But in her experience, it pushed her and other mothers she knows to greater heights of creativity, ingenuity, and collaboration, both in life and in art.
“I actually think it’s a very dynamic period, and I think it’s one that…the art world has had the wrong attitude about,” Nakazawa said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, poor you, you have a child, that must suck for you.’”
Nakazawa and her friend Wanda Gala, a performance artist, are both parents. To save on childcare and support each other’s careers, they trade babysitting duties when they need to go out at night and network. Gala drops off her son with Nakazawa if she has to work all night on an installation, or she’ll watch Nakazawa’s three-year-old son while she goes to an opening.
“Let’s face it, the whole art world is based on evening events,” she said, which normally ties up parents or forces them to pay for expensive babysitters. “It clicked on so many levels, and our kids love each other. It was one of those things where it makes sense, if we rely on each other.”
, a Cornwall-based artist in her forties known for her intricate collages, won 2016’s BMW Art Journey award, she saw a marked contrast between her deep ambivalence around leaving her children, then seven and eight, and the reactions of men she spoke to about her upcoming journey, which took her along Silk Road
trade routes, photographing and documenting lost libraries.
“They’d be like, ‘Ah great, you can just not have the children with you, you can have all that time on your own!’” she said. “But it doesn’t feel like that for me. It’s not just, ‘Yay, off I go, yippee.’ It’s actually bittersweet, and I’m torn.…I noted how many men said that to me, because I actually thought about taking the children with me along the Silk Road, which would have been nuts.”
“Women tend not to leave their children for extended periods over that time,” Reynolds continued. “It’s very hard to do so, because your partner basically has to pick everything up, that’s a big negotiation, that’s a big ask. And partly because you just miss them and you feel like you should be there.”
Reynolds avoids identifying herself as a “middle-aged woman,” the same way she wears vaguely androgynous clothes; biographical details or labels are “a constraint as much as they are useful,” she finds. Middle age, in particular, comes with a set of assumptions wholly at odds with her outlook and personal values.
“I prize flexibility, suppleness, openness, and simple direct enjoyment,” Reynolds said. “None of these qualities do we socially attribute to middle age.”