boys and girls

A few months ago, we came upon an acquaintance giving out flyers outside the farmers’ market. She cooed over the baby and chatted very warmly with my oldest. We talked about her flyers (actually I wish I could find them now). After we left, I realized she’d never once asked whether the baby was a boy or a girl. She’d avoided gendered pronouns by talking about “the little one” or “the baby.” And it was SO refreshing. Whether the baby is a boy or girl really didn’t matter at all. What matters is that the baby is adorable and happy and smiling, and my oldest is clearly a great, nurturing older brother, and she covered all that most satisfactorily. coming away from that conversation made me want to see her again soon, but I haven’t.

A few weeks ago at the library, I came upon two fathers talking intimately. One of them had a child just a few months older than my oldest and the other had one a few months older than my youngest. I didn’t want to intrude on their conversation but we were the only people in the play area and somehow I just found myself included in the conversation. The baby happened to be wearing blue that day, so I noticed when the man asked me how old my child was. My child — not my son.

I’ve known for a long time how quickly and thoroughly we stuff gender onto our babies. But I hadn’t really thought about avoiding gendered pronouns, even when you have a good sense of the baby’s sex. Since the more recent conversation, I’ve become a lot more aware of how often I refer to a baby’s sex indirectly, and I don’t really like it. Not only that, but I’m finding I don’t even want talk about “my son” so much as I do “my child” or “my kid” or “my oldest or youngest.” It’s a small thing, but a nice thing.

My oldest’s teacher (who I adore in every other respect btw) often divides the class into girls and boys to facilitate certain activities (putting coats on, going outside, that kind of thing). And funnily enough, my kid now always tells me about how, at recess, he and his friends fight the girls’ team (which often also has boys on it). There is more to children than whether they’re a girl or a boy. And yet it seems to be our default setting, to notice and, however indirectly, comment on their gender. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Now here are some pictures of my oldest’s interventions in our home.


(later the same day)

decorations for Santa
decorations for Santa

mouse trap
mouse trap

Christmas tree
Christmas tree

Happy (if belated) New Year

So I’m a little afraid to say it, but 2011 was awfully good to me. Sure there were disappointments (I’m not going to list all the exhibitions, contests and whatnot that didn’t pick my work, but there were many) and challenges (for example, I couldn’t eat any dairy at Christmas – wah!). But, on the whole, it was a pretty magical year. I had a baby AND a great birth experience. I met some wonderful new people and got to know others better. I made good progress on Yes these bones shall live before I birthed the baby, and some slower progress on it towards the end of the year. I’m starting to feel like the main purpose of the project is the conversations I have with these women, who I might not otherwise meet. And even if I did meet them, if it weren’t for the project, our conversations wouldn’t get so deep. I think every single one is a teacher for me; my perspective and learning are widened with every single woman, although some conversations reverberate in my mind for longer than others. I’m STILL thinking about stuff I talked about with people I photographed right at the start of the project in the summer of 2010.

Here is Kiss My Ashlinn, who I photographed just before Christmas.


In 2011, I was also named a Critical Mass finalist AND a Flash Forward Emerging Photographer. I had a two-person exhibition in a public gallery, and I learned so much about hanging artwork. I got to see one of my prints get auctioned off at a live auction, AND it went for a good price. I got to see my work in THREE printed books: The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art, Foam Magazine’s Book of Beds and Flash Forward 2011. I received my copy of The M Word in September, I think, and immediately started reading it during the baby’s tummy time. My plan was to read it cover to cover and do a semi, totally-biased book review. But these days I seem to read books like I browse the web, and I had at least four other books on the go and maybe finished one of them, and then I got more and more books from various libraries, and now The M Word is near the bottom of the pile somehow. I did get about halfway through, I think, I can say with confidence that the depth of this book is impressive. If you want to explore the history of motherhood in feminist art, this may be THE book on the subject. And I can’t believe my work is in it. Having said that, a lot of the early feminist art dealing with motherhood was WAY too heavy in psychoanalytic theory for my taste.

And Flash Forward 2011? Also amazing to be included. I remember when I first discovered the Flash Forward photographers. It was January 2009, I think, and I saw the 2008 Flash Forward book at Chapters of all places. So I bought it, and as I flipped through the very accomplished and diverse imagery, I thought to myself, “Wow, these photographers have really Made It.” And now here I am, in it, and no, I haven’t Made It. And yet it’s a beautiful book, and paging through it, I was impressed with how the images all flowed. I felt like I was being taken on a visual journey, not paging through a catalogue, and I thought the editor must have sequenced the images for flow rather than alphabetically by photographer’s name. But when I actually looked at the photographers’ names, I discovered they did in fact sequence it alphabetically and by country. So the fact that it flowed so well is a tremendous accomplishment for all involved in producing the book.


For 2012, I have a few goals. First is to keep shooting. Especially since I’m going to be in a big three-person show at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery this summer. Second is to develop a proposal for a solo exhibition of Yes these bones shall live. Ideally, I’ll even secure space before the end of the year (not to show it before the end of the year, but to have the space secured), but that depends on other people, and I hate making goals that depend on other people. Third is to maybe finish the series by the end of the year. But if I get to the end of the year, and I want to keep meeting and learning from these fascinating women, then I totally give myself permission not to finish (spoken like a true ENFP).

Personally, I want to learn how to make, grow, repair and barter for more, and buy or hire less. I want to do things I’ve never done before; not necessarily big things, just small, mildly uncomfortable, destabilizing things. So far, I’ve roasted a chicken, made stock from its carcass, made cinnamon buns (also my first time making yeasted bread at all), and made a card by cutting out construction paper. I have never done any of these before, and while none of the results were perfect, they were all enjoyable. This is life.

So what are your hopes for the New Year?