Tag Archives: motherhood

Ladylike Artist: Sally Mann…

Sally Mann, photo by Liz Liguori

Sally Mann was one of the first photographers I was exposed to, one of the first photographers I could name to describe and recognize their work as being theirs. She was one of the first artists I felt I could actually have a conversation about which encouraged me to talk about her work.

Her work is easy to talk about in that it has a depth to it that continues to deepen the more you explore and discuss it. Her images are captivating but slightly uncomfortable. They challenge you to ask yourself, “Why is there this un-easiness? Why do I feel like maybe these images were not meant for me to look at?” Even her landscape photographs give you that slight feeling of trespassing.

Sally Mann, David. 2005

As a photographer you tend to photograph your surroundings, yet I struggle with photographing my children. Or maybe it would be better to say it this way, I struggle to share those photographs with others. I am not talking about the silly snap shots or videos that are shared with family, but these moments where I realize that I am not just capturing a snap shot. The image has crossed over that mythical hard to describe line into something more, something that could be art. Although my intimacy with my subject is what has allowed me to capture the moment, that intimacy has also made me incredibly protective of the image and of the subjects.

Sally Mann, Damaged Child. 1984

It could and probably is this completely differing approach that captivates me about Sally Mann. She photographed her children in those serendipitous moments and instead of hoarding and guarding them, she openly shares them with a world. A world that has often been very critical of how she has allowed her children to be seen. In her book, Holding Still, she talks about involving her children in the final selection process. She always gave them the power to say, “No, I do not want anyone to see that.”

My own children are still little, too little to offer permission or to even understand what it would mean to hang an image of them in gallery. Maybe when my children are older, when time separates the child I experience in my day to day from the one in the frame, I can have just enough of the detachment required to objectively consider them as something more.

As always, thanks for reading.


To learn more about the artist:

Ladylike Artists is a weekly feature on my blog where I write about a female artist that has inspired me.  My interest for learning more about women artists peaked when I realized that art history rarely talks about them, saving their stories and work for specialized classes and books. There are more woman artists than we realize!  I hope their stories inspire you to ignore whatever boundaries are stopping you from pursuing your passion.

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The Beginning…

Today is the official start for my year long Artist Residency in Motherhood!!!!!!

I have been thinking and wanting to do this since I first heard about it over a year ago. At the time I was working full time and waiting for kiddo number 2’s arrival. I really liked the idea of the commitment but I lacked the courage so I pretended like I would do my own version of it which was code for “i’ll make a lot excuses so this never happens.”

I did dip my toes in the art making occasionally. Drawing became a great outlet in the weeks leading up to kid2’s arrival. After kid2 arrived she sometimes would take a nap at the same time as her sister and I would run to my studio as quietly as I could and then just stand there. Not sure what I could actually accomplish in 20minutes (or at all) I usually ended up trying to organize something or cleaned while promising myself that next time I would do something more creative.

It was thrilling.

Then I did what I am really good at doing and completely discredited any shred of creativity I was foolish enough to think I had. Awful stupid things that I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough at if I heard anyone else say them filled my head. The worst of them… ‘Grow up Ren, stop with this foolish art stuff.’

In Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly she calls it Shame Gremlins. And dirty little gremlins they are. She talks about how the more vulnerable you feel the worst the gremlins become… the lady knows what’s up. Every time I would even think about the potential of doing something art related the gremlins would spring to action, propelling down from the rafters shouting their war cry ‘REN SUCKS!!!!!’ The more I tried to ignore them the dirtier they played, knowing exactly what to say to shut me down.

Not to be all ‘This book totally changed my life..,’ but this book is totally changing my life.

I feel ready in a way that I just haven’t before. I am also tired of letting the gremlins run things and ruin something I really love doing, and that’s showing up in the studio to make art. 

What was going on while I was writing this post, seemed more accurate to chose the shot where none of us are looking. (This is also the reason for any spelling or grammatical errors in this post)

As always, thanks for reading!



You should check out:

Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly… Don’t forget to support your local bookstore if you can 

-Artist Residency in Motherhood’s website 




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