“There is a clear moment when one becomes a mother. But when does one become an artist?”
Prodromal labor falls somewhere between Braxton Hicks contractions and active labor, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It’s sometimes called “false labor,” but that’s a bit of a misnomer. It’s more of a precursor to active labor. Prodromal is very much real and part of a larger process.
It’s also the theme of a new Mother Artists at Work (MAW) exhibition at Sean Christopher Gallery, which has previously hosted MAW exhibitions centered on “Birthing the Artist” and “Hard Labor.”
“There is a clear moment when one becomes a mother,” reads Sean Christopher Gallery’s exhibit statement for “Mother Artists at Work: Prodromal,” which closes on Saturday, Aug. 17. “But when does one become an artist? Is it when you make your first work? Is it when you complete it? Or when you show it publicly? Is it when you sell an artwork?”
Mother Artists at Work formed locally in 2005, and “Prodromal” featured artist Wendy Yeager found her way to the support/networking group for mothers working in the arts in 2008 via fellow artist Sharon Dorsey, who’s also featured in “Prodromal.”
“My children were still very young, and I was struggling to find the balance between being a mother and an artist,” Yeager said via email. “MAW gave me a community and support when I felt very isolated. Both being a mother and being an artist can be all-consuming, but when you are both you have to find a balance. The women of MAW helped me do that.”
Yeager interpreted the “Prodromal” theme as a metaphor for the “slow but steady work” she engaged in the past 11 years as a member of MAW, whereas Dorsey thought of it as “the beginning of one stage and the fulfillment of another.” “The real ‘magic’ of being a creator is the point at which our piece comes to life and transforms from a pile of supplies into a thing that others can experience,” Dorsey said in an email.
Yeager, who’s based in Westerville, often features faces and figures in her art. “But the true subject of my work is the experiences surrounding memory, sleep and dreams,” she said. “There are seldom sharp edges in my work, but more of a soft suggestion of the subject existing in a world that is just out of focus, like a dream world or fading memory.”
In “Still,” an oil on canvas painting on view at Sean Christopher Gallery, a blue-hued woman’s face with closed eyes appears to float in a dark, encroaching, indeterminate space. The image, Yeager said, is meant to evoke the feeling of being caught in the place between reality and the dream world. Indeed, the face looks as if it inhabits a netherworld where it could fade away completely or awaken abruptly.
Dorsey, on the other hand, often incorporates imagery from her Catholic upbringing into her work, and “Prodromal” piece “Alpha/Omega” is no different. “I've always been drawn to the mystery of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and no matter what one's beliefs are, I think there is a resonance amongst many of a creator being,” Dorsey said. “Things have a beginning; things have an end. From ashes to dust. Alpha, Omega. As artists, we play a part in bringing something to life, the alpha. We are trained to release control of what comes next, the omega.”