There’s ‘Pop Art,’ and then there’s Mom Art.
It’s safe to say my mom was the first person to realize I’m a weirdo. And an artist. But not necessarily in that order.
My Mom raised five kids—two boys and three girls. I was born towards the middle of that mess. Mom’s hands were always full. My Dad was (and still is) self-employed. We lived above the family business on the second floor, so it’s obvious to say that Mom never left work—both figuratively and literally. Mom worked with Dad in the family business, plus she also took care of all the housework and meals. Laundry never ended with seven of us to dirty it. Meals to dirty dishes seemed continuous. The griping and howling of five kids never ended either.
A mother’s work is truly never done.
I’m pretty sure none of the five of us made it easy on our parents, but I’m going to go ahead and assume I was at the top of the list for making my mother pull her hair out by the handfuls.
I wasn’t an easy kid. I wasn’t easy to get along with, and I wasn’t easy to understand. I know this now. But now it’s too late. With four other siblings to vie for Mom’s attention, it was a bigger feat than you’d think—even if it were just to sing a song for her. I always knew that Mom was there, but she could only be one-fifth there. She’d have my baby brother on one hip, stirring something on the stove, breaking up a fight between my two sisters and then I’d hear her say “Ok Nettepease-han’, your turn. Sing.” I’m sure it was some song I made up while using our boxer dog as my partner to dance with. Yeah, I was that kid.
I drew a lot for my Mom. I loved to draw anyway, and I realized I could get her attention and still not bother her. If I drew something and put it where she could find it, it would make her think of me. And I always got a “thank you, Sweetie.”
Then there were the teen-age years: I was a monstrous kid when I was in high school. I was boy-crazy; I probably broke all the house rules, and I know I could be nominated for the mouthiest kid in the U.S. in the early 1990s. For that Mom (and Dad,) I’m sorry.
My mom had more things going on than she could handle (most days,) and yet she DID give us her attention. It took becoming a mom myself before I realized how hard it would have been—torn in so many directions—and keeping all five of us content. I still don’t know how she did it. My siblings and I often ask each other “how the hell did Mom do that?”
A few years ago I decided I’d create a piece for my mom that summed up the way I saw those momming years of hers.
More about “World On Her Shoulders”
How does an artist sum up the craziness my poor mother dealt with on a day-to-day basis? Easy… it was never about the craziness. It was about A.) she gave up everything by being the best mom she could be B.) the love she has for my father and how much she showed us that, and C.) there’s no way I can represent everything she did for we five kids.
She had the world on her shoulders. Mom was a female Atlas. (Ironically, Maia who was the daughter of Atlas in Greek mythology represented and embodied motherhood… so maybe I’m have something here.)
The “world” on her shoulders (or more so a piggy-back, which Mom would commonly give one of us kids) is an abstract world made of a car (exemplifying busyness) and a tree (metaphoric for the family tree.)
In the background is an image of she and my father. I’m not exactly sure of the year—I’m assuming 1968—near their wedding. Mom gave up a lot in the late 1960s. From finishing her college education to making her dinner from what little meat on a chicken’s back piece and/or wings (so the rest of the family could have the legs, thighs and breast pieces); being the best wife and mother came first for her.
There’s far too much to elaborate with this piece—like the irony of “the perfect flip” hairstyle and the light blue attire in reference to the reverence and homage for the Virgin Mother Mary from my catholic upbringing. I leave the rest to you to interpret.
Mommas don’t letchur babies grow up to be artists.
My Mom never—EVER discouraged me from my dreams of making art and wanting to become an artist. I remember other students my age who wanted to go into the arts, yet who would announce “my folks said you can’t make any money in art.”
Mom knew that happiness was far more vital for life than an over abundance of money. Mom wanted us happy.
A mom and an artist.
If a woman is a mother and an artist, I believe both identities will come forth—in subject matter, stroke work, perhaps a softer palette. For me, being a mother is the most glorious gift bestowed upon me. I attribute all the good qualities of my mothering to my Mom. I guess I haven’t said in words yet, but I do love you so much, Mom. You’re the strongest woman in my life.
A mother’s art is never done.
I went back through some of my work and found a few pieces I created, based on my experience of motherhood—the good, the rough and the crazy.
I hope you celebrate your mother(s)—those who are still with us, and those who are no longer with us—in the best way possible. Maybe make her something she can hang on her ‘fridge. Happy Mother’s Day!