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The art of motherhood

A colourful abstract painting.
The art of motherhood

Rachael Grad is a mom of three who left practicing law in 2008 to pursue her art practice. In June she attended OCAD University’s convocation ceremony, graduating with distinction with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting and earning a Governor General’s Gold Medal for Academic Excellence.  

This summer Grad has curated an online exhibition titled Pandemic Parenting that spotlights the exciting intersection of art and motherhood.  

“Motherhood is mayhem. When I became a parent, carving out time and space to create (not just people but artwork) became essential,” notes Grad. 

The upcoming exhibition features several OCAD University community members who, in addition to being faculty, are artists and parents. The works in the exhibition reflect their experiences raising children, teaching and maintaining a studio practice amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Art Amy Swartz as well as Associate Professors in the Faculty of Art JJ Lee and Natalie Waldburger are featured in the show. Each week, beginning on August 8, the works of an individual artist will be foregrounded. 

The show was curated during Grad’s remote residency with the Museum of Motherhood (MoM) and includes weekly blog posts interviewing the featured artists to explore their work and parent experiences. MoM is an exhibition and education centre devoted to the art, science and “herstory” of m/others inclusive of all reproductive identities located in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

At different times the women in the exhibition have involved their children in art making while also carving out, an autonomous practice as well. They have also engaged in collaboration with other parent artists. By capturing aspects of their own worlds, while quarantining at home with children and partners, these mothers have been able to express themselves during difficult circumstances. 

Grad captures parenting moments in her own creative practice including in the project, Motherhood Hit Me Like A Train. The ongoing series features works on paper that use trains as tools for painting.  
Grad describes the works in this series noting, “Toys have overtaken my home and my artwork, and they are always in mind and in my way. For my abstract watercolour on paper artworks, I reverse the ubiquitous toy train and turn it into a paintbrush.” 

Her other series, Mommy Mayhem combines digital collages and abstract expressionist paintings. 

“My current art practice is driven by a need to document my three kids and their perpetually changing debris (meaning their messes of toys, books, clothing and crafts). Daily household and art routines, rituals, and schedules reflect my attempt to reign in the chaos of parenting," Grad explains.  

Grad continues to find inspiration in the works of contemporary parent artists including Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document (1973-79), Monica Bock’s Maternal Exposure (or, don’t forget the lunches) (1999-2000) and Paul Campbell’s Koosh and Remote Control series. This fall Grad will start a Master’s in Fine Arts program at York University