extreme tension that breaks into laughter

(Louise Bourgeois)

The response is never nonchalant when I tell people I have three boys under five years old.  It might be a sympathetic sigh, a knowing grin, a shocked cringe or a mocking chuckle.  “You have your hands full,” can be said in a host of tones, and I think I’ve heard them all.  It can even be accusatory… a ”how-could-you-let-this-happen?” lurking behind the spoken phrase.  More positive versions marvel at the work that we are able to do in this time (both my husband and I are working artists).  The truth is that we live in a constant struggle against complete chaos, and we’re always working.  Always.  Working.  It’s a piecemeal, half-distracted sort of work, unless we pay someone in order to allow us to focus, or organize each other into longer stints of solo child care.  The other side of the coin is that we’re always playing.  Always.  Playing.  Since that’s the work demanded of you as a mother or father, and also the best part of the work of being an artist.

Today I read that one of my enduring favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois, also had/has three sons (image above found here).  I was pretty excited until I also discovered that she didn’t really start producing as an artist until after she’d raised them.  I’ve always loved that she has stayed fresh and active for so so long, though, so she remains a role model.  And I think there’s something to be said of the emotional complexity that comes from raising kids– not superior, of course, but different.  I tend to run out of time and energy before material.  It pours out of the cracks.  I cup my hands to grab a little before it disappears.  In reality, this means grabbing a pencil or the corner of this blog, in between the Sisyphus-like exertion of dishes and laundry, board games, playgrounds and toilet disasters.

One of the only and best releases of the tension that we live under is laughter.  If I forget to laugh, I’m in bad shape.  So are my sons, of course.  Luckily, they are often catalysts, and remind me to lighten up.  So the tension shivers apart as we get a glimpse at exactly how absurd this set of jobs can be…

(The shape of this space, this blog, is often under my own scrutiny for how public and private intersect, how my professional life and domestic life converge and diverge.  One lodestar that I use to determine content is whether it would be useful to anyone else.  In addition to just getting some news out about shows and whatnot, it has long served me, and hopefully others, as a place to think out loud about the joys and challenges of the balancing act that is my life.  So I think about other parents and other artists, how I’ve totally been buoyed by reading about someone else’s experience along the way.  Hopefully it can meet someone else in this way.)


16 thoughts on “extreme tension that breaks into laughter”

  1. Gala, as you know I’m single. no kids. but I love reading your blog. Not just for show updates which I can’t even make it to. but for one thing, I enjoy seeing what’s going on in people’s lives that I love. and for another I think you have great insight and like your writing style. so keep it up, please

    1. Ironically, that last paragraph is one that maybe didn’t need to be said out loud. I think it’s inevitable, in this world of instant publishing, to wonder about what’s appropriate, who your audience is, to be a little unsure without your own managing editor sometimes, etc… But I’m glad you enjoy reading. I, myself, read a whole range of blogs– not just from art-moms 🙂 Good to hear from you, Matt, and you, Sharon!

  2. Oh and I have two younger brothers so I sort of get what you’re dealing with having three boys. I look forward to hearing some of those stories interspersed. 🙂

  3. oh geez, thanks for posting this gala. i needed this badly, i read this as i sat cringing and fidgety under the noise of three boys (my two and the neighbor) feeling a bit sorry for myself, my forlorn paints and my further forlorn ideas.

  4. yes, yes and more yes.

    The tension is almost overwhelming to the point of letting it(creating) go. And then the fear of incompleteness, half-hearted living and miscarried ideas thrusts me back to it, “Shape up! Snap out of it! Get to it!” I sweetly and stearnly say to myself.

    Now is the time when the harvest is ripe! Don’t be sitting waiting for the perfect time, it just won’t come, or it will come minus the fresh, break-neck-paced, complex experiences of this stage of our lives.

    Thanks Gala!

  5. i love reading these words and knowing the truth of them. Ya’ll really are always working, always playing, and very very frequently laughing. It’s lovely.

    Thanks for your openness and your example.

  6. (I cup my hands to grab a little before it disappears.)

    I know exactly what you mean! In college the ideas spilled out like rain. I followed every rabbit trail that presented itself. Now, as you say, I am lucky to cup even one before it disappears. I only have one baby to take care of! But, isn’t life so much better with these squirts around?

    I am glad you are squeezing in blog posts!

    1. Aa- I just traded for another painting that is adjacent to yours in our living room, and it’s made me see yours afresh. Such a great addition to our lives, this painting. It makes me want to keep making stuff, since I know how other people’s work affects me. So keep goin’! Cup those hands!

  7. I’m just a mama to one now, but your blog leaves me with encouragement and laughter and knowing sighs. i read you all the time, gala, and love it love it love it…

  8. Gala, I’ve been reading your blog since the OHGE, Ltd DWG show. I was immediately drawn to your elegant weaving of personal and professional. I am constantly scrutinizing and adjusting this for myself; trying to find the space in which I am both comfortable and true. From my view, as a mom and hard-working artist, you achieve this beautifully and have inspired me. This post was particularly buoyant! 🙂 thanks.

      1. Me too. I had to duck out early to catch a ferry and get back to my kids… I imagine we would indeed find much to talk about.

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