Mother artists: Fargo painter featured in documentary about work/life balanceFARGO – An infant crawls around the dining room table where her mom is framing prints. An award-winning director washes baby bottles and laments an acting career that never was. Mothers with grown children come to terms with how their artistic endeavors affected their families.
By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM
If you go
What: “Lost in Living” documentary film screening
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway
Info: Event is free. A panel discussion will follow.
FARGO – An infant crawls around the dining room table where her mom is framing prints. An award-winning director washes baby bottles and laments an acting career that never was. Mothers with grown children come to terms with how their artistic endeavors affected their families.
A pre-kindergarten girl is asked if her mom is an artist.
“She used to be,” she replies tellingly.
“Lost in Living,” a documentary film to be screened Thursday at the Fargo Theatre, explores the elusive work-life balance mothers who are artists face through the stories of four women, including Fargo painter Marjorie Schlossman.
“Both making art and making babies is about optimism,” Schlossman, a mother of seven, says in the film. “There’s a lot of hope that comes out of that. And a lot sense of all’s right with the world.”
The 110-minute documentary was directed by Mary Trunk, who won best documentary feature at the 2005 Fargo Film Festival for her first film, “The Watershed.” It was then she first met Schlossman.
Trunk had already started on “Lost in Living” and was searching for another artist to include.
Schlossman walked Trunk to her Roberts Street Chapel. Trunk says she was “blown away” by Schlossman’s art.
She later directed “Plain Art,” a documentary about Schlossman and six local architects she commissioned to design small, non-denominational chapels.
For “Lost in Living,” Trunk, of Los Angeles, filmed the four women – Schlossman, novelist Merrill Joan Gerber, director Kristina Robbins and painter Caren McCaleb – for seven years. All the women are scheduled to be in Fargo Thursday for a panel discussion after the screening.
Robbins and McCaleb are best friends, pregnant together in their 30s. Their journey into motherhood and struggles to pursue their art are intertwined with reflections by Schlossman and Merrill, both who incorporated art into their home lives as a way to deal with the tedium of motherhood. The film shows artistic triumphs and stumbles of each woman.
Along the way, the film touches on themes of maternal love, friendship, loneliness and isolation, creativity, age, success and sacrifice. It delves into intimate details of the women’s lives, including Schlossman’s strained relationship with her mother, difficult marriage and divorce, and attempt to mend fences with her oldest daughter.
“I think the beauty about Marjorie’s story is she’s willing to reveal her fragility and her mistakes. That takes a lot of courage. And yet she also has strength,” Trunk says.
“People will be able to relate to it and say ‘Thank you, I’ve been dealing with that,’ ” she adds.
Schlossman notes she didn’t have the same ambitions of fame or recognition as the other women featured in the film, describing herself as a “closet artist.”
Still, she understands the unique challenges artists who are mothers face.
“So often I think it’s because we have to fit our art making in between the laundry and the dishes and picking up our child at preschool,” she says. “I think so often our art is in the back of our minds preoccupying us. And for many, interruptions can be problematic, and children interrupt a lot.”
McCaleb at one point describes her paintbrush as a “lover” she longs to meet again.
Trunk is self-distributing the film. She’s created “house party kits” that include extra material and a discussion guide to encourage small groups to view the film. She’s heard from mothers, fathers and single women who’ve all taken something different away from the documentary.
Trunk says she chose the four women because she recognized in each of them something she related to or wanted to learn from. She says she now regularly hears quotes from them in her head as she wonders deals with work/life balance situation.
“I always make films not to tell people what I think, but to discover what I think and what I’m going to learn,” Trunk says.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556