“You cannot be an artist and a mother.”

a woman at an art installation
Me visiting Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, 2016

Sage Advice (?): Words by not just a drawing professor, my favorite professor – gave Modernist vibes with his rolled-up jeans and t-shirts. He introduced me to Jim Dine, Willem De Kooning, Franz Kline, and Alberto Giacometti–to the love of mark making!

Quitting & Rediscovering Art Through Motherhood: After graduation, I abandoned art, donated my materials, and ventured into museum administration. Ironically, motherhood rekindled my passion. With my baby on a blanket, I rediscovered joy in drawing, feeling the need to reconnect with my artistic self.  I love[d] (still do!) my babe, but

I also wanted to feel back in my body, I wanted to get back into that world! 

Inspiration Through Mentorship and Modeling: So, in an odd way of going back in, I modeled for drawing classes where I met my mentor, Wanda Ewing. She reignited my inspiration and introduced me to Ida Applebroog, Carolee Schneemann, and Ana Mendieta—women artists I missed in undergrad.

Opening My Eyes to Feminist Art: I began writing art reviews for a local paper, to get my foot back in the art game. I absolutely loved it—to this day, perhaps my favorite job–going to galleries, artist studios, talking to folks and writing about it – what could be better?

I started to notice a male-dominated art scene. 

Wanda: “Yes. That has been the way in Western history for eons!” MIND BLOWN. I started rethinking my education, looking around, noticing the women artists more. 

profile of a woman
the original logo for Les Femmes Folles designed by Wanda Ewing

Empowering Women Through Art and Scholarship: This led to my blog, Les Femmes Folles, inspired by Wanda, and curating exhibits featuring work by women, notably around the body. I was fortunate to be able to do this, as my then-husband supported me. I was able to go back to school and get my Master’s degree in art history with a specialization in feminist art.

A Revelation at The Dinner Party: In doing research, I visited Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, in the Brooklyn Museum. Before I visited, I thought of Chicago as “successful already” and “researched enough.” I did not expect to be blown away. But being there I realized that it is more than just a monumental, beautiful table honoring women in Western Art History. The multi-layered installation includes artistic process, information on the volunteers, entryway banners with a poem before entering–and to me, the most impactful part–educational information on all of the women featured, and their stories. History I had never learned.

Imagine what it’s like to have your perspective generally left out of history your entire life, and as a 35 year old, suddenly see it honored on the walls of a Museum. 

Championing the Legacy of Women Artists: From then on, I was determined to spread the good word of women artists–through my curating, through my writing, and through my own work.  Documenting and sharing the feminist lineage of art is SO important.

If we don’t acknowledge what came before or what is happening with half of our population (as well, all under and mis-represented artists), how will we respect them in everyday life and beyond?

Uncovering the Struggles of Mother Artists: I also read Chicago’s two autobiographies, the first written in the early 1970s. Reading it 2016, I could not believe how much was happening to her–being looked over, marginalized, not listened to, having to work extra hard to get exhibited and then exhibited properly–and, acknowledging mother artists even looked over more. This was another mind-blowing moment, which then started my research on mother artists. So many precedents! Alice Neel, Sally Mann, Mary Beth Edelson! How could I have not known?

Reflecting on What Could Have Been: As I write this, it still makes me tear up. Had I had this education growing up or in undergrad, knowing about the lives and perspectives of women and women artists before me, seeing them on Museum walls and in textbooks–maybe my (and many others) trajectories would have been different. Maybe I wouldn’t have given up right after graduating. Alas, here I am! Thanks to Wanda, my graduate school advisors, all the artists, historians, poets, and other collaborators I have worked with since to create so many amazing projects, exhibits, publications, and more.

Reflecting on this journey, I realize how vital it is to document and share the feminist lineage in art. It’s essential for our collective history. 

SO YES – YOU CAN be a mother and an artist. Your journey, voice, and creations are not just possible—they’re essential. They enrich the tapestry of our shared story.

Why this reflection today? To highlight the importance of research in shaping my artistic intent and approach to this blank canvas.

Going forward, as Helen Cixous urged women, “Write Yourself. Your Body Must Be Heard.”

abstract painting
One of my many Tributes to Helen Cixous. Acrylic, ink and pencil on canvas.