I graduated from Pike High School in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1995. After graduating – I had a burning desire to be someone, to DO something and at the end of it all – teach art. I knew I was an artist and I knew that I enjoyed helping people and inspiring them to follow their dreams. I wanted to travel the world, see and do things – but before I could do that I felt that I needed to do what every other student was doing – so, I enrolled in the Art Education program at Anderson University.
Packing up and leaving home was an emotional event for me. Everyone has their own idea of what college is like. Some really get into it, and I- well.. I wasn’t so into it. No one told me that I would often feel lonely. Nor did I know that the amount of strangers that surrounded me on a daily basis would make me miss home. The very home my mother sold – so that I could go to college and she could move out of state for a better job. It wasn’t until two semesters in that I went home for a weekend only to find that my life would change forever.
Long story short – I went home and was in a near fatal car accident and never returned to Anderson University. In fact, I was forced to make a decision – and that decision was to never go back and that meant, I was no longer an art student. As tragic as that sounds, I wasn’t at all worried about my education at the time. What seemed so important at the time – quickly became not important. What was important was being alive, and nurturing relationships with my loved ones. Can you imagine being 19 and your life flashes before your eyes? I never in my wildest dreams thought it could happen to me! I was just thankful that I survived a torn aorta, 12 broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and broken collar bone. Did I also mention that both of my lungs collapsed and filled with blood? I actually died three times and yes, I saw heavenly things.
You see, I wanted to be in art school. I wanted to be an artist in London- or Paris painting my heart out. I wanted that piece of paper from an art school that said – “Hey, I am now an artist”…I needed and wanted that validation. I wanted to be the best student. I wanted to teach and make a difference. However, at the time – living looked far more attractive, and so that is what I did. It took an entire year to recover and even get back into a car.
I recall trying to paint from my bedside – trying to retell the scenes from my experience. What I saw when I died.. and how I felt. Instead, I was so frustrated that all I could do was cry. I couldn’t even come close to capturing it.. so I gave up! I cried a lot then.
I finally came to a point where I was able to be on my own. Packed my things and moved. I had my scars and everything I had been through was still so very fresh in my mind but I was on fire! I was so thankful for life… and really wanted to make a difference. I decided to spend my 21st birthday in Europe. An artists dream! Off I went.. in hopes to find the perfect life. After all, I was now a dream chaser.. I was an artist and I wanted to live an artist life – whatever that looks like.
Little did I know that my trip overseas would involve another major life changing event for me. It was in Zurich, Switzerland at age 21 that I discovered for the first time, I was going to be a mother. Yes, I was pregnant – and oh so sick! Not married, and wanting to be a free spirited artist- I had a quick reality check while looking at the positive sign on my pregnancy test. The news opened my eyes to a new me and for the first time I felt like I was forced to truly focus and take something seriously. I knew then that I had a purpose outside of myself. I had no idea what that looked like but I planned to make it good.
This blog is about being a female artist and with that – being a mother. Its about the marriage of the two. The woes, the thrills and the balancing act. Its about the journey and the story of a mother artist – and capturing her world in words and photographs.
The Mother Artist project came to me while in the bath tub. It was as if it was planted in my mind- I saw it from the beginning – all the way until the end. It made sense to me. I didn’t question it – I just dove in. You see, I have over 15 years of experience as a mother artist. I have stories, I had struggles, I still have struggles. But – we as a society have a issue. It really hit home for me when I tried to go back to art school . So- here is my story : I was a single mom of two young children, trying to make ends meet and trying to follow my desire to finish art school. The grants were there – I was making straight A’s. I jumped through all of the hoops of freshman year and was ready for art courses..- when planning my schedule I realized that there was not a single art course offered in the evening. I sat down in the guidance counselors office – nervously reaching for a tissue , as tears rolled down my cheek – asking the question “how are single moms supposed to go to art school?”. I mean, I was serious! The counselor shook her head and apologized .”I don’t know”, she replied. Silence filled the room. My heart sunk. It didn’t seem right . It didn’t seem fair. She didn’t have an answer. I quickly learned that art school isn’t for single moms and night classes didn’t exist.
I cried all the home.
I spent years stewing and fighting this silent “war”. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted both worlds. I wanted to be a mother- I wanted to be an artist. Why didn’t society (art school) support that? While I was slaving at a job I hated and trying my very best to raise two children on my own, my artist friends were graduating from art school. I felt behind, I felt out of place. I felt like I missed the boat- was cheated. So I made sure to paint when I got off work. My studio was in the kitchen and even while I was making dinner and nursing a child, I was painting. I was determined.
This feeling stayed with me as I tried to balance this mother artist life style. I was determined to make art even if I didn’t have that degree that said “you are now an artist”. So- here I am, a mother of 6, in a blended family – and I am still today, an artist and I still do not have an official degree. I am still a mother and I am now documenting not only my mother artist life but the lives of other artist moms.
The Mother Artist project is a photography project that I have launched this year. My goal is to capture the lives of mother artists behind the scenes. My plan is to capture the balancing act and expose the pure sense of dedication that these women have on a daily basis. My hope is to shed light on this hushed issue of being an artist and a mother. To create conversation and awareness. To allow that “15 minutes of fame” while creating a sisterhood of artists, a database or well of inspiration.
Thank you for your interest… Here’s to mothering and making amazing art!