Q. Firstly, tell us about yourself, your practice and your family.
A. I am based in the United States. I am an interdisciplinary artist and have created bodies of work in painting, photography, mural painting, sculpture, living sculptures, textiles, audio and video. I create both large scale participatory art projects as well as develop personal work that responds to pertinent social and environmental injustices that impact my life and the lives of others. I have two children ages 8 and 3.
Q. How do you continue to engage with your art practice whilst raising children? Do you have a dedicated studio space and routine, or do you work from home in between other things?
A. My studio practice is built into our weekly schedule. Convenience is a factor, therefore, my studio is in my home. I have carved out three mornings a week, plus naps, after dinner time and weekends that is dedicated to the creation of my work.
Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me begins with focus on my children. My 8 year old is in 3rd grade and my 3 year old in morning daycare, so much of my morning is spent connecting with them before drop off. I teach visual arts two mornings a week at a local community college and work in my studio the other three days. When I am not teaching, I start my mornings with a high intensity workout. Exercise allows me to clear my head and process my ideas. After my workout, I am in the studio for about two hours before I pick up my 3 year old from daycare. We have lunch together and then I get her down for a nap. While she naps I head back to my (home) studio and squeeze in another hour or two before we pick up big sister from school. Our afternoons are filled with extracurricular activities so we are often out of the house until dinner time, at which my husband typically arrives home from work. After dinner, I try to manage at least another hour before the bedtime routine ensues. Overall, between naps and pre-school I average about 2-4 hours a day.
Q. Have you come up against specific challenges as an artist and mother? What were they and how have you navigated these challenges?
A: First and foremost, time management. I have had some practice at this now so when I get the time, I make the most of it and get right to work. Another challenge I have faced is overcoming the stigma of “mom art.” At the start of my transition into motherhood, I resisted creating art about my experiences of being a mother because I didn’t want to be placed into the category of “unsuccessful” artist; because you can’t be a mom and a successful artist. Even moreso, I came to understand that mom art when created by a mother is taboo. It is assumed that because mothers are distracted by the role of being the sole caregivers of nurturing life that they could never be serious artists, like men. In addition, I came to learn that motherhood as content in the visual arts is only valued when it is represented through the voice of a man. Throughout art history, men have been the sole voice in the visual representations of womanhood and motherhood. My recognition of the dominance male artists have in rendering the voice of women and mothers in the field of art shined a light on how prevalent patriarchal beliefs still penetrate the modern art world and how much further we as mother artists have to reach. It is because of this realization that I had to overcome the negative stigma surrounding “mom art” and allow my experiences of motherhood to be the central content of my work. Through my reclamation of this stigma, I have fully embodied my role as a mother artist and see it as my duty to share my experiences fully and honestly.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
A: 1. To trust my voice
2. To trust in my innate creative abilities
3. To find and nurture my voice within my work 4. To maintain a rigorous creative practice.
‘Patriarch confinement : The Business of Birth’
Q. Who are your role models? Who or what inspires and encourages you?
A: I gained many mentors through my graduate studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art. From colleagues to professors, we maintain open dialogue and regularly challenge the intent of our work. Most notably though is my ongoing mentor, visionary artist Dr. Bob Hieronimus, whom I also met during my time in Baltimore, Maryland. We have an old school mentor/mentee relationship. One where he sends me books and I send him back “book reports.” His influence is much a literary one, so much that now literary works of art inspire my practice tenfold. The more I read, the more driven I am. With that being said, I am also inspired by other contemporary women and mother artists who too advocate for the voice of our individual experiences as women and mothers.
Q. How has the experience of motherhood impacted your practice on an emotional/intellectual level? Has it made you view yourself/your work differently? Are there things that influence your work now that you didn't think about pre-kids?
A: My experience of motherhood has made my work stronger. I am more focused and more intent about what it is I want to say and share with the world. I have adapted my practice so that if I’m not in the studio “making” I am in my head processing and evolving my ideas. This creative thinking time is something I have developed through my time spent breastfeeding my children. The connection I have with my children is something that influences my work that I didn’t think would pre-kids. Pre-kids, I predetermined that I would never m ake my art about my experiences of being a mother and that I would mold my process in order to fit into the category of what is acceptable art. Afterall, I wanted to be a successful artist. But again, I was molding my work to fit within artistic parameters that were designed and dominated by men. My molded process to create artwork in order to receive recognition within the male dominated field of art failed to yield artwork that was unique and true to my experiences. It was forced and too separate from the intensity of what I was currently experiencing, becoming a mother of two young human beings. Once I allowed motherhood into my practice not surprisingly, my process flourished.
Q: If your child(ren) were asked “Tell me about your mother” what do you hope they would say? Are there particular things you are trying to show/teach them as an artist, a mother, a woman?
A: My goal as a mother is to educate them about their rights as individuals. I teach kindness, compassion and self responsibility. I encourage them to speak up for themselves and to use their voice. When it comes to art, my main goal for them right now is to explore material. I allow them access to most of my media and with minimal control, I give them free range to experiment with each given medium.
Q: What drives you to continue to create work?
A: My drive to continue to create my work stems from the lack of representation mother artists receive in the “fine” art world. For centuries, the depiction of the mother has mostly been rendered through the voice and perception of men. We are finally seeing artists who are mothers reclaim this voice in art. This process of reclamation revealed that I, along with many other contemporary mother artists, are redefining the depiction of motherhood in art. Therefore, for me, the content of my work has to be honest and clear. Mothers are artists and their position of representing motherhood in art offers a unique and highly valuable record of the world. Through our experiences alone makes us the only ones capable of communicating the raw mental and physical give of what it means to be a mother.