I finished it this spring, but it has taken me until now to take it out and get it photographed. I needed to live with it for a while. I have been more unhappy with this piece than with any of the other Basket Cases, probably because my experience of it is so different from other people’s reactions to it.
Recently I read an article called “Art and the Dread of Experience.” It was written by a psychotherapist. An artist friend of mine complained that the article focused too much on product instead of process. “You can tell he’s not an artist,” she said. But a lot of artists focus excessively on product too.
What I liked about the article was the idea of a work of art as a container for for emotional experiences, especially the kind of extreme emotional experiences that people tend to dread. That is exactly what the Basket Cases are, and it tickles me that they are literally vessels. The studio itself, because of the work I do there, has ended up being a container for those experiences too. My artistic process is also a sort of container.
So anyway, this latest piece is a container for my gnarliest feelings about motherhood in general, about my own mother, and about the kind of mother I might have been if I had chosen to have children. At my last open studio, a lot of people described it as “sweet.” I did not feel sweet when I was making it.
“There is a sweetness to that flower, though,” said my process-oriented friend recently. “Maybe there’s more sweetness in the experience than you’re willing to admit.”
Maybe so. They never end up being about only one thing.