Friday, March 25, 2016
Easter Memories: The Holiday of Forgiving
I lived in the house next to the river, where memories of my early childhood blur together. The beginning of spring always reminded me of Easter. It was a holiday that children waited for all year. It was not because of an enormous fluffy bunny that would lay its eggs in the bushes, not because the baskets with goodies and candies would arrive by our doors, and not because the dinner table would bend under all the delicious food, but because this was the only holiday when parents would buy new clothes and shoes for their children. They were simple shirts, dresses, and sandals—sometimes too big, sometimes too small—but kids did not care about the blisters on their feet or newspaper stuffed in their shoes so that they wouldn’t lose them while showing them off to their friends. Kids worked hard through the harvest, and new clothes and shoes were a reward for their effort. For me, though, it was a heartbreaking road to that store in the city.
During the winter, our pig gave birth to piglets. Day and night we protected them from the pig so that she wouldn’t eat them or squash them beneath her heavy body. Every day after school I ran to the stable. It was warm from the animals breathing, making friendly noises as soon as I walked in. The pink piglets slept peacefully by the pig’s belly, shaking tiny legs in their sleep from time to time. Making a warm sound, the proud pig rolled on her back, exposing full nipples, swollen from milk. Squeaking, the hungry piglets fought for food. It was my job to make sure every piglet was fed and safe. Exhausted from feeding, the pig rolled on her belly, ignoring her babies. I curled on the hay in the corner and played their surrogate mommy. Looking for nipples, the piglets hid under my old sweaters, poking my chest with their warm noses. Making sweet snoring sounds, they were falling asleep. I listened to their breathing and read books until the pig called her piglets to eat again. As the days passed, I felt as if I were their mother, not the pig. I cuddled them, I named them, I protected them and fed them for months. Then it was time to say goodbye.
Easter was just around the corner, but the chilly breath of old man winter still hung in the air, as it fought a hastening spring passionately declaring her arrival. The snow slowly dribbled from the wet stable, thawing under the glowing sun. The water made shallow puddles, and tiny streams escaped to the noisy river, carrying ice and debris. Swollen from slush, it roared like a wounded bear caught in a deadly trap. I was ready to howl like the river when I saw a long wooden box placed by the stable door. I knew the piglets would be sold at the market to people who would raise them for food. I walked to the window to see my babies again.
Snubbing the snow on the ground, the blissful sunrays beamed through the dark glass, which was covered in sparkling beads of water, dripping on the painted wall like my bitter tears. The piglets slept serenely next to their mother, not realizing that this would be their last night together. Too big to fit next to the pig’s stomach, some of the piglets curled under her neck and ears. The pig tenderly poked them with her nose, as if she kissed them for the last time. I sat on the box and cried.
That night Mom took them to the market. I wept in the stable all day. I knew that no one would love and care for my piglets as much as I did. I wished Easter never came. It should be the holiday of forgiving and rekindling souls, but I did not feel that way. I could not accept the price I paid for the new dress and shoes. Easter after Easter, new scars marked my soul, until I realized that my pains were imperceptible compared to the agonies God’s Son suffered.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Petrushka Bazin Larsen holds Ila, her five month old daughter, while working from home as Program Manager at The Laundromat Project, a non-profit offering art workshops in laundromats located in low-income neighborhoods. Photo and caption by Alice Proujansky
When it comes to motherhood and work, everyone has an opinion.
And at this point, it feels like I’ve read all of them. I know the numbers on paid maternity leave. I know why it’s OK to have one, multiple or no kids. I know why it’s important for all women, including mothers, to lean in, and also the flaws with that concept; that stopping women with families from dropping out of the workforce must involve paying them more; and why we should stop calling women “Mommy.” I am a female, mid-twenties millennial with an Internet connection, after all.
But no one who I have read, heard or watched has approached the topic quite like Alice Proujansky.
When Proujansky, a documentary photographer, had her first child several years ago, she knew her work was going to change. “I wasn’t going to be traveling as much for awhile,” she told me. “These concerns were so overwhelming my mind — questions about work, motherhood and identity, and the way that they can inform each other and support each other but also really conflict.”
So she began seeking out the people all around her who were dealing with the same questions — mothers with careers outside the home who she knew personally, or who were friends of friends. She started asking questions and taking photos.
“Just by watching them and talking to them, I could feel that what I was doing wasn’t crazy, it wasn’t insane,” she said. “It was hard, but it was important and doable.”
The result was “Women’s Work,” her series profiling working mothers. Her subjects range from an Assistant District Attorney arguing a murder case in court to a nurse who assists with abortions at the same health center where she gave birth.
“I wanted to make photos that showed the way I thought, the people I knew who reflected my own experience with it. We love our children and we are engaged with them but we are also engaged with the world. Those things can inform each other,” she said.
By making a wide range of mothers’ work more visible, Proujansky hopes to add more depth to the conversation around parenting, which she said often oversimplifies the role of mothers.
“I think our culture tends to sort mothers into strange and conflicting categories, where we’re expected to be self-sacrificing and put on a pedestal … but at the same time we aren’t supported, we aren’t given paid maternity leave, [and] there is derision in the way people talk about motherhood,” she said. “There are all these conflicting stereotypes about it."
Painter Marcie Paper breastfeeds her ten-day-old baby, Andi Paige, in the studio where Paper works for a conceptual artist, managing his studio and producing his paintings. Photo and caption by Alice Proujansky
Proujansky has tackled similar subjects before, including in a previous series that focused on birth culture. People are eager for the more complex story about mothers in America, Proujansky said.
“I think it’s really important to see women and our bodies in a way that’s multifaceted and honest,” she said. “I think that most of the images that we see of women don’t depict us in this wide variety of roles, where we are being physical in our jobs as we’re mothering, and then we’re also exploring our intellectual and creative self. It’s really important to me to present a multifaceted image of women because I don’t see enough of that.”
You can see more of Proujansky’s work below.
Seven months pregnant, Vice President of Programs and Education at Brooklyn Children’s Museum Petrushka Bazin Larsen fixes her daughter, Ila Bazin Larsen’s “Elsa dress” while working on a stressful day when child care had fallen through. Photo and caption by Alice Proujansky
Miki Kamijyo greets her year-old son Oliver as she returns from her job as a lawyer. Her husband Aaron Myers was eager to stay home caring for his son because Kamijyo brought home a bigger paycheck than he did, because she was more passionate about her career, and because both he and Kamijyo were raised by single mothers. Myers teaches DJ classes a few nights a week and gets some help with the baby from Kamijyo’s mother. Photo and caption by Alice Proujansky
Pregnant Assistant District Attorney Lucy Lang checks her work email while trying on a dress to wear to the Frick Collection Young Fellows Ball. She serves on the museum’s Young Fellows Steering Committee and helped to plan the ball. Photo and caption by Alice Proujansky
Kamdyn Moore and her wife Tomara Aldrich check to make sure the breast pump is working as Tomara nurses their four-month-old son, Spencer, and pumps simultaneously before work Photo and caption by Alice Proujansky.
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Courtesy of Art Beat