Local artist Erin Boake with her painting One of a Kind from her Hot Mess: A Residency in Motherhood exhibit at the Red Deer museum until Sept. 29. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer artist proves it’s possible not to entirely lose yourself in busy motherhood

Erin Boake’s Hot Mess exhibit is on at Red Deer museum

Erin Boake always wanted a family and an artistic career.

Balancing both isn’t easy — as her art exhibit at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery demonstrates.

Yet Boake’s paintings, drawings and collages manage to celebrate the mundane, yet momentous, aspects of motherhood — while also proving it’s possible not to lose oneself in the disorder of domestic life.

Hot Mess: A Residency in Motherhood tells a universal story of stray socks pulled from the drier.

It hints at the sentiment felt for certain baby toys or outfits left in jumbled piles on the floor.

It also features a to-do list that runs 95 feet long — just a few reminders of all the things mothers do — from unclogging the tub to defrosting the chicken for dinner, to renewing passports and cleaning the dog doo off the carpet.

Boake, who’s married with two daughters (age four and two) and runs Artribute Art School in Red Deer, says she has learned to be creative on the fly.

Sometimes, she sketches while her kids are napping. Other times, she turns the slanted roof of their large dollhouse into an impromptu easel to make art while her daughters play.

There’s always a niggling thought of the dishes that need washing, or dirty clothes that should be loaded in the washer.

“There’s the never-ending work of it all,” says Boake, who illustrates this fact in her exhibit.

A symbolic colourful 12-foot circle made of clothing her daughters have outgrown, or she or her husband have discarded, spans the back wall of the exhibit.

Along another wall are five oil paintings that can spin — just like real clothes in the drier. The circular paintings are of piles of clothing, including a few precious items treasured by Boake and her daughters.

Also displayed are sketches of special, observed moments — of scattered toys, baby bed linens and a blanket “fort” her children made under chairs.

Her daily drawings of cold cups of tea bear fingerprints and streaks supplied by her kids, who wanted to see what their mom was making.

Hot Mess doesn’t bemoan the business of motherhood. Boake said it rather “explores and embraces” its chaotic, cluttered and cyclical nature.

The artist, who studied art at Red Deer College and the Alberta University of the Arts (formerly College of Arts and Design) wants viewers to think about the many tasks that fall to the mothers of young children.

She also wants to show it’s possible, with much planning and determination, to continue to pursue personal, creative interests outside of motherhood.

“I didn’t want to lose that part of myself. I wanted to bring my kids on that journey with me.”

The exhibit runs to Sept. 29. There’s an opening reception on First Friday, Aug. 2, from 5 to 8 p.m. with Boake in attendance.


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