was sort
of a symptom of a larger set of impossible expectations that is always
hovering over a parent, particularly mothers, in terms of how they take
care of their kids. How they are supposed to feel about taking care
of their kids. What they are supposed to notice. What they are supposed
to not notice. How close they are supposed to get or not get. How relentless
it basically all is.
So I wanted to create a large piece that would document the whole year's
effort and reveal that relentless labor and also the relentless exposure
that being a mother entails. Also, there is something about the ritual
of sending my children out into the world and hoping they might be protected
by this little bit of nourishment contained in the lunchbag. But ultimately
knowingg tension between my need for order
and my belief in and desire to nurture freedom and creativity in my
household. There's a need for ritual to help my children function; they
need to know that bath is followed by book is followed by bed after
dinner every evening in order not to just go insane trying to move through
to sleep. So, there is a way in which I've learned a lot about daily
ritual just to keep my children comfortable.
KBM: How do these two roles, you as artist, you as mother, overlap?
MB: Simply as a human being in whatever I'm doing, I'm looking for understanding.
I'm always one step behind myself watching and thinking about what's
going on, crafting and re-crafting my existence, ordering and re-ordering,
creating and recreating. Whether I'm making art or constructing family,
I'm analyzing and processing my experience. Because my children and
our relationship is so demanding and so interesting to me in the way
they reflect reality, I've focused on them in my art practice.
EV: So I want to make a bridge between the idea of ritualistic practice
and your choice of materials. How are these things connected in your
MB: They are veralso because of its color-this kind of fleshy golden
glow that it emits when light is cast through it. It looks like flesh,
but also like gold. Basically I'm drawn to materials rooted in mundane
reality, in the sense of earthly and bodily reality. As an installation
artist, I'm informed by an early engagement in the theater as a high-school
and college student. I'm still really interested in theatrical space
and production. But as a sculptor, I'm interested in "real" materials
rather than illusionistic props. Materials like soap.
EV: It occurs to me that these materials have to do with the ritual
of selfhood, one of which is cleanliness. One of the things about cleanliness
in Western culture is that it is based on maintaining boundaries. Like
you wouldn't want to go to the store and buy a pot roast and throw it
on your bed. You're preserving yourself from death when you are cleaning,
but you are also preserving yourself as yourself.
MB: Yes, and the art involves these rituals in establishing a difference
between my children and myself. And the materials reflect the physical
intensity of that process.
KBM: I want to talk about "Domestic Provocation" and "Sibling
y children being real participants
in the work. This feels more dynamic to me as a way of making art about
KBM: I also want to talk about your work with the UConn Child Development
Laboratories. Can you connect this work with the art?
MB: Yes, the UConn project involved Pre-K and Kindergarten children
in the conception and creation of a ceramic-tiled playground structure.
As a parallel practice to my studio practice, I've been interested in
community-based art, specifically in work that engages the community
in the production of a project. In this respect I become a facilitator
rather than the sole artistic agent. Really it's consistent with my
preference for collaborative production. I like the energy and honesty
of this kind of work.