The title of the project is adapted from a chapter written by my mum, Rosy Wilson in 2001 for her Women’s Studies Masters at University College Dublin. She’d gone home to fulfil her dream in retirement of writing poetry. The Chapter was entitled ‘Finding Room to Write in the Cracks of Family Life’ and talked about the difficulty of finding time, even in retirement. The older women poets she had interviewed expressed similar challenges to the artists I had been interviewing for this project and the quotes she used from women writing in previous decades resonated even more.
This set me to thinking; if women’s lives had improved so much in recent times as we’re often told they have, why are we talking about the same stuff that creative women highlighted in the 1970’s?
‘Having a family is a source of strength, maturity and inspiration for male writers but leaves women in a state of permanent conflict as they internalise patriarchal society’s insistence that true female creativity is tied up with the bearing and rearing of children.’ (Adrienne Rich 1977)
‘The habits of a lifetime when everything else has to come before writing are not easily broken when circumstances often make it possible for writing to be first, habits of years- response to others, distractability,responsibility to daily matter- stay with you, mark you, become you.’ (Tillie Olsen 1994)
‘women have not been given time, have not been given space, have not been given permission to be creative, only in the cracks of male creativity, We have seen very little of female creativity.’ (Jenny Digby 1998)
‘I’m sure I’m not the first woman to feel like everything else takes precedent over my personal creative time and I always battle with feeling guilty for having time in the studio to do something that maybe completely futile but it’s very important to me.’ (Deepa Chudasama 2017)
So, that leaves many of us working in the ‘cracks’ but we have little choice at the moment so we have to value the work we do in the cracks. The Japanese have a term, Kintsugi, which is the art of recognising beauty in broken things. This relates to our belief that art is as much about process as it is about product and that the ‘accidents’ and ‘messes’ are valuable too.
We need to teach future generations that creativity is something for everyone, not just the elite few who have the ‘luxury’ to spend all their time working as ‘artists’. Many of us find that we become fascinated by things that are geographically close, the things we see a lot. For me that’s resulted in community-led projects like Art under the Flyover, re-use of a derelict space, and HighWaterLine Bristol, part of an international art intervention about flood risk and climate change. That tidal river across the road has hooked me in and the cracks in the mud at low tide have become become subjects for video, poems, drawing, prints and photos.