Took me a trip to London yesterday and spent the day fannying about, seeing friends and luxuriating in my own thoughts! After passing this sight in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant (I love me a shrine), one of those thoughts was Mary and the archetypal mother.
Growing up in Catholic Ireland, we saw Mary everywhere, and she always inspired a peaceful deference in me. But in all this research about maternal art and archetypes, she came up a lot.
Now, are all well versed with the impossible ideals depicted in social media, but what about this one? I know she’s not holding an iPhone in front of a mirror here but, regardless of your beliefs, surely we don’t know nearly enough about this mysterious character.
There is a very interesting book written by a Jungian analyst and writer called Juliet Miller called “The Creative Feminine and Her Discontent”. I’m very glad I read it before becoming a mother. It’s out of print (WHY) but if this stuff piques your interest, check it out. It talks a lot about female anger in society, and how we might channel that constructively into the art we make. She had some thoughts on the Madonna and Child as an unrealistic archetype of motherhood and, among many insights, pointed out that “seeing woman as ‘divine’ simply exacerbates the problem by displacing her into the cosmos when she should be firmly rooted on the ground where she can participate fully in the world.”
All I’m saying is that motherhood is full of its Mary moments, but it also is not. And that’s ok. Making art about motherhood might embody elements of this, but it won’t tell the full story.
One great example of the full story is “The Argonauts” by Maggie Nelson. Olivia Laing from the Guardian praised the book, and how it celebrated “ordinary maternal devotion while castigating the canonisation of the mother.”
Anyway, yesterday was a good day. Back to my old hood, to imbibe all the good things of my old life, and very happy to journey home to my new one.