If there is one thing I've learned, it’s to be flexible, generous and kind to yourself, and to build a support system. Being an artist is challenging. Being a parent is challenging. Mash those two together and it can create a beautiful and exhausting existence.
I am the predominate caregiver to our now almost 1-and-a-half-year-old. I do work, but part-time (about 20 hours a week). I'm extremely lucky as I can make my own hours; I teach drawing at a local museum and am also a hairstylist. I'm equally as lucky to have the full support of my partner who typically works 70 hours a week and still takes care of our daughter on the weekends, when I usually teach and schedule clients. I cannot stress enough how important his dedication to our relationship, my art career and our daughter (on top of his work hours) is to providing me mental space and time to keep my practice active.
I generally work in the studio during nap time (my studio is at home in the garage) or when I and a fellow artist friend exchange childcare for studio time (she also has a daughter about the same age). We usually do this about twice a week. For the past couple weeks, I've also started hiring a babysitter for a few hours once a week, as I have a big deadline (I have work in a biennial in Slovenia in June) and need more studio time to get everything done. The extra help has especially been needed, because our daughter is currently going through dreaded sleep regression, which has really cut into my nap/studio routine. In general, we do not regularly use childcare because of the cost. However, the sitter and I were recently discussing bartering hair services for childcare, which I love the idea of!
Its hard. There are times when there are a lot of tears (and not just the baby's). But there are also times when I feel even more motivated because of all the things I have to juggle. I've learned to embrace and recognize how parenthood has affected my work. I work serially and currently have two newer projects I am developing, one of which focuses on my experience of the sort of temporary erasure of one’s individual identity when you become a parent for the first time. In this performance-based series—entitled not her(e)—I become camouflaged and a part of the furniture. So much of being a caregiver is about being used as well as being invisible. So far, I have completed four “furniture costumes.” Ideally, I would like to create “furniture costumes” for all the pieces of furniture in my home that I use daily when taking care of my daughter. I am excited to see how these “furniture costumes” will evolve and if the performances may begin to include other caregivers as well.
I am also interested in how structures of power are set up to produce this particular dynamic of childcare. On one hand, I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to be the primary caregiver to my daughter. And on the other hand, I find my situation problematic. Two very contentious facts come into play: student loans and gender/occupation salary inequality. I am interested in the duality in feeling grateful, yet uneasy as we begin to tumble into such normative roles.
More than anything, I feel it is important to acknowledge my position of privilege to be able to be a practicing artist and full-time parent, while also acknowledging the amount of drive it takes to stay motivated, informed and intentional; I am conscious that the content of the work I put forth as an artist needs to continue to be as conceptually rigorous as it was prior to parenthood, while also being informed by it.
Kaitlynn Redell is a visual artist and educator whose work explores race and gender in relation to the body and how the body becomes codified within these socially constructed categorizations. More specifically she is interested in inbetweeness and how “unidentifiable” bodies—that do not identify with standard categories—negotiate identity. She lives with her 1.5 year old Rosie, partner Tony in Altadena, California. She has been an Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood since 2015. See her work at kaitlynnredell.com and redelljimenez.com.