The Story Behind the Cover – Early Spring 2024

The Story Behind the Cover – Early Spring 2024

For the first 6 months after my third baby, Faye, was born, I could muster absolutely no creative motivation. Or at least, no motivation to make art. I would land on the idea of making something for a split second and then immediately feel deflated. I might have worried, but having been through these early days of baby a couple times already, I had the sense it would return. And sure enough, right around 7 months, I started to feel the glow return to my fingers. 

Usually, I work quite small. Little snippets, fastidiously pieced together, a complex challenge in a small space. But the creative energy that returned needed something different, something more expansive and fresh, that reflected this bright new life we were nurturing and learning to find space for. I bought a huge sheet of oak ply and had it cut into large rectangles and began to slowly explore with washes of paint and spare shapes cut from meaningful, repurposed papers. I left much of the wood exposed in a way that felt honest and bare, and familiar figures started to emerge.

Faye was 7 months old and I was 100% at home with her. Besides her, I had a 7-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, and no extended family close by. It was a very full time. Full of gorgeous moments, for sure, but no question, it was also a difficult new juggling act, too. And because there was nearly nothing in my life that wasn’t in some way mothering, the only thing that came out of me with any authenticity were portraits of myself and my family. 

As I experimented and played and worked away on these new pieces, something magical happened. I started to reconnect. Making this work allowed me to step back and reflect my motherhood from this part of me that had been dormant, and to see it with new eyes. It felt like a form of quilting, connecting and tying the pieces together – my evolving family, my creative self, snippets and paper ephemera from different times and places and projects, all joining to create a new and beautiful whole.

It took a lot of problem-solving to work my way through the series. I crammed a playpen in my tiny studio, held Faye on my lap, and dipped in and out where I could during naps and after bedtime. All the pieces I made reflected my family, but two of them depicted me and baby Faye. And now, one of these two pieces has found a place on the cover of JUNO! This image is based on a fuzzy phone photo my 7-year-old daughter, Alida, took as I was running a bath. I was sitting on a basket full of dirty laundry. It wasn’t a romantic moment. But in the photo, the lines are beautiful. Our silhouettes reminded me of Mary Cassatt. And so, I rolled with that. I took it and I made it into something monumental. I took this outside way of seeing myself – and I hungrily, fastidiously poured myself into creating art from it in all these little, scattered moments, all over the house, mixed intrinsically with my life as a mother. It was almost like a meditation, to keep going back to these works, where I was observing and capturing the beauty in my own life, in this often very challenging moment I was living through. It felt good. 

Was the moment in the bathroom really that beautiful? Maybe. Maybe not. But looking back, I remember it that way. Making images of my own motherhood turned out to be a path out of the busy mundanity of it. A necessary reframing; a chance to see and feel things differently. I ended up selling most of the pieces, but I kept this one for myself. A tender relic of that moment in time. 

____ and on Instagram @elenaskoreyko

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