Artists Need Midwives
an Essay by Daniel Botkin
The Midwives Shifra and Puah by Daniel Botkin
As I write this, my wife is pregnant with our seventh child. I am pregnant, too. Like most serious artists, I am pregnant with ideas. My mind is a womb where seed-thoughts are sown and ideas are conceived. Right now the womb of my mind is filled with paintings and projects that I want to give birth to.
The conception and birth of a work of art is similar to the conception and birth of a baby. In order for a baby to be created, a fertile female must be intimately joined to a male and receive his life-producing seed into her womb. In order for good art to be created, an artist's fertile mind must be intimately joined to life-giving ideas, ideas which are so powerful and seminal that they impregnate the artist's mind and seem to obsess him. Like a pregnant woman who is obsessed with the new life that she bears in her womb, an artist lives with a constant awareness of the artistic burden that he carries in his soul.
Most women need assistance during their pregnancy and birthing time. This is where the role of the midwife comes in. The midwife monitors the pregnancy and watches out for the physical health of the pregnant mother and her baby. Prenatal care also includes the midwife's verbal encouragement and assurance, for the sake of the mother's emotional and mental well-being.
Artists need midwives, too. We need others to help with our physical and financial needs in order to give birth to our ideas. We need people who will provide grants and awards, and we need people who will buy our work. We need help and encouragement not only for our physical and financial needs, but for our emotional and mental well-being, too. Let's face it, artists don't have the greatest reputation when it comes to emotional and mental stability.
Sometimes babies die in the mother's womb for lack of prenatal care. A miscarriage deprives the world of a unique soul who might have had a powerful influence on history. It also leaves a grieving mother. Sometimes artists have great ideas which are never birthed for lack of finances and/or lack of encouragement. When a planned art project dies in an artist's mind, this miscarriage deprives the world of something unique which could have made a profound impact on humanity. And although nothing can compare to the intensity and the depth of grief that a mother feels over the loss of a baby, artists often grieve when plans have to be abandoned for lack of resources.
The climax of the midwife's role comes during the birthing process, when the pregnant mother is in labor. This is when the mother and baby need the most care and attention. A woman who is in labor cannot do everything for herself. She cannot be interrupted to deal with trivial matters when she is in labor. A travailing woman must focus her attention on the fact that a baby is about to make its appearance in the world.
Artists also need help when they are in labor. Often there is little or no income during the production phase of an art project. When an artist is constantly interrupted to take care of trivial matters, it hinders the labor. Without the labor the baby will not be expressed. We artists are willing to labor, but we need midwives to help us.
When the birthing process is finally finished, the attention shifts from the mother to the baby. The mother doesn't mind this at all. In fact, she wouldn't have it any other way. Neither would the artist.
The above essay by Daniel Botkin was published in Art Calendar, a business magazine for visual artists. The author grants permission to reprint his essay with the following conditions: The essay must be reprinted in its entirety without any form of editing and must be attributed to Daniel Botkin.