Q1. Tell us about yourself!
My husband and I currently live in Baltimore, Maryland with our two kids. As of February 2019, we entered the "life with two kids" world and it's a whirl wind - definitely a greater challenge than I was expecting! My work primarily explores movement and weight, both physically and mentally, within the maternal relationship - and I use drawing, painting and (soon) installations to execute those concepts.
Q2. How do you continue to engage with your art practice alongside raising children? Do you have a dedicated studio space and routine, or do you work from home in between other things?
Before having my son, my daughter and I were in the studio together about 3 days a week. I have a space, about 20 minutes from home, in a renovated warehouse with a plethora of other artists' studios sprawling between 4 buildings. I got that space when my daughter was about 9 months old, but also kept a little set up at home. I liked the two-space dynamic: a small space at home that I could work in while my daughter napped, and an outside space we could go to in either the mornings or afternoons. Now that we have two, I have no clue what I'm doing, to be transparent. At the time of receiving this acceptance to Spilt Milk, my son is 3 months old, and we're still trying to find our new groove. I have my set up at home still, and I'm currently trying to move into a new outside studio that is within walking distance of our house. My main focus, though, is inclusion. I want my children to have their place alongside my art practice. I don't want to shuffle them away so I can work - although I do know that alone-time in the studio is precious. My husband is amazing and creates space for me to slip away on weekends to get that alone-studio-time, but during the week I truly try to prioritize figuring out a puzzle where my mothering and my creative work can exist side-by-side. That demands a lot of flexibility and patience, which I'm not always perfect at, but we try.
Q3. What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
The best piece of advice I was given was from a good friend to "create the work anyway." Even if it's been done before, even if it seems like a crappy idea, even if you didn't get the grant or the fellowship or the exhibition you were proposing the work for - create the work anyway. Another great piece of advice from another artist-mom was to remember that the creation of your work will ebb and flow in seasons as a mom, but luckily you don't need to create work everyday to qualify as an artist. Take a break when mothering needs to take priority, and push in when your art can take priority.
Q4. How has the experience of motherhood impacted your practice on an emotional/intellectual level?
My experience of motherhood has mainly impacted my work conceptually. My ideas have grown in depth, my execution has grown in efficiency, and the patience in working out motherhood has translated to a patience with my art. I used to kill ideas before they even had time to exist. Now, I don't overthink, I just execute, I am patient with my drawings as they take form, and a lot of depth has grown from that. How motherhood has impacted my work on an emotional level? I can never find the words to articulate that. I think that's why my work has actually thematically become about the maternal, whereas before children it wasn't. I need my work to process those maternal emotions.
What drives you to continue to create work?
Mainly what drives me to continue to create work is first and foremost the aid it offers in helping me process my experience within motherhood. So much of motherhood is inexplicable as intense; opposite emotions exist side-by-side. You can feel deep love right next to strong resentment. Loneliness exists right next to never being alone. My work helps me process that whirlwind. I also hate how little contemporary art investigates motherhood in a raw way. Where is the tearing, the squeezing, the blowing up only to deflate in a wrinkly fashion? I don't want to see anymore paintings of rose-y cheeked breastfeeding moms. I want to see raw thoughts, and am trying to expose my own raw thoughts through my work in hopes that people will respond.
LEE NOWELL-WILSON is a figurative artist, living and working in Baltimore, MD. Through drawing, painting and installation, her work investigates weight, movement and physicality of the maternal form. She earned her BFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2011, and has participated in artist residencies in Annapolis, MD, and Lyon, France. Her work has exhibited in Baltimore, New York City, Italy and France, and she has completed murals + urban art pieces in Norway, France, Northern Ireland and Chile. Nowell-Wilson has also been featured in Maker’s Magazine, Bmore Art, Create! Magazine, and the online blog “Both Mother and Artist”.