Mothering the Artist

Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, forever changed my perception of what it means to be a mother. Fortunately, my own mother, was no Joan Crawford. Instead, she was a rigorous advocate of my art, and cheered on all my creative activities. She was momentarily playful and unencumbered when she participated. She loved to sit at the table with me, and while I painted she doodled and sang. 

 My mom as a child in costume. I am guessing this photo was taken in 1933.

My mom as a child in costume. I am guessing this photo was taken in 1933.

On a very tight budget, she always managed to have money for art supplies. She let me turn the kitchen table into my own studio, which she quickly cleaned up before my father got home and she even encouraged me to paint murals on the bedroom walls of our semidetached home. During my teen years, as Cancer, then Parkinson's, and finally early onset Dementia began to erode her mind and spirit, her support and encouragement faded. I didn't realize until recently how this unintended withdrawal impacted my youthful decision to not pursue art as a career. Between the ages of 15 and 30 I rarely picked up a paintbrush. I just stopped thinking about art.

 Me and my mom. I'm guessing 1995.  

Me and my mom. I'm guessing 1995.  

When my mother passed away in 2007, I was 39 and already working in Interior Design. I had taken courses at the Toronto School of Art, and was slowly beginning my journey back to myself. Since I had lost her to Dementia a long time ago, I was surprised by how deeply her death devastated me. I was equally surprised by  the flood of memories I began to slowly unpack. The memories of her singing along in the kitchen while I painted, her letting me bake a Strawberry Cake all by myself, and then how she splurged on an expensive cab ride, because I had taken too long, and we would be late for the Baking Contest, if we took the bus. I remember how proud she was, when that Strawberry Cake won a first prize ribbon and a hardcover copy of Laura Ingalls'  The Little House Cookbook. I also remembered her stories about growing up in Romania, some charming, and others so sad.  

When she died, I  grieved for her and for myself. For the nurturing that I'd lost when I was 15 years old. However, going back to those memories at that kitchen table brought me back to my easel. To that place, once upon a time, where I had unconditional love and support. While creating art, I found that I was able to nurture myself, and eventually turn my grief into appreciation, gratitude and joy. My mother's nurturing voice never left, I just needed to listen.

 Early painting that incorporates an image of my mom.

Early painting that incorporates an image of my mom.

Going to classes, joining artists groups, making friends with other artists resulted in another discovery. That there are so many wonderful, kind and supportive people in my life who nurture my artistic spirit. Becoming an artist, meant finally finding my tribe. There have been art teachers and mentors who gently encourage me to push myself further, friends who cheer me on, students who explore and play with me, family members who come out to every show and of course, my husband and daughters who help with the physical demands of each show. And also the art buyers. Individuals who believe in supporting local artists in their community, who believe that what artists do is important and worth recognizing. These people all nurture my spirit and motivate me to keep on going.

It's because of my mother that I left art. It's also because of her that I came back. And I sincerely thank her for both of these things. The seeds were planted and I believe, are blooming at just the right time. When Mother's Day rolls around I think of my mom, I think about how she passed on her caring ways, which I strive to share inwardly and outwardly.  I also think of my dear teachers, mentors, art students, friends, family and the wonderful lovers of art I have met. Thank you for nurturing me and loving my art. For feeding and nurturing my passion. Although I am not my mother, and these wonderful people are not my mother, they have mothered me in the most important of ways. It is to them and you, that I am most grateful for this Mother's Day.