Date Night Asks Difficult Questions About Art And Mothering


Last Thursday was Date Night for my wife and me. It was also First Thursday. That meant we spent our evening looking at Art.

But first, we took the boy to the zoo. Here’s a picture of a wolf:


There are more pics at the set, all taken with my aggressively mediocre point-n-click camera, but you can see the dinosaur exhibit and also a back-alley mural showing gelflings and skeksis from THE DARK CRYSTAL. (Oh, Seattle)

Anyway, we had our date-night dinner at home for once, then caught the bus to the galleries in Pioneer Square. It was disappointing. All of it. I saw so much that was simply dull or uninspiring, or else it looked just like stuff I’d seen before. I mean, I’m sure there’s a buyer out there for landscapes in the Hudson River School, but it doesn’t tweak my interest in the slightest.

As I told my wife, it was disappointing, but I was willing to be disappointed every month for the chance to see something amazing.

From there, we headed up to the SAM. They had a huge party going on for First Thursday and their exhibits of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits.

Now, I thought the Soundsuits were amazing. Seriously. I loved them and found most (but not all) really affecting. There were one or two that made me want to commit narrative on them, but I didn’t feel up to it, creatively. Whatever I could do with them, it would have felt inadequate.

Have I mentioned that my wife went to several different art schools, including the Cooper Union, and that she studied fashion design, too? She responded to my “This is the real stuff” comments with a chilly “What makes you think so?”

From there, we had a discussion of art, of what makes the art community ignore one thing but praise something similar, and of originality. She told me her art teacher back in the 80’s was doing whole suits made of buttons (as some of the Soundsuits are) but that it was dismissed as women’s art. What made this acceptable? Because it was combined with the dance/movement aspect? Because it was made by a man?

Part of the appeal for me was that, according to our guide, the work was specifically without a political or cultural “message,” which several years of First Thursdays have shown me are difficult to pull off well. Interestingly, the young woman giving us a tour couldn’t resist including an anti-consumerist moral to the end of the tour, which spoiled an otherwise good job.

Another part of the appeal was the extraordinary detail of the work done. This led to another difficult discussion, mainly surrounding time, assistants, assistance, and the number of hours we all waste on day-to-day duties. We’ve had this conversation before: My wife is an artist, but she’s also a massage practitioner, a mother, an athlete… there are many demands on her time and interests. What’s more, she’s good at all those things. She loves doing all those things, and despite numerous efforts to arrange our lives so she had time for all those things as well as making art, we can never make it work.

What it comes down to is this: the only way to really make her art schedule work with the life we have would be to send our son back to school, and she doesn’t want to do that. I don’t think she’s all that excited about jumping into the local art scene, either.

I think she’s making peace right now with her choices, and acknowledging that the things making her happy are worthwhile, valuable things, while also acknowledging that things may change again in a few years. But she’s doing what every decent parent does: she’s putting her child’s needs above her own.

Mother’s Day can be a difficult day for a lot of people. Not every mother is a loving one, and there are way too many people who have little reason to love their mothers.

But my wife isn’t one of them. She’s given up a lot for her child, and while this life makes her happy, it’s still a sacrifice. Happy Mothers Day to her and everyone like her.