Mother on a Mission… From Kids to Crowdfunding
When pregnant with my first I was honestly surprised by the lack of info, encouragement and advice regarding breastfeeding. Personally, my mind was set from the word go, I was definitely doing it, having a new born and feeding her myself was never under consideration.
After a long, traumatic labour my enormous baby girl was cut from me by emergency caesarean, a few more hours of complications (which felt like a lifetime) later, she was on the breast taking her first few droplets of colostrum. At this point in time my head was blown!
During my pregnancy, labour and early days with a new born what I had experienced was staggering, I adored this maternal world, I felt comfy with my new normal, I was also quite mesmerised by the people (some strangers) who had quite literally held my hand through the bleakest moments. This system was something I felt like I wanted to be a part of.
Anyway difficulties pursued with breastfeeding, at 11 weeks I was bleeding from my left breast, which unbeknownst to me my baby was feeding from… it was all pretty grim and toe-curlingly painful. However, with very little help from any outside agency, we got through it, quite possibly down to my dogged determination! In a nutshell, from then on it was pretty plain sailing and both she and I loved it. I felt passionately about it!
Fast forward 2 years later I had 2 bambinos, my first had stopped feeding from me, I then breastfed my second daughter for 2 and a half years. It was during this time that I had epiphany… I realised this sounds dramatic, but being an artist I HAD to paint a portrait of us both, with her breastfeeding from me. I know it was too precious not to document in some way and I was able to do this in my own unique style through portraiture. I also thought this is where I can help, where I can contribute to what I found was pretty bleak world in terms of celebrating, recognising even, breastfeeding in our modern world. From my reckoning breastfeeding was something women should do in private and at a push in the corner under a muslin square and I wanted to change that!
What I have now come to realise is that during that time, surrounded by nappies, Calpol and cracked nipple cream, was that bubbling away under the surface I had thoughts of creating huge pieces of art which did not distract from the amazing maternal act that I was also personally experiencing, but bring it to the fore in a celebratory way. I then began a one women mission to capture on canvas relationships between mother and child during breastfeeding in all its glory.
Looking back I can’t really work out how I fitted it all in, painting with a babe on my hip and a toddler around my ankle is quite some task, but there is the determined streak again! I met heaps of women who wanted to model for me, and I attempted to capture their stories through my large scale paintings. I produced about 20 artworks in total, it was a passion project and I then realised I had an exhibition on my hands!
I took photos in my studio of my progress and began to put it out in the public domain, on social media and the like. In my naivety I thought it would be well received… obviously! But there was some kickback and comments which opened my eyes and knocked my confidence. I realised that some people found the work as a personal attack on them, it was as if by me celebrating breastfeeding I was criticising/critiquing their “failings, misfortune or experiences”… this hadn’t occurred to me and was never my intention! I know people take things personally, in fairness as do I, but my work was coming from a genuine place and my zealous yearning to showcase “women’s work” didn’t waver, well maybe a little.
I channeled my efforts into exhibiting the work in a many locations as possible, this however is so much more effort than first thought. Please bare in mind, I had no budget to cover my costs and there wasn’t anyone out there who wanted to help me financially, that’s for sure. I knocked on a lot of doors, in the early days I was offering to loan the artwork and my time for free and lots of people (mainly hospitals) shut the door firmly in my face… ouch!
On the flip side there were lots of other people who absolutely appreciated what I was doing. I had lots of successful exhibitions; comments like “you’re work encouraged me to breastfeed for longer” blew my mind… this indeed is the point!
Art is like a huge colourful elephant in the room though. Everyone admires it, they ask to exhibit it, but we’re living in a world where important art is being created that needs to be seen, with limited/no budget to pay for it. Sadly, ‘exposure’ doesn’t pay the bills.
This had lead me to the decision to cover my costs through a crowd funding project, which I see as a win win. The paintings will go to locations where they would be of long term benefit and would help reinforce positive breastfeeding messages through the big, bold, beautiful and strong paintings of women breastfeeding. I have recently sought nominations for venues to exhibit the paintings. Secondly I have pulled together an amazing group of super humans to help me make the best decisions on where the portraits should eventually reside, so that eases the pressure on me a little. Phase 2, launching in late October will be the crowdfunding project itself to enable me to cover the costs of the paintings, framing and shipping, hopefully will pay some my time at least (this has been 5 years in the making). The crowdfunding project will also enable me to offer some great pledges in exchange for financial support, like the publication which accompanies the paintings, which delves into the breastfeeding journeys of the women in the portraits and also postcard, prints and even original paintings if the pledge is high enough.
So there you have it, a super short summary of why, how and who of the breastfeed collection. I thought it would be beneficial to expose a little about me, my journey and my art for you to feel it is a worthy project to support. Please follow me on twitter @leanne_pearce or instagram @leanne_pearce_artist