What is a successful artist?
As a mother, an artist, and a full-time professor I get that nagging feeling so many times. That feeling that you need to be in the studio but you really should be spending quality time with my family. Luckily, my daughter is ten so she is able to do most things on her own. I am doubly lucky that I have an incredibly supportive husband and I feel that we truly share the parenting and household duties as equals. Still, that doesn’t keep me from doubting that I am sacrificing too much motherhood for the sake of art…. Or vice versa.
Maybe it is that nagging feeling that has made me take on such enormous, socially conscious projects. If I was doing “important work” it would be ok to spend long hours in the studio, right? In the past two years I have completed two major projects requiring literally thousands of art pieces and major community outreach. One project raised over $25,000 for veterans and the other raised awareness of human trafficking in Dallas, TX. Both works garnered much media attention and, more importantly, each project was cheered on by my tiny daughter. I was proud to include her in the making of pieces for both these installations, and when she quickly lost interest in studio work, she assigned herself the duty of “refreshment organizer”. She made homemade chocolate chip cookies when I had groups of volunteers in the studio and took orders for water and iced tea. She took flyers about the project to school and told her unsuspecting art teacher about the exhibitions that her mom was doing.
I knew that she enjoyed helping, but it wasn’t until both projects were squared away and we were heavy into the doldrums of school that I realized how much of an impact I had on her. Stuffed deep into her school backpack I found a practice essay for the standardized test that Texas students must take in the fourth grade. The topic was, “Write about someone who has used their imagination to make the world a better place.” She wrote about me. She wrote about ME.
There are many ways to measure success as mother/artist but it is difficult to find that sweet spot where it all comes together and balances out. I found success when my 10-year old girl understood that ideas are currency and art really can change the world.