Can our interconnectedness inspire us towards unity in a time of climate and cultural crisis? Heather Bird Harris is an artist dedicating her life and work towards this effort. Inspired by nature and interested in the human effect on it, Heather has been creating work that responds to and captures the land. From polluted water collected on the banks of the Mississippi River to foraged marigolds, to clay dug up from her own from yard, Heather uses site specific materials to explore behavior, change, reaction and flow.
In this episode we share a powerful and intense conversation about our collective history and how it is connected to our current environmental crisis. From the impact of colonialism on the city of New Orleans and its land to the damage we see in our own backyards, evidence is everywhere of the great things we are losing due to corporate greed and continued climate change. But somehow amidst these heavy topics, I walked away from my conversation with Heather feeling inspired and uplifted. Heather believes that beauty is what will draw us in and invite us towards healing, not fear. Her work is her testament to this belief and it is evident upon first glance.
Heather spent most of her adult life in the great city of New Orleans. It is where she had her babies and started her family, where her career in education and social activism was born. She spent many years as a teacher, principle, and anti-racism educator before her experience of motherhood brought her back to her first love… art.
Listen to this incredibly powerful episode to hear more about Heather’s work and her journey as an educator, artist, and activist. You will be inspired by Heather’s call for intention and care and reminded of your place in this interconnected web of community we are building as you listen.
Final Five: Biggest Art Crush: Anne Hamilton, Helen Frankelthaler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Rick Lowe, Renee Royale
In today’s episode, I talk with Leeah Joo, a Korean-American oil painter based in Connecticut. Born in Seoul to a sculptor father and an illustrator mother, Leeah moved to Indiana when she was 10. Our discussion ranges from how Leaah navigated the move to the U.S. as a child to how she has told the story of her heritage through her paintings. She studied painting and art history at Indiana University Bloomington and received an MFA in painting from Yale. She currently lives in Connecticut teaching at Southern CT State University and Paier College.
I was fascinated to hear Leeah talk about adjusting to attending elementary school in the U.S. prior to learning English. She describes how her younger self used her drawing skills to bond and communicate with her peers without needing to use words. I can see how her skills with visual communication served her well as a child and as a professional artist!
Leeah also shares that she was encouraged by her instructors in art school to pursue her own identity in her work. She explains that she really embraced this idea when she became a mother and wanted to share Korean folklore with her children. Leeah shares how her mother-in-law’s love of curtains opened her eyes to how fabric can express identity, and she has consistently used realistic renderings of fabric across her various series.Since Leah’s trompe l’oeil paintings consistently include fabric, we spend a moment bonding over the struggle to organize a studio overflowing with textiles.
Leeah’s work has evolved over time, from more overt storytelling toward more distilled representation of ideas. She tells me how Covid lockdown and the resulting closure of her previous gallery actually freed her to explore new themes in her work. As a grounded and established artist, Leeah is focusing on wellbeing and working towards being the best she can be technically as a painter. We discussed the freedom she has to embrace the ebb and flow of her practice, moving from identity-focused narrative to her more recent more formally focused work with confidence.
Biggest Art Crush: Yamoo – shows at gagosian
Dream Trip: Crete and the Hermitage collection in Russia
In today’s episode I speak with a friend who has been along the ride with me since the beginning of my artist community building journey. Born and raised in North Carolina, Jean Gray Mohs is an incredible artist and member of her community with an inspiring story. Jean Gray has a BFA in Painting and Masters of Arts in Teaching both from Georgia Southern University. She has exhibited at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Art, Greenhill Gallery, and Meredith College.
We discuss how Jean Gray’s work transformed from traditional painting to wall-mounted wooden forms after facing years of chronic illness and ultimately a double lung transplant. She has always been an artist, from amazing creative output as a young child to boarding school in an arts-focused high school. We talk about how she shifted her work toward watercolor to fit nicely in with early motherhood to twins and how after she received her transplant she felt a tremendous freedom after having faced her own mortality and coming out the other side.
I love Jean Gray’s work and how even though it’s 2D it feels so sculptural! The pieces are collaged wooden shapes forming striking compositions. She shares how much her newfound wellbeing post-transplant led to feeling she could do anything and she was not confined by traditional painting norms, even the traditional rectilinear shape of a canvas. I think operating in this type of freedom is what brings her to her own definition of success: being content.
I really admire Jean Gray’s ongoing commitment to both community building and a serious commitment to the work of building her own practice in a focused and disciplined way. She’s always been there as I’ve built the Artist/Mother Community and more recently the Thrive Together Network. In her own work running collectives and curating shows, I know she really gets the importance of the push and pull between operating in community and then doing the work to build your own practice. I’m excited she will be joining the Thrive Together Network’s upcoming Virtual Art Residency with me this fall, where we do just that! The residency is designed to meet you where you are to help you carve out time to focus on your practice through TTN’s guided structure and weekly check-ins!
Want to join Jean Gray and I on the artist residency this season? We start August 21st! Learn more here and access our special Artist/Mother discount for a Thrive Together Network Membership! WATCH THIS for full residency information!
Final Five: Biggest Art Crush: Andrea Zittel and CJ Hendry Dream Trip: New York – finally flying after 6 years for a group show and Japan is the dream Film or book: No Mud, No Lotus by Thích Nhất Hạnh Favorite meal: Any Indian food Shoutout: Grandmother Blackford, parents, all communities throughout the years
Transitioning back to the studio after a summer focusing on the family can be a challenge. On this episode I wanted to walk you through 5 steps for getting back to your art after a break! I hope this conversation is a dose of encouragement and affirmation for the season you are in.
Step 1: Set The Date Step 2: Reflect On The Break Step 3: Clean Up Step 4: Make A Mark Step 5: Plan Small
And my biggest tip is for getting back into the swing of things is to get some accountability and join our Art Residency! We have a 6 week Art Residency program that is launching August 21st… this is your official invitation to join us.
And we mentioned you can join TTN at our discounted rate for Artist Caregivers!! This link gives you $10 off the monthly membership or $35 off the already discounted yearly membership (your best deal) Artist Caregiver Network Group <— check it out here
143: Maintaining a Sense of Self as an Artist and a Caregiver with Tara Carpenter Estrada, Kate Windley and Hannah Foster
143: Maintaining a Sense of Self as an Artist and a Caregiver with Tara Carpenter Estrada, Kate Windley and Hannah Foster
How do we maintain our sense of self and our boundaries with the intense demands of caregiving alongside our passions for our art practices? We explore these ideas in a meaningful discussion with the curator of the Together/Alone exhibition at Stay Home Gallery and two of the artists from the show. I hope you will take a moment to slow down and absorb the wisdom shared by curator Tara Carpenter Estrada and artists Hannah Foster and Kate Windley – both of whom care for people with disabilities alongside their studio work.
Tara shares her vision for the exhibition, and how her call for submissions asked how people express the tension within caregiving of never being alone yet feeling the conflicting sense of loneliness within caregiving. Kate Windley approaches these ideas in work rooted in the personal experience caring for her son with disabilities. The work on view in the show is a coat made from urine bags, material that is a necessary part of her son’s care. She explains how she finds power in taking something people can feel is negative, but through turning it into something wearable it expresses an acceptance. Hannah Foster cares for people with disabilities in her day job and discusses how this leads to an acceptance of “slow art” made on its own timescale and how her work more subtly tackles ideas of trauma as a result of caregiving.
In my own life, I’m newly pondering my identity as I finish up the first year of having all three of my children in school, and seeing how I value slowness in my daily life with my newfound time. I pose the question to the group about how to navigate identity alongside such demanding caregiving responsibilities. Kate shares how her ability to make work is tied to other’s ability to care for her son, and how crucial it is for her own health that she is wise about the people she surrounds herself with. Hannah shares how being able to have a sense of control over her own response to the needs of others is crucial in caring for herself, and ultimately supportive her ability to care for others. Tara reminds us all that acceptance of the ebbs and flows of what we are able to accomplish in the studio because of the demands of life is always so important.
I’m so grateful for all the artists that Tara brought into the gallery space for the Together/Alone exhibition and for our past collaboration on the An Artist and A Mother book published through Demeter Press. These questions of isolation and the impact of caregiving on caregivers are so important, and Hannah and Kate’s wisdom is so valuable. I hope you have a lot to ponder after listening to this episode, and as a result you tune into your own needs and how important it is that we don’t lose sight of caring for ourselves.
Final Five Kate:
Biggest Art Crush: Janine Antoni
Dream Trip: Mountains of North Carolina
Film or book: William Blake Versus the World
Favorite meal: Sandwiches (to allow more studio time)
In this episode, I talk with painter and conceptual artist, Crystalle Lacouture. Crystalle’s work is so timely and important right now as we face increased gun violence in the US as well as an increased cultural awareness around the importance of holding space for grief and mourning. With a father working in hospitality in high end hotels and restaurants, and a mother who established herself as a well-known herbalist, Cyrstalle developed a sense of formal material awareness, well-being, and sumptuousness early on.
Crystalle holds a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Skidmore College and spent time in Brooklyn with her husband before moving to Massachusetts to raise their three children. Early on, she worked as a studio assistant for Nancy Spero and Leon Golub, and their activism remained an influential force in her life. We discuss how her inclinations toward the visual were present when she received the very unexpected news that her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in the height of the Covid-19 lockdown. Crystalle’s response was to send Mama Drawings, gouache interventions on top of paper targets from a gun range, as a form of protectionfor her mother since she was not able to be physical with her at the end of her life.
We discuss how these formal interventions of geometric and mandala-like forms on top of the violent masculine form of the target are infinite in their possibilities and so powerful symbolically. Crystalle has evolved the work to offer the act of repetitive form-making as a ritual of love and protection for all facing increased risk of gun violence, and we discuss her hopes to share large installations of the work with her audience.
We bond over and appreciate the value of the walk from home to detached backyard studio as artists raising children. As we wrap up, we discuss how Crystalle’s various conceptual works address the practice of singing lullabies as an act of care and the process of ritualized grieving as personal ritual and art practice. As Crystalle shares, “Repetition is love”, and I connected so strongly with the idea that repeating something makes it devotional and that making a repetitive system can show something or someone that you love it. I hope you connect with the ways that Crystalle uses form, beauty, and devotional practices to show care as well as instigate very hard conversations about violence, loss, and grief.
Biggest Art Crush: Mary Sully
Dream Trip: Japan
Film or book: The Sea, the Sea
Favorite meal: A long table of fresh food in the south of France