I'm in Texas doing a family artist residency with Katarina Janeckova Walshe. This time makes me think about how I became a practicing artist after becoming a mother. I say "practicing artist" because I always felt that I am/was an artist, but making art became non-negotiable after giving birth to Helena. As a result, I have searched in the last four years (Helena's current age) for other artists who are also mothers. Being an artist and a mother simultaneously is a vast topic for discussion in the art world, but to me, the two things are the same. This is a conversation for another post. Here, I want to gather excerpts of the three preparatory texts that I wrote or had to submit to participate in the artist/mother settings that I've experienced so far: the artist/mother podcast Crit Group organized by Kaylan Buteyn, in which I worked with Barbara Campbell Thomas as a mentor in 2020, the mentorship program with Lenka Clayton, creator of the Artist Residency in Motherhood in 2021 and 2022, and now a much more informal email that I wrote to Katarina before coming to Texas.
For Katarina, in October 2023, I wrote:
From the painting perspective, my goal is to give myself more time to focus on painting instead of the many intellectual activities I tend to focus on. After finishing my Ph.D. in Art History last December, I decided not to look for academic jobs this year and focus on being a painter. I didn't finish art school (I started a BFA in Brazil in my early 20s) and never gave myself the opportunity and time to pursue painting. Now is a challenging time to propose this to myself, though, as I need to find ways to make money, and of course, I need to take care of the children! So, this year, I started an LLC, and I'm currently building an online business with print-on-demand and online courses. It is a lot of work, more than I anticipated, because I have much to learn from the "business" part. Anyway, the basis of everything that I think and do is painting, so I need to do more of it so I don't go crazy. More than all that, I have a lot to learn just from being around you and seeing how you move in the studio and organize yourself to paint. Ever since Helena was born, I've dreamed about creating a residency with mothers of young children. We have a shift in how we think and perceive the world that is unique at this point in life. That's why I jumped in when I saw your call on IG.
Here are excerpts of Lenka’s form. I’m not transcribing the whole form, but the answers that I’m copying here are my complete answers to these questions.
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 2021 at 21:32
Subject: Form Submission - ARiM Mentorship Questionnaire
Please describe your practice in a short paragraph: I'm transitioning from seeing myself as an academic/art historian to "coming out to the world" as an artist. My new friends know that I'm an artist and my old friends don't. I see myself as a painter and hope that all of my thinking/working will at some point translate into painting. But I really work on whatever idea pops into my mind. I want to create an online business selling various things that I want to make, from t-shirts to paintings.
Describe where you are at the moment with your practice: I'm in the process of re-structuring how I make art. I recently moved to a new apartment and have a different studio space than I used to have before. I wasn't able to find a way to have the studio fully organized yet. I started sharing my work on IG last year and started to have some conversations with people, which was fulfilling. I want to do more of that. I never exhibited my work before, and I'm not sure if I want to or how to organize for it. I'm in a group with 4 other artists/mothers after participating in the artist mother podcast critique group last semester -- we are organizing an online show.
Describe where you would like to be with your creative practice after the mentorship period (6 months) : I'd like to have my website structured and a webshop in it. Not by the end of the 6 months, but with a vision to it, I want to have products, artworks, and services like courses and mentorship available on the website. By the end of the mentorship, I also would like to figure out how to organize my time with my daughter better and make work while I'm with her (she is 17 months old now, and she stays with me most of the day + she naps on my breast, so I don't have that "nap-time" free). I also want to figure out if I absolutely have to do an MFA + if I can finish my Ph.D. + if the Ph.D. gives me any direction in my professional life as an artist.
And here are my answers to Kaylan Buteyn's introduction form:
Share a bit about your motherhood journey… how many kids do you have? What are their current ages? How do they affect your art practice?
I have one daughter who just turned 1 year-old now in August. I find that having her made art more present in my daily life, as I tend to have many ideas while breastfeeding and spending time with her. I also started to feel a strong need to actually put these ideas in practice after having her, so being a mother definitely has a big impact on defining myself as an artist in the world.
2. When did art come into your life?
I remember thinking of myself as an artist when I was a child and I grew up constantly having ideas and planning to make things that I would never find my way to actually put in the world. Somehow I got from my family the notion that being an artist is super important and that I would be too pretentious to define myself as such. I also had absolutely no idea of how one actually becomes an artist, so I went on to study Social Communication and then to do my PhD in Art History. I was born in Brazil and did my BA and MA in Communication there, came to the US to do my PhD (which I’m trying to finish in the current academic year). I came a long long way in understanding how to organize myself (both emotionally and in practice) to make art, and how artists build their careers especially in the US, but I still feel that I’m very much in the beginning of this path. I “came out” as an artist in my PhD program in 2018, when I also started actually making things and had to change my dissertation advisor as a consequence.
3. What does your art practice look like now?
Right now I work on paintings two or three afternoons per week, and I take pictures, make notes, organize different materials whenever I can at night after dinner or while I’m with my daughter and the idea that I have can be done with her collaboration. I’m working on creating a new website and I see that a good amount of my energy at night went to that in the last month. I also adjunct in the Studio Art department and my teaching is fully online this semester, so that is taking a good amount of my time — I should mention that I see my teaching as part of my art practice as I find many ways to create and test new ideas while working with students who are artists themselves. I’ve been feeling extremely happy with my art practice in the last couple of months, which is what gave me the courage to participate in this program, however I had to come to terms with the realization that I make things much slower than I would like to or imagined at first.
What materials and mediums do you primarily use in your work?
I use acrylic paint, paper pulp, photography and digital print. Recently I did a IG filter as an artwork and also did something on video, so I try to experiment like that too.
5. What ideas are you addressing in your work? I’m concerned with how we think and how our thoughts create the world. I find resonance with Budhist practices of meditation and with archetypes from Afro-Brazilian religions (mostly of Yoruba origin). I look at how we experience and define nature through culture and how I can do that with my art making. Finally, I see everything I do through what I understand to be the logic of painting: that of adding layers with fluidity.
6. How do you feel when you make art? How do you feel when you talk about your work and share it with the world?
I feel really good when I make art. I feel so good that I have to be a little bit attentive not to create a feeling of regret for not dedicating my time to making art since when I was a teenager and already had so many ideas of things I wanted to make. I didn’t have many opportunities to talk about my work with others, so I’m not so sure how I feel about it. The times I did talk I oscillated between feeling very good and feeling like I should sound more knowledgeable since I’m getting a PhD in Art History. There is definitely some confusion there to me (between being an artist and art historian) and I’m still not sure how to present myself with my work.
- Do you have a vision for where you would like your work to exist in the world? (in collectors homes, in a high end NY gallery, in academic galleries, in a trendy shop, I only care about making it, etc)
Yes, I want my work to be in collectors homes for sure — I particularly would love to find collectors who would enhance their daily meditative practices through my work. I also want to be in Brazilian galleries and in a gallery in NY (not sure what kind). I think I might have a place in academic galleries, although I haven’t explored that idea much. I want to participate in programs (academic or artistic) that stimulate the relations between art practice and the creation of theories.