EL Putnam writes on a hanging piece of semi-transparent paper with light shining through it

Milk Drunk (2018)

Milk Drunk engages with the intoxication of early motherhood. To be “milk drunk” is a colloquial phrase used to describe the state of an infant that is satiated into drowsy intoxication after the consumption of breast milk. For the mother, breastfeeding means the release of the hormone oxytocin, which amongst other things, is known to cause temporary amnesia. I adapt the phrase “milk drunk” to encapsulate the state of being after giving birth as one of intoxication.

Sheets of tracing paper sewn together with red thread (about 2.25 meters long) are suspended in the space. An animation created from gestural watercolours is back projected onto the paper using a portable projector on a tripod. I painted these palm-size watercolours, which are all similar in style, in the three months following my second daughter’s birth. They took only minutes to make, created during stolen snippets of time between caring for my child, but through the repetition of creation I have accumulated about 200 of them. These paintings were scanned and are animated through a random algorithm, so the order of images never repeats. I move between the projected image and the paper, so my shadow disrupts the animation, as I trace my shadowed form onto the paper. A contact microphone on the paper sonically amplifies the process of drawing. I move the projector through the room from strip of paper to strip of paper, occasionally letting a hand, arm, or leg slip from behind the paper. My movements are angst-ridden and jerky, like crackling. The resulting scenario has an uncanny beauty that is comforting yet disorienting, much like the state of being “milk drunk.”

These actions were first presented on a small scale in conjunction with Strange Attractor as part of “Quiet Zone: A tribute to Jed Speare” at the Waterworks Museum in Boston, MA, 9 November 2018.

Photographs by Kristophe Diaz and Peter Gumaskas

Square grid with pink, green hues, and yellow with overlay of abstracted hands