In this episode I talked with the incredible Claudia Pharés, a French-Canadian of Vietnamese-Egyptian descent native of Montreal, QC, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. Claudia is an artist, a mother to two children, and a nurse. Her art practice includes photography, sculpture, installation, performance and video and is framed around autobiographical events that have challenged her sense of control. While using socially-engaged work, relational aesthetics and care economies, she seeks to find strategies to expand her roles and responsibilities required in both her art and mothering practices.
Initially in our conversation we talk about her childhood and what brought her to Melbourne from Montreal (her job as a traveling nurse!), but we quickly jump into themes of the unseen labor of mothering and the importance and hard work it takes to engage with a thriving community of other artist-mothers. Shortly before the pandemic, Claudia created an entire performance series on the topic of self-isolation. She and I discuss the irony of that project now, but also agree that as mothers, self-isolation is a necessary part of reassessment and confidence-building.
Putting aside pressures and holding on to foundations of who you are and who you want to be are so necessary with the heavy burdens of unseen labor pushing down. In Claudia’s “Strategies” series, she explores this heaviness through piling sandbags together in the natural landscape. Through these installations, videos, and photographs, she connects items that could be playful with physical barriers and weights – the repetitive nature of the sandbags speaking to the nature of motherhood labor. The visible hands in these works also serve as a way to hold together but also push against the systems.
Lastly, we also discuss the importance of community. One of Claudia’s recent performances involved her setting up in a local park and posing the question of how feminism was affecting isolation during the pandemic. She found that women (and children, who made drawings) were quick to respond to her about their experiences, and from these moments she collected stories about the extra loads that mothers had to bear during the pandemic. Claudia and I agree that seeking out community, though challenging (especially during a pandemic), is life-giving and so necessary as an artist and as a mother.
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
Final 5 Answers
Biggest art crush: Louis Bourgeois
Favorite Place to Travel: Home to Montreal to see family
Inspiring Book or Film: Author Lucia Berlin
Favorite Meal: Anything with eggplant
Shout Out: Neighbor friend, Lenice