• Jessica Bartlett

These four walls

Notes from the studio September 2019


I am a domestic creature. I spend a large proportion of my time inside my home, making a comfortable life for me and my family. At times I can question if this devalues my opinion? Does my home-maker status prevent me from speaking of ambition and struggle. Outside eyes might hear my desire for more as a direct result of feeling trapped in my domestic life. Do I feel trapped? And should I be pitied as someone wasting their potential? I feel like I am a feminist and this at times is at odds with the life I am making for myself. I feel guilt that I am letting ‘the side’ down but this is drowned out by the guilt of being a good mum, and wife, and daughter. When did guilt, in all its forms become the motivating voice? I think in many cases I am misunderstanding emotions of love and fear as guilt. Wanting to be a 'good' feminist and 'good' mother is where I am going off-course into feeling guilt, changing the internal voice to hear 'you are a mother, you are a feminist, you are an artist' without any need to justify or qualify is something I need to hear more. We all do.


Mother of three, artist, creative...


This blog has been triggered (in part) as I am at another milestone in the life of my young family. All my children are now in full time education. And so, the faces turn to me and say ‘you won’t know what to do with yourself’ and ‘how will you fill your time?’ These are well meaning rhetorical questions. They are from people that only see my identity as a mother. I can rationalise that they don’t know me and yet they are loud in my head, what if I don’t know what to do with myself? When I really think about my situation then the voice of concern is more about how other people might see me rather than how I view myself. But if I don’t untangle this knot that my female identity has got in then how can I expect anyone else to feel at ease and stop asking the questions.


All I can say is that I don’t feel trapped so please don’t pity me. I feel my potential, being charged by the domestic interior I find myself enclosed by. The four walls of my home give me a cloak of invisibility which could be isolating but I choose to see it as a superpower. I’m overlooked and often underestimated at times even by myself, but this gives me freedom to work at what satisfies me the most. I see the world through my window, not with sorrow and redundancy but with love and passion. What could be next? What. Could. Be. Next. It is totally inspiring. I am an individual that wants to embrace the gendered roles that have been assigned to me. Yes! I am a care giver and a nurturer. The wife. The mother but this doesn’t stop me from being the artist or the maker. This notion of a layered unfixed identity is female empowerment. Not having it all but being it all. This changes the notion from something that is gifted to us and therefore a burden to being something internal and natural and possible. Since becoming a mother, I have found out just how capable I am, this is a force from deep within me that can be frightening and electrifying, my creative self has never felt so alive. This can be frustrating as many opportunities to evolve this creativity are at odds with the domestic life. Exhibition private views are normally at tea time, residency's would test child care logistics to the limit. That version of the 'art world' carries on and for now I cannot be a part of it.


What can I do next? Rather than hearing the limitations of my situation, I will carefully craft, draw and create my own world that speaks of the thousands of tiny important experiences I have daily. Success will be my creativity, at this moment I do not need the four walls of the museum or the other (masculine) institutions as for now, I have my own four walls and they belong to me.



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Jessica Bartlett Artist

37 Phillip Street

Bedminster

Bristol BS3 4EA

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