When Lenka Clayton, a British conceptual artist based in Pittsburgh, had her first child, she found it changed her approach to work. “It still seems to be a commonly held belief that being an engaged mother and serious artist are mutually exclusive endeavors,” she wrote. “I don’t believe or want to perpetrate this.”
So Lenka created a Residency in Motherhood, where she would create art while staying home with her one-year-old son: “For the 227 days of the residency, the fragmented mental focus, exhaustion, nap-length studio time and countless distractions of parenthood as well as the absurd poetry of time spent with a young child will become the artist’s working materials and situation, rather than obstacles to be escaped from.”
Here’s a sampling of the art she made during that time…
63 Objects Taken From My Son’s Mouth. “Sixty-three objects that I had to take out of my son’s mouth on safety grounds, between the ages of 8 and 15 months. The collection indirectly documents those months of our lives in small objects.”
The Distance I Can Be From My Son. “A series of videos that attempt to objectively measure the farthest distance I am able to be from my son in a variety of environments. Please visit the following links to view full video episodes: Park, Back Alley, Supermarket, Fog.”
Maternity Leave. “For three months the sound of the distant domestic world of my home and new eight week old baby was transmitted via live audio feed to the Carnegie Museum of Art. The microphone at home was placed directly above the baby’s cot, capturing every murmur, cry and nursery rhyme. In the museum the sound was broadcast through a white plastic baby monitor, standing on a pedestal in the middle of an empty gallery space, audible to all visitors during the opening hours of the museum.”
Wonderful, right? “I start every project with a structure, with some set of invisible rules,” she says. I went down a rabbit hole on her site this weekend and adored all I saw. What a creative, playful mind she has.
(Thank you so much, Stella. Top photo by Bryan Conley for the Carnegie Museum of Art.)