Mother or (K)not

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Mother or (K)not is an exhibition of two women artists, with opposite paths of adulthood whose work converge on the playground of fine art making. Playing off of the adage “ready or not,” which is often associated with the age-old question, “am I ready for kids,” Mother or (K)not embraces both answers to that question with the works of Kaylan Buteyn and Pam Marlene Taylor. Motherhood is a no-brainer for some but for others it can be a difficult, very personal and sometimes costly decision. It can be especially hard to decide, and live with your decision, in the art world where the prevailing sentiment is not to have children if a woman wants an art career, or to limit kids to just one. 

The Mother or (K)not exhibition’s intention is not to pit one against the other, but rather to tie their paintings and fiber arts together in an all- inclusive way. This show is in celebration of the choice we have of who we are and what we want to become, and those are choices not to be set by social norms, doctor’s orders or male influence. Margret Sanger, American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse, put it best when she said, “no woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” 

Kaylan has made a commitment to a regular painting practice while raising 3 kids (ages 7, 3, and 1) in rural Tennessee, USA. She received her MFA from the New Hampshire Institute of Art in in 2017 and a B.A. in Studio Art and B.S. in Communications from Houghton College in 2009. Her work has been exhibited internationally and in a variety of galleries across the United States. In 2019, as a social extension of her art practice, Kaylan created the Artist/Mother podcast, which interviews incredible working artists who are also mothers about their work and life. The Artist/Mother podcast has expanded to become a community that features events, exhibitions, crit groups, retreats and more. Kaylan’s decision to have children corresponded with her commitment to a painting career and she has never known one without the other. Her experience of motherhood has always infringed on her headspace, time, and the resources she is able to pour into her painting practice. It has also provided immense inspiration and has influenced the direction of her work. 

HELPING HANDS Scraps of leftover canvas and fabric are stitched and glued together and then painted and drawn on. Remnants of old paintings form new compositions while abstracted hand imagery expresses my need for engagement, community and help. These scraps symbolize the remaining extensions of the time, effort and energy I have left “in the tank,” after mothering my children and creating paintings, two practices that leave me simultaneously inspired and worn down. — Kaylan Buteyn 

Pam Marlene Taylor is a fiber artist living and working in Nashville, TN. She is a graduate from Tusculum University where she double majored in Studio Art and Graphic Design, with a concentration in Sculptural Welding. Pam is an independent feminist curator as well focusing on group shows which converse with current social issues. As an artist, she weaves on hand-built looms and is represented in Tennessee by The Red Arrow Gallery. Pam has chosen with her husband to not have children, and instead to nurture her career, community, and other artists through her curation projects. Though she has met disappointment from many concerning this very personal decision, she is enthusiastic about this choice being the best for herself, while wholeheartedly supporting her friends who choose a more traditional path. 

TUBES Before I had my first period my family Doctor told me I would never be able to have children. To this day I have no idea why he said this to me and it’s been refuted by multiple doctors as an adult, but from a young age I have been contemplating what meaning I could find from a life without motherhood. In this three- piece series I explore the time in my life where my husband and I were making the decision to not have children. This decision was made for many reasons; both of us having chronic illnesses and being each other’s caretakers as well as partners, our ambitious future goals as well as a genuine love for the way our relationship functions without children, and a mutual agreement that if parenthood were in ever our future, it would be through fostering or adoption. So, when my trusted birth control began to cause health problems in my mid- twenties and needed to be removed immediately, I started asking my doctors what other options I had, including getting my tubes tied. Rather than explaining the process or reviewing health risks (which are surprisingly lower than I expected), I was responded to by three separate doctors with laughter and ridicule. In contrast to the ease of scheduling my husband’s vasectomy; where they didn’t ask his age, his parental status, or his wife’s opinion, and where he was offered a same- day consultation and procedure-the answers I received left me confused and without agency and are years later now the titles of these pieces: 

You’ll Change Your Mind When All Your Friends Start Having Babies Have You Talked to Your Husband About This? No Doctor Will Ever Give That to You Before You’ve Had Children 

Like many women, both these artists take on the role of caring, tending and nurturing to the nth degree, so the ultimate question often becomes not whether or not you will become a mother to children but who or what do you mother?

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