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:

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

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eating, eating all the time

eating

As soon as I finish eating, I want to eat again. I don’t know if it’s the baby getting bigger in these last weeks, needing more calories, or if it’s just comfortable to eat a bunch of small things one after the other all day. Eating right before bed helps me to rest. I don’t really sleep much, but I can stay in bed longer in the morning if my stomach isn’t growling. I don’t think a lot about what I’m eating further than what feels right in the moment. It’s all I can do. Sometimes if I see a picture of something, like pancakes, then I HAVE TO HAVE PANCAKES as soon as possible. Or the baby will tell me what he wants, which is often cheese or toast or popcorn or something sweet but undefinable.

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

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my body now, part 2

self portrait with bunself portrait in watercolor, January 2016

My face doesn’t look that different, even though my body is 6 months pregnant and looks (and FEELS) quite different. Sometimes my face looks really tired. Sometimes my skin is blotchy, or pale, or has tiny bumps on it, and my hair is weird because I’m in the process of growing it out (again). Some days I feel so beautiful, more beautiful than I’ve ever felt. Greg tells me often that I am a gorgeous pregnant woman. But some days I feel huge and nothing fits right and my boobs hurt and my back hurts…it’s a new body every day, constantly changing.

I want to talk to my mom about all this body stuff. We used to talk about these things a lot: relating about how clothes make us feel, society’s insistence on bras and underwear, the way our bodies change as we get older and why, how we can redefine beauty at every age and even during cancer. I want to know what clothes she wore during pregnancy, how she felt, was she frustrated, how did her body change? I want her to go bra shopping with me. I want her to help me find shoes that are comfortable but also cute on my slightly swollen pregnant feet.

Today I feel good because I’m wearing my cute new overalls and a bra that actually fits (more on the maternity bra shopping experience later), and my hair is just the right amount of messy.

it’s going to be hard forever

without mama

I don’t want to talk about this out loud, not really. Or maybe I do, all the time. I don’t want to be rude or ungrateful to anyone, all the people in my life who are there for me, and are supporting me through this pregnancy. I accept all of that with love, and I’m so grateful. But none of them is my mom. It’s always going to be hard. Every new thing starts it over again. My baby shower will be lovely, but it will be sad too. There’s no way for it not to be sad. It’s okay for it to be sad, and that doesn’t mean it’s not also happy.

I read this book, Rosalie Lightening, a graphic memoir by Tom Hart, about losing his daughter. Talking about the process of creating the book, he said:

“I felt that, to get some sort of understanding, I’d have to put everything into book form. But, you know, you quickly realize that you never ‘understand’ what happened. Instead of understanding, or something as trite as ‘moving past it,’ the best you can do, I think, is integrate the facts of what happened into your life — stop trying to deny it…”

It’s this integration that I’m trying to do. That’s what I did with making the cancer comics, and with these pregnancy comics too– all of my work in a way is trying to integrate my mom’s death into my life. I’ll never “get over it” but it can become part of my life in a way that isn’t breaking me apart every minute. Instead of struggling against it I’m struggling with it, in it. Does that make sense? It’s still hard, it’s still sad, terrible, tragic. But it has to be part of beauty too, and life.

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.

you don’t have to be a gun

Today I took Baby Smokey on his first peaceful demonstration. It was a short, quiet gathering and walk down our town’s main street, with some speakers, some poetry, orange hats and bells. We were walking to bring attention, to say that we have had enough, that we are asking questions, that something needs to be done about this gun culture, this gun violence in our country. I participated for myself, my community, my world, and my baby. I don’t ever want him to be afraid to go to school, or to a movie theater, or anywhere.

I felt a bit of Mama with me, my first activist. She brought me to Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, Latina heritage conferences, her ESL classrooms where I met kids and their families from all over the world. She taught me that education is a better weapon than any gun, that we should not fear what we don’t understand, but instead learn. I still have her “No Nukes” pin on a corduroy jacket.

Earlier this afternoon we went to a screening of The Iron Giant at the local movie theater where I work. It was my first time seeing the film, originally from 1999, and I was enraptured. The main themes seemed to be: “don’t fear what you don’t understand,” and “you don’t have to be a gun.” Such relevant themes in our current world. The giant metal robot who is the title character is sweet and curious, but has a defense mechanism which causes him to react violently when someone points a gun at him. He automatically turns into a deadly weapon, defending himself against his attackers, and perpetuating more violence. But the hero of the story, a young boy named Hogarth, tells him, “Killing is bad. You don’t have to be a gun. You are who you choose to be.” So the giant learns to overcome his automatic reaction, instead becoming a peaceful hero– showing everyone that even though he looks big and scary, he is a kind soul who does not want to cause harm.

All of this feels so in sync, threads of a bigger idea. On Friday we found out that our little growing human is a boy. I have a son. It’s a strange phrase to utter, “I have a son.” I only really know about being a girl. My dad said to me, “Whether you and your sister were boys or girls, we wouldn’t have raised you any differently.” There is so much to teach my son, and for him to teach me. He will be the coolest boy, the most awesome boy, our boy. And I can’t wait to meet him.