Celebrate Mother's Day With Artist & Mom Kanya Iwana
Happy Mother’s Day, fam! Today we’re celebrating all the moms and motherly figures in our lives—those who care for us, mentor us, inspire us, challenge us, and love the hell out of us. Artist Kanya Iwana’s project, “To Be A Mom While Everything Else” (in partnership with Polaroid Originals), looks at women like those who we’ve described—and how their lives have been forever shaped and transformed by motherhood. The world keeps spinning, but your world is forever changed. Whether you’re a parent or not, we can all absorb Iwana’s wisdom and be a little wiser because of it. Now go call your mom!
Tell us a bit more about your most recent project, partnering with Polaroid Originals.
“To Be A Mom While Everything Else” is honestly a very therapeutic reminder of how mothers are the most goddess being of all goddess beings. My producer, Ella, and I gathered a few moms that we know and also reached out to those we don’t and simply had them tell their stories about motherhood in front of my lens. Some of them shared through words, but most of them just simply be with their babies. You can feel the electric energy between the subjects—even those who still have the babies in their womb. It was such a cathartic moment to experience all the different dynamics of mother-child. I’m honored I could witness that.
What did you hope to get across to your audience?
I hope they can see the silent thoughts—the relationship—the love—the struggle—everything that comes with being a mom. There’s intensity in their physical touch – ferocity in one lift of a brow—weight on the smile. I just want them to feel something… maybe call your moms, I don’t know.
You said that your unexpected pregnancy showed you the type of artist you needed to be, how?
It changed my intention in the sense that I no longer was creating out or ego or selfishness—or at least I’m a lot more conscious about that and try to be that way. I think my relationship with vanity shifted, too. It wasn’t about me anymore. If I die, my vanity projects and those that merely make me feel good for a short period of time wouldn’t matter. I want to leave a legacy—something that my kid can keep as memorabilia and be proud of it. My art has to have meaning—it has to tell the truth. I try to create for longevity—I beat myself up for mediocre ideas, mediocre technicalities, and my insecurities attack me like a motherfucker, but I was never afraid to fail. I just want to make good quality work consistently, and I believe my pregnancy helped me operate through fearlessness.
It wasn’t about me anymore.
What was the most unexpected aspect of becoming a mother?
Honestly, the pregnancy itself was so unexpected that everything leading up to today has been a series of unforeseen events. I have a really great partner in life who’s the father of my child, and we work together very smartly to set ourselves up for a good life with the kid. We really are figuring it out as we go. We just have to be open to making mistakes and facing trials, so we can learn from it and move on.
How did you connect with the subjects in your photos—logistically and and on a creative level?
I’ve worked with some of the mamas, which is really cool. Most of them are in the creative field: Lara (pictured with the c-section scar and gorgeous baby belly) is a working director and photographer and we’ve worked together for some commercials. I look up to her because she just had her first baby and was up and working in the industry, creating art, and still making time for her babe. That was inspiring as fuck to me. Jaycina (pictured with baby Syx) is a model based in Atlanta and L.A. whom I’ve shot, and Savanna is a fashion stylist I’ve worked with multiple times and I just asked her + her mom to be a part of this. Stella Simona and I’ve shot together, too.
I’m so grateful to be surrounded by great creative energy and am able to simply reach out and be trusted to tell their stories. It’s all about creating a safe space when you create, and you build relationships and beautiful art that way. I’m thankful Ella and I have achieved that this past year.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your child?
To value time more than I used to. It really changed my work ethic and how I approach certain projects.
While motherhood is nothing short of a miracle, it’s always nice to take some time for yourself. Describe your perfect “Kanya only” day.
I do so much usually, and most times at the same time, so I’d like to do absolutely nothing and not talk to anyone. Eat some Indonesian food and watch The Office.
Artistically, how has your aesthetic and process changed since entering motherhood? Have you seen your work change?
I’ve gotten a lot more experimental and free. Motherhood was super freeing for me—as a woman, as a human. I feel like I’ve become so fearless and unapologetic.
Motherhood was super freeing for me – as a woman, as a human. I feel like I’ve become so fearless and unapologetic.
What advice do you have for mothers-to-be?
Ironically: don’t listen to the noise. Every child and situation is unique, so don’t compare yourself to other moms or kids.
What are you working on now? What are you excited about?
So many things.. it’s hard to keep track. I’m hoping to continue my photo series called “I Don’t Fit In” and looking forward to executing the project in my homeland, Indonesia. I’ve also gone back from my 2.5 year hiatus in working on music and have been going to the studio to work on a project, so that’s super dope. I’m honestly excited about any and every work and creative opportunity that ends up on my table.
Images courtesy of Kanya Iwana
Stay tuned to Milk for more mom stuff.