This is an on-going series that investigates Bella Horlor’s new role as a young mother. An artist and poet, Horlor shares the banal quandaries that exist between artistic and maternal labour.
I hauled the baby from the warmth of the car. I’m sorry girl but I’m not missing this one. I fumble with my keys, and lock the car before I remember that breast milk is a natural sedative and actually that might be my best bet here. So into the front seat she goes, on the boob looking up at me with a slight frown. I haven’t been to an art show since becoming a mother. Mainly because they often tend to be right around our bedtime, and honestly when I found out I was having a baby, I lost plenty of friends who were more comfortable to just leave me to it. That’s been fine, but not for this one.
This one was Bedrock, a show at a Studio One Toi Tū by Charlotte Benoit. Charlotte and I were in the same year at Elam, on the first day of class I spotted her and thought, “I’m going to be friends with her.” As such I’ve always been privy to the conversation around her work. One year before, before a tiny hand grabbed my finger, before the poo explosions, before the drooling teething and the anxiety over whether or not I’m a good enough person to create life, I had entered Charlotte’s garage and witnessed a series of experimentations using concrete on stretched canvas and various spray paint effects.
It wasn’t clean, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t pleasant, but by god it was interesting.
Bedrock was stuffed into one of the most challenging spaces, the hallway. The baby in my arms pointed wildly to the colours, a glaring tribute simultaneously to road works and Hanna Barbera cartoons. There was Fred Flintstones tunic, some ambiguous road markings, shapes that resembled maybe bananas, shrubbery, or flying birds and generally made your imagination feel like a five year old in front of Sunday cartoons. The paint resembles a bad makeup job. The colours reek of the MAC counter colours that only a partying 19 year old can pull off and it’s applied just as liberally.
My little girl squirms in my arms, she’s lunges for a carved wooden chain hanging from the bottom of a work. I realise she’s dying to chew it, but the texture of the wood is already chiselled. She makes several shrieks, and people give me obligatory apologetic smiles. She’s at that seriously fun stage of being able to walk but not understanding “No.” Parking lots have become adrenaline filled death traps of my worst nightmares. I put her down for a second and she belines for the work that’s hinged to the wall, swinging out dangerously on a carved wooden arm. Club Tropicana. She stares up with a toddlers gaping mouth. She grins.
There is something eerie about seeing something so heavy levitating on the white of the wall, but my girl understands the humour. She flirts with gravity constantly.
Bedrock is completely without a metallic element. Metal would be too hard, too smooth and perfect. It’s deliberately just whittled wood and brittle slapped on concrete. They are an elemental poetry balanced together, drinking the free alcohol, arms swung over one another, propped up and grateful for one another. Both a bit of a mess. Think Donald Judd if he drank too much gin and cried about a boy not calling back.
We are women who sometimes slurp our soup on our shirts, or trip over and knock our teeth out on the pavement. We are women who smoke when we’ve had too much to drink, we eat cake for comfort, we are women who rarely iron. We don’t care much but we care hugely. We are real women who have our own little peculiarities and hilarious neurosis. This work is that. It’s female, loveable, clumsy, playful and unapologetic.
My little girl enjoyed her first art show enormously, she ate several crackers and her first piece of Camembert.
Bella Nina Horlor
Image: Woopsie and Club Tropicana, Charlotte Benoit, Bedrock, Studio One Toi Tū. Photo courtesy of artsdiary.co.nz