ART LESSONS: MOTHERS ON ART AND PARENTHOOD

ART LESSONS: MOTHERS ON ART AND PARENTHOOD

Artists and creatives on how art has shaped them and their children.

There's a lot to be said for inheritance. More than the physical belongings left behind by our parents, how we are introduced to art has a lot to do with shaping who we become. To celebrate Mother's Day, we spoke with several moms who are also creatives and artists (Batsheva Hay, Mie Yim, Kerry Pieri and more) about what they learned from their own parents about art and how motherhood impacts their work.

DESIGNER:

BATSHEVA HAY

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What did you learn about art from your parents?

BATSHEVA

My mother was a painter, so I saw her paint and draw endlessly. I was always around it. When my brother and I came home from school, we would sit on the couch in front of the TV and she would sketch us. I learned the pleasure of working with your hands. I learned to look at art and objects with care. We spent a lot of time in museums instead of at Disneyland.

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What do you hope to teach your children about art and creativity?

BATSHEVA

I want to make sure they value the process of experimenting creatively. Tie a scarf around your waist, paint polka dots on your shoes. Whatever it is, I want them to get that life is fun and that visual things can challenge us and inspire us.

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How does being a mother influence your work?

BATSHEVA

Being a parent makes me much more playful. It connects me more to my own nostalgia for my childhood and to that place of wonder. It basically keeps me young, which is great for fueling your creativity.

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If you could collect any one artist, who would it be?

BATSHEVA

Marlene Dumas or Cindy Sherman.

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What have you learned from parenthood that most surprises you?

BATSHEVA

I have learned how much of a kid I am. We are all big kids, of course, but I really feel more in touch with my childhood self since having kids of my own.

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What do you want for Mother’s Day?

BATSHEVA

Nice chocolate and flowers and to sleep late.

CREATIVE DIRECTOR & EDITOR:

HENRIETTA GALLINA

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How do you see your child expressing their creativity?

HENRIETTA

Grace is so observant and inquisitive of the things around her. And because her mind is developing a mile a minute, she dives headfirst into interpreting what she’s interested in in the most magical ways–whether it’s through drawing, sketching, draping items around her body, interpretive dance or impersonations. To me, everything she does is creative because she’s learning. She puts her whole self into everything she does–from tantrums to bedtime, she builds pillow castles, forts, tents with the duvet, homes for her teddies and makes up stories about the rooms, what they get up to and what the decor looks like. I’m forever in awe of where her imagination goes.

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What do you hope to teach your child about art and creativity?

HENRIETTA

More than anything I hope to help her retain the magic she has as a child. Raising Grace has really opened my eyes to that childlike spirit where the world is beautifully simple yet so imaginative, where everything and anything is possible. I hope to teach her to remain curious and to hone her storytelling abilities. All these elements allow for creativity and art to flourish.

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How does being a mother influence your work?

HENRIETTA

She’s definitely helped me tap into an energy we lose as adults, one that allows you to push your imagination outside of the proverbial box. Practically speaking, I have so much less time than I did before, so I work harder and, I’d like to think, smarter to optimize the time I have to work. Oddly enough, I actually get more done as a working mother than I did as a workhorse.

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If you could collect any one artist, who would it be?

HENRIETTA

Remi Ajani–I’m obsessed with her work right now.

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What have you learned from parenthood that most surprises you?

HENRIETTA

The ability to push through, persevere and overcome. I have gotten through a couple of life-changing events, and I don’t think I would have come out on the other side if I wasn’t Grace’s mother.

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What do you want for Mother’s Day?

HENRIETTA

A weekend alone, ideally in a fantastic hotel–no shade!

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What are you looking forward to?

HENRIETTA

Honestly, just the future: watching my child grow up, continuing to create and make my magazine (Citizen) grow, spend time with family and friends, travel, get back into running, fab dinners. I sound like a cliché, but as recently as 18 months ago, I didn’t know if these things would be possible for me, so I’m grateful and excited.

GALLERISTS:

CAROLINA WHEAT & LIZ NIELSEN

Liz Nielsen with her daughter Acacia
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What did you learn about art from your parents?

CAROLINA & LIZ

My mom cared a lot about art, individuality and creativity. She would give me paper and tell me to fill the whole thing, and then lay newspapers on the floor so I could go outside of the edges of the paper without worry. The main thing I cared about was making colors. I blended the marker colors together by mixing directly onto the paper, turned all of my paint colors into browns, and mixed my Play-Doh. This was never anything I felt bad about, so I think she was pretty relaxed about me crossing the boundaries between red, blue, and yellow all at once. I’m thankful for that. My Dad wasn’t so into art, but he loved hiking, and I think being in the woods was good for my daydreaming which I strongly adhere to today.

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How do you see your child expressing their creativity?

CAROLINA & LIZ

One of the earliest videos we remember Acacia making was on the computer. She had turned on the photobooth app and intentionally turned the mirroring on. She ran up and down the stairs disappearing in and out of sight, fading in and out of the screen from above and below. It appeared as if she were chasing herself in a loop and catching herself offscreen. We were blown away. We realized she was thinking about the audience and what kind of illusions created a narrative. Plus, she was exploring what the viewer believes is happening outside the frame–off the screen–and other than the sound, that is one of the integral keys to making scary movies, which she adores. She is still an avid scary movie enthusiast and plays with horror make-up techniques as well as short video thrillers. Naturally, she draws illustrative storyboards for some of these expressions too.

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What do you hope to teach your child about art and creativity?

CAROLINA & LIZ

Acacia has been strolling with us through galleries and art fairs since before she could walk. We hope to continue to grow Acacia’s art knowledge by taking her to museums and art events, despite her newly found teen disdain for everything we do. We would love for her to see the direct connection between life and art and the power that art has to change minds, inspire actions, provoke conversations, and to heal humanity. Regarding creativity, we remain open and work to feed her curiosities. As we run our own businesses, she hears us: brainstorming, talking about artists, accommodating varied artist personalities and experiences us problem solving. Hopefully it is rubbing off on her.

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How does being a mother influence your work?

CAROLINA & LIZ

Acacia is 14, and much like the filters that these young ones live inside on social media, she is into bronzing, glimmering make-up, lip plumper, fake nails and eyelashes. When she removes the lashes, she leaves the spider-like things all over the house/studio in random places. Each placement is a new story, the eyelashes as the main character. Carolina has been creating a photo-diary by recording them in their set locations as is, and Liz recently made a silver gelatin black and white photograms of them. Overall, finding inspiration from her teenage world perception has helped inform our differing perspectives between Gen X & Gen Z interests and trends. We’re fascinated how these filters are also changing the way kids are seeing the world, themselves and others. Getting glimpses of innovations outside of our echo chamber is key. Lately, we learned that social media may be up-ended with an even newer type of app Z-kids are moving toward called BeReal. I mean, should the gallery be on that now instead of Tik-Tok? It’s exhausting to keep up.

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If you could collect any one artist, who would it be?

CAROLINA & LIZ

Carolina would love a giant cobalt blue Carol Bove sculpture, and Liz would love a Huma Bhabha sculpture. Acacia prefers the large-scale Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture. Of course, we would share.

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What have you learned from parenthood that most surprises you?

CAROLINA & LIZ

We are often reminded that as our kids become who they are, they go through these really strange phases. Sometimes what surprises us is what we react to and what we let slide by without reaction. I mean, is quacking like a duck for one year straight something you would have called out? We let it slide.

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What do you want for Mother’s Day?

CAROLINA & LIZ

A handwritten letter or drawing would be nice, or just an ‘I love you’ will do.

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What are you looking forward to?

CAROLINA & LIZ

We are looking forward to continuing to be part of our daughter’s world as she grows into an adult. And being emotionally by her side, as she becomes the person she is capable of becoming. As we have learned very intimately, loving your child no matter what is the most important mantra.

ARTIST:

MIE YIM

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What did you learn about art from your parents?

MIE

Zero. Sometimes it is not in the genes.

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How do you see your child expressing their creativity?

MIE

Although my son developed almost a fear and loathing of visual art (dragging him to too many openings when he was little) he is very musical. He writes and produces music and has published two albums. He also plays the clarinet. 

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What do you hope to teach your child about art?

MIE

You can live dangerously through art so you don’t have to jump out of airplanes to get a thrill.

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How does being a mother influence your work? 

MIE

Childbirth is an experience of the extreme, going beyond what one could be capable of. Art feels like a cakewalk after that. (But it’s pretty close.)

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What have you learned from parenthood that most surprises you? 

MIE

It’s too much fun. Beyond what I imagined. Also, I’m not very altruistic, but for my kid, I would literarily cut off my arm with a switchblade if it would save him.

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What do you want for Mother's Day? 

MIE

I like all the cliche Mother’s day stuff: champagne, smoked salmon with caviar in bed, a massage. But please no BRUNCH out.

EDITOR:

KERRY PIERI

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What did you learn about art from your parents?

KERRY

There’s a beautiful art museum in Buffalo, NY where I’m from and we went there often, so I was exposed to fine art from a very young age which makes such an impact. But beyond that, I always remember my parents buying art, even from friends showing at local shows, so art was in our home and felt personal. My mom is also a pastry chef which is an art in itself.

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How do you see your child expressing their creativity?

KERRY

Lila expresses creativity constantly. She paints and draws and makes up wild stories and adventures. She also has these wood sculptures that she makes from wood scraps and glue that are major.

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What do you hope to teach your child about art and creativity?

KERRY

I think our task as humans is to get back to the natural creativity and wholeness that we’re born with. My hope is simply to not get in the way of one part of her innate creative soul.

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How does being a mother influence your work? 

KERRY

It brings you back to that childlike sensibility of trusting yourself and creating just for the sake of creation with no other motives. Just watching her be so present is so inspiring.

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What have you learned from parenthood that most surprises you?

KERRY

How life can change so drastically, but then it all just feels exactly how it was meant to in the end.

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What do you want for Mother’s Day?

KERRY

I know I’m supposed to say something sweet like a kiss or homemade brunch (both of which would be lovely!), but I’d be stoked with a Charlotte Perriand model 19 Bauche chair if someone wants to buy it for me!

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What are you looking forward to?

KERRY

Staying in the moment, taking our family on the road and exploring the world together, a summer of love!

ARTIST:

FEBRUARY JAMES

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What did you learn about art from your parents?

FEBRUARY

I learned that art was something that maybe you had the talent to do, but you didn’t celebrate it and you definitely didn’t choose to make a career out of it.   

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How do you see your child expressing their creativity? 

FEBRUARY

My son, Greyson, expresses himself creatively with every limb of his body. From the way he asks for his hair to be cut to the clothing he asks me to buy for him. That is his creative expression. He’s constantly in the studio with me, so that has seeped into another way of communicating for him. I feel it’s my duty to introduce him to everything creative that brings him excitement and joy. I try to match his level of wonder. That’s an experience for me. Everything is a source. I enjoy putting things in front of him and watching him navigate materials and make them his own. I learn from him. He’s better than me already. 

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How does being a mother influence your work? 

FEBRUARY

It makes me more intentional with my time in the studio. I’m constantly in my head working and reworking–this happens whether I’m folding laundry or cooking. I’m conceptualizing constantly. This allows me to, hopefully, be present in front of the work and let thinking slip away.  

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What have you learned from parenthood that most surprises you? 

FEBRUARY

Are there any surprises when one is learning? Every day is different. Nothing is ever what it was before, not even leftovers. 

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What do you want for Mother's Day? 

FEBRUARY

A break.

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What are you looking forward to?

FEBRUARY

Silence. Finishing a chapter in a book.

STYLIST:

AVENA GALLAGHER

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What did you learn about art from your parents?

AVENA

Sometimes I think that creativity or artistic ability is inherited in the blood, so maybe I got that from my parents.

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What do you hope to teach your child about art and creativity?

AVENA

I hope he learns constant/consistent practice.

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How does being a mother influence your work?

AVENA

I think it has made me more efficient. I have to economize my energy and time so there is something left for parenting.

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What have you learned from parenthood that most surprises you?

AVENA

That’s a good question, but I don’t know the answer. I guess I’m surprised to find I’m pretty good at it.

ARTIST:

EMILY FURR

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What did you learn about art from your parents?

EMILY

My mom was so good about taking me to museums, as well as letting me spend hours alone just drawing and creating. For an awkward kid, this outlet was an important way for me to process the world.

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How do you see your child expressing their creativity?

EMILY

My son loves to paint. I used to joke that he was “Ab Ex” because he would absolutely attack the paper with the paintbrush. He is five now, and it’s incredible to see him start to paint figures, objects and words.

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What do you hope to teach your child about art?

EMILY

Anything goes, just don’t be tacky, and have some depth to your thinking.

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How does being a mother influence your work?

EMILY

There is nothing stranger than having another human being pulled out of your body. My work became much more surreal, imaginative and otherworldly once I’d had a child.

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What have you learned from parenthood that most surprises you?

EMILY

Even though you have less time to yourself, you become a very disciplined and scheduled person. Everything haphazardly falls into place.

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What are you looking forward to?

EMILY

I am looking forward to showing new work at the Armory Show later this year with Sargent's Daughters.