During a year of uncertainty and fear, these three artists I interviewed found catharsis and validation – all thanks to a curated show by Anna McKeown at Stay Home Gallery. Anna is part of a curatorial program at Stay Home Gallery which has given 8 selected curators the chance to curate an exhibition in 2021 around a specific open call. This exhibition, “Accepting the Unexpected”, shows the viewer that there is power and freedom to be found in authenticity. Through a variety of media including photography, quilting, and embroidery, these artists show that there is beauty in their exploration of isolation.
In the beginning of my discussion with Anna McKeown, Kathryn Rodrigues, and Anna Wallace, we explore each woman’s childhood and background, and what brought each one to her current body of work. Anna McKeown, the oldest of six children, recalls her need for not only standing out from the rest of her siblings, but making her thoughts and feelings heard. Her current textile pieces include short sayings like “just fine” and “full of it” that she embroiders onto quilts – the girly and gaudy nature of her aesthetic inviting the viewer in, then surprising with the vulnerable nature of her phrasing. Kathryn talks about growing up in a military family and living most of her childhood outside the US – moving 13 times! Because she grew up exposed to many different cultures, she loves exploring identity in her own work. Anna Wallace says that she developed a love for photography at an early age – even making pinhole cameras with her mom – but studied ceramics in art school. It wasn’t until recently that she found a love for textile arts, and is self-taught in this area.
Anna also discusses Kathryn and Anna Wallace’s work, and what prompted her to curate them into the exhibition at Stay Home Gallery. In contrast to her own work, which is almost entirely autobiographical, Anna McKeown admires the way that Kathryn’s photographs seem to observe the world from afar, and recalls having a visceral reaction to her pieces. Kathryn describes these black and white medium format photographs in her “Homesick” series as a way to share in the collective grief that the past year during the pandemic brought upon all of us. She desires to show the longing for freedom and connection but also the security of the separation. When deciding to curate Anna Wallace’s work into the exhibition, Anna McKeown says that while she was already familiar with her work, this “cootie catcher” piece about miscarriage really spoke to her – the heart-wrenching phrases stitched onto the fabric so vulnerable and personal.
As we wrap up our discussion, we share the difficulties surrounding the Artist/Mother life, and how expectations can be so crippling – the expectation to feed your baby a certain way, to parent in the purest form, to take everything on without asking for help, and the list goes on. The hope we have in our children’s – and our art journey’s – milestones and final products is something we have absolute and at the same time zero control over. The outside world seems overwhelming and intrusive to our insular worlds we have created… but it is in this push and pull between letting out and taking in that we give life to our lungs – ever growing and changing, but still rooted in our identities.
Biggest Art Crush: Shelby Rodeffer
Dream Trip: Ireland
Film or book: Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette”
Favorite meal: Post-partum meal of a cheeseburger, fries, and Dr. Pepper
Shout-out: Coulter Fussell
Biggest Art Crush: Bisa Butler
Dream Trip: Portugal
Film or book: A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Favorite meal: Indian food
Shout-out: sister, Julie
Biggest Art Crush: Betty Woodman
Dream Trip: Paris
Film or book: “Aurora Leigh”, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Favorite meal: Pizzeria Toro in Durham, NC
Shout-out: husband, Eric (photographer)
To see the exhibition, “Accepting the Unexpected”, please visit Stay Home Gallery
The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn
Thanks so much to our sponsor COZI for helping us bring you this episode! Cozi is a surprisingly simple family calendar that can help busy families stay organized and well connected!
Anna Wallace’s images:
Kathryn Rodrigues’ images:
Anna Mckeown’s images: