I always feared that becoming a parent–and specifically a mother–would permanently and irrevocably alter my identity. In a bad way. As if not having time to make art would make me not an artist, or as if somehow my work would be less “relevant.” When I found out I was pregnant, this fear gnawed at me until I turned it into a personal challenge: if I couldn’t find time to make, perhaps I could make time to make. What I hadn’t figured was how making that time would itself be art.
It started with One Tiny Painting a Day, Seven Days a Week for Seven Weeks. From Week 13 to 20 of my first child’s life, I painted a 3x3 inch watercolor in a different color for each day of the week. I painted when I could: while she was sleeping, or playing next to me, or even once or twice while breastfeeding. As a conceptual artist I don’t really consider myself a painter. So it surprised me that after completing those 49 paintings, I felt affirmed. The quality of each piece didn’t matter to me as much as the fact of having made them, a durational performance piece.
Once she was less inert and I went back to work, I continued this newfound practice by adjusting the scope: weekly instead of daily compositions, each with a foreground and background color determined by a 7x7 rainbow grid: Rainbow Squared, what you see unfolding here today. For the first year, I stuck with watercolors for their relative ease of set-up and clean-up. Then I started making stop-motion animations again, and suddenly this exercise truly felt like an art practice, like my art practice. In addition to the color formula, I gave myself one major constraint by design and by necessity: I use only my phone as the means to capture and edit the images.
Producing art as a parent comes down to having a formula, a plan. This structure forces me to make time to make. It eliminates the guesswork so I can swing into action at a moment’s notice, eking out full bodies of work bit by bit in the time I can cobble together between everything else.
And yet, why? What is so important about making? Is it just to bolster my identity as an artist, having a product to point to so I can tell myself a story about who I am?
That is where this project has turned into something I couldn’t have anticipated: artifacts of devotion to an artistic and spiritual practice. My making is a ritual to mark and sanctify cycles of time, a practice deeply informed by my Jewish heritage. Using this rainbow grid as a lens, I capture, honor, and reckon with otherwise fleeting moments, lifting and linking them in a magical narrative system. What emerges could be called colormancy, in which colors can be used as symbols for personal divination. I am learning this divination system as it unfolds, and sharing that process of inquiry, discovery, and wonder in real time.
I’ve now used this formula for four complete years, four sets of 49 pieces following a rainbow grid. And I am still going. As the project continues, my identities as artist and as mother not only coexist but intertwine.
ilyse iris magy is an interdisciplinary performance artist whose work positions daily life as a site of creation, documenting and engineering experiences that interrogate and elevate the ordinary. Her social practice engages the would-be audience as co-creators through playful public interventions and participatory events, while her personal practice documents and expands artmaking as performance itself.
Central to her work and this project is a commitment to continuous inquiry and wonder. She crafts ritual and text to sanctify cycles of time, a practice deeply informed by her Jewish background and identity. By capturing, honoring, and reckoning with otherwise fleeting moments and discarded objects, she lifts and links them as symbols in a magical narrative system.