self-portrait in towel

self-portrait-in-towel

I’m changing every day. My body, my mind. I have muscles in my arms from holding Giles as he gets bigger and bigger. I weigh almost the same amount as I did six weeks postpartum, but I feel strong and good most of the time. My periods are heavy and painful (no one told me before that postpartum menstruation is its own monster), but I’m used to them now. My milk production is slowing down. I cry at the slightest provocation by commercials or songs or how every night at dinner Giles seems just a little more grown up.

We’ve started formula. Giles drank it up without hesitation. I cried during the first feeding, but also felt a little bit free. I can see the finish line of having my body back, of my breasts getting smaller, of no more nursing bras, of no more pumping…of letting go of breastfeeding. It’s a freedom, and it’s sad too. It’s our special connection, our thing that no one else is part of. But we’ll find other things.

My hair is longer. I am less tired than I was a few months ago (still tired, just not as overwhelmingly so). It’s amazing how it really does get “easier,” although “easier” is the wrong word. It gets “different,” just like with anything. It changes. I know Giles better, and he knows me better. He starts to become a functional person– sitting up, crawling, kneeling next to the box of toys and picking out what he wants, pulling up to standing. He says “Mama” and “Dada” and other increasingly complex talking sounds. He and my dad have their own language– staring and smiling and making funny sounds at each other.

My grief continues to get “different,” and not at all easier. Missing my mom is part of my day, part of everything I do. Giles’ eyes have taken on a quality that her eyes had. It strikes me sometimes. He will look at a photo of her hanging on the wall and smile with recognition. He stares at her paintings and pumps his arms with excitement. I cry and cry. Sometimes I feel lost. Sometimes I am okay.

 

 

 

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portraits of women i know

Women friends are very important to me. These portraits are mostly of local ladies who’ve come into my life in the past 5.5 years, with the exception of “Phoebe” who is my sister and has always been my best friend. Each of these women is beautiful and does important work for their community. Each of them is an artist (with food, animals, the land, plants, homemade beauty products, pottery, sewing, books, printing, photography, movies, drawing, painting, dancing, love, life). Each of them has touched my heart. Each of them inspires me. Each of them sat in front of me and let me look at them and translate what I saw onto paper.

(click on each image to see it larger.)

I’ll hopefully be exhibiting these somewhere at some point in the fall or winter.

drawing while moming

This is the first drawing I made after giving birth:

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I drew it from a photo taken of my sister cuddling with Giles on the couch. It feel so good to start doing art while being a mom since for the first few weeks I just focused on mom-ing. It’s a beautiful thing to fully be a mom, at home with Giles, completely in the moment with him. But it’s also important for me to find a way to do both art and parenting. I want to find my own way of doing this, of doing both things and letting them inform each other.

Several years ago a person I worked with said to me, seeming to read my mind, “When a woman artist has a child, it deepens her art.” At the time I was 23 or 24, already knowing I wanted this life. That statement feels even more true now that I am here.

My first portrait of Giles:

first giles portrait

Giles is right next to me as I post this, cozy in his Rock N Play, sucking on his pacifier, watching me.

rocking chair

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Last weekend we brought this rocking chair from my dad’s house to our apartment. It’s the same rocking chair my parents rocked me in when I was a baby, and now we’re going to rock little Smokey in it.

I don’t know when they got it, or where from, but it’s traveled from house to house, and across the country with us. It used to be a shiny finished wood, which my mom sanded down and painted a dark teal. Now that paint is faded and scraped, so maybe we will sand it down again and paint it a new color. The pillows on it were covered by my mom with scraps of velvet and painted fabric from a studio she worked at one year.

It’s April now. In 10 days it will be the 18th, the three year anniversary of my mom’s death. I don’t know what it will be like this year. Three years into this new life, and it feels like she should still be here. I dream about her a lot lately– as if it’s regular life, and she’s just here, doing things with me. Last night I dreamt we were planning a trip to Europe together. When I wake up it’s hard to remember that these things didn’t really happen. I walk around all day with a strong sense of missing. I keep falling into the hole.

I don’t want anyone to say, “She’s with you.”
I don’t want anyone to say, “She’s watching over you and the baby.”
I don’t want anyone to say, “She loves you, she’s proud of you.”

I don’t want anyone to say anything about my relationship with my dead mom.

You could tell me about a dream you had about her, or a place you were in that reminded you of her. You can tell me you feel her with you, or a story from when she was alive. You can tell me about the kick-ass cowgirl boots she helped you pick out, or a painting of hers that hangs in your home. Tell me you think of her. Tell me you miss her. Tell me a joke she told you.

If I choose to, I’ll tell you how I feel.

 

 

 

my becoming (at images cinema)

Ce_UPQAW8AEt858.jpg-large.jpeg This is a photo of me at the opening reception for my current exhibit: My Becoming. The description I hung on the wall reads as follows:

I am about to have a baby. As of this show hanging I am eight months pregnant– my due date is May 7, a week after I take the show down.

This is my first exhibit as an unemployed person. That is to say, I am now a Full Time Artist, my dream of many years. I am grateful for these two months as a full time artist, as I prepare to share that with the role of Full Time Mom. From December 1, 2010 until March 1, 2016 I worked right here at Images Cinema, during the most critical years of my adult life thus far. After leaving New York City and breaking my own heart (it needed to be broken, to let the light in) I moved in with my parents in Bennington for a year, before finding my own place in Williamstown. I found a community here, because of Images, and I stayed, so much longer than I planned to, because there was work to be done on my own self.

During these five-plus years some important things happened: My mom’s cancer resurfaced, and then she died. I met my husband (our first kiss happened right here in this cinema). I got married. I got pregnant.

Starting as a film projectionist, trained under the inimitable Dave Blair, I worked in the little booth upstairs; the most magical place in Williamstown if you ask me. That’s the best job I’ve ever done, something I am very proud and honored to have been a part of. As the theater transitioned to digital projection at the end of 2012 I transitioned to working in the box office, as well as the business office processing memberships and donations, along with learning and taking control of the digital projection system. I’ve been a part of history here, in this 100 year old, continuously run movie theater, something I am incredibly grateful for.

I’ve worked with some really special people here at Images, it’s been an honor to share this space with them. You know them– they program the films, sell you tickets and popcorn, smile when they see you, answer questions, create a unique and lovely movie-going experience, and clean up when you leave. I’m grateful for the work they do, and to have been part of it. Thanks for keeping the magic alive, guys.

These pieces are a mix of drawing and watercolor, little windows into my life. Each one is a different kind of self portrait: coffee cups are me, lemons and cat and wine and mixer.

From Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Things:

Many things conspired
To tell me the whole story.
Not only did they touch me,
Or my hand touched them:
They were
So close
That they were a part of my being,
They were so alive with me
That they lived half my life
and will die half my death.

Okay. Now I’ll waddle my pregnant body into the theater with my large popcorn and sit in the dark and dream some dreams.

Anna Moriarty Lev, April 2016

my becoming, self portrait.jpgmixer and wine bottle.jpgburgers and fries.jpgcitrus fruits.jpgflowers.jpgcats.jpgunnamed-1.jpgunnamed-3.jpg

 

 

baby heart self portrait

baby heart self portrait

One day in December my OB called me. She had looked at the scans from our 18 week ultrasound and saw a calcification in the left ventricle of our baby’s heart. When she said those words I started tearing up and my heart thumped, I thought, This is it, another thing. My baby is sick– first Lee then my mom now my baby what am I gonna do fuck fuck fuck. She said everything was probably fine, but we needed to go see a specialist in Springfield and have another ultrasound. So we went to Springfield. We sat in the ultrasound room, which wasn’t really a separate room, just three walls and then the fourth wall was a curtain drawn across to block the hallway. The room was dim, the kind of dim like when you watch a movie in school and they turn off all the lights and it makes a kind of calm. It was quiet, the sounds of people walking by and talking beyond the curtain were muffled.

The ultrasound tech came in and we got to watch our sweet baby for a while as she took some pictures. “These heart structures are perfect,” she said, “and look at that beautiful spine!” This made me feel proud. I made that heart, I grew that spine, all of it inside my own body.

The specialist doctor came in and quickly told us how common these calcifications are. “It’s ten in the morning and I’ve seen two of these already,” he said. He told us the baby is fine. Most likely, the calcification means nothing. If we showed other markers, it could be a sign of Downs Syndrome, but there weren’t other markers. He said we could have further tests if we wanted, did it matter to us if the baby had Downs? Would it change anything? No. It wouldn’t change anything. We’d still go through with the pregnancy. So, no more tests. Our baby was fine. “Nothing you did caused this, or could have prevented this,” he said before leaving.

We felt relieved afterwards, and stopped in Northampton for burgers at Local Burger, where I had Greg take a photo of me which I drew this portrait from.  Our baby is okay, I thought. I was exhausted. I wanted to remember what I looked like on this day.

“I guess this is what it’s like to be parents. We’re going to be worried forever,” I said to Greg.

the other side of the world

20160107_131913We went to Chile, my dad and I, to visit my sister, Phoebe. She lives in Futaleufu, in the Patagonia region which is way down south. I was nervous to travel so far while pregnant but Smokey did great and so did I.

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I love seeing Phoebe’s life. She’s made such a beautiful one.

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Of course we made art together. I sketched while Phoebe painted murals in her new house, we made a mosaic together in the kitchen.

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Here’s Phoebe working on her mural, looking just like our  mom.

There’s a kind of magic when we’re all together.

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How much does place matter, where we live? What is home? I think about these questions a lot.

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Phoebe in her greenhouse, and below is her garden on her land. 12494872_10100336620337287_7091185328840765845_n

 

 

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Some of my drawings from the trip:

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And now it’s time to begin my new beginning. It’s 2016. I’m leaving my job in six weeks. My baby will be born in four months. A whole new life full of unknowns.

watercolor nudes, rivers & roads

I’ve been working more with the tiny watercolor set of my mom’s, and one of my favorite things to use watercolors for so far is life drawing. I’ve been drawing with pens forever, I know how they work for the most part, and making those lines of a human body has become familiar and it’s easy to settle into a particular style that I already know how to do. Painting a watercolor nude is a whole new ballgame for me, using lines, yes, but with a brush, with these fast-drying watery lines, and also swaths of color. Sometimes there is more paint on the brush than i realize, or less. I can play with heavier color, lighter color, shading, mixing. Even just the physical act of dipping the brush in water, then in paint, then sliding it against the rough paper is captivating for me. It takes longer, which fills up the minutes of each pose more quickly. I am more engaged in each moment.

may 13 watercolor nudes

alex's last pose

And now for a little music: my cover of Rivers and Roads by The Head and the Heart on ukulele: