119: Processing Pain and Maternal Loss Through Decades of Art Making with Helen Redman and Daughter Nicole Barchilon Frank

Artist/Mother Podcast
Artist/Mother Podcast
119: Processing Pain and Maternal Loss Through Decades of Art Making with Helen Redman and Daughter Nicole Barchilon Frank

The cycles of life, of a body, are continually evolving and constantly pulled back into nature’s natural balancing act of birth and rebirth. In this two-part series with Helen Redman and her daughter, Nicole, we explore these life and body cycles through a look back at the incredible six decades of Helen’s art career and life. Born in 1940 into a second generation immigrant family living in Miami Beach. Helen reflects on a life path that brought her into art and motherhood. Through her bold use of color and line, she creates portraits of herself and her children with honesty, freedom, and strength. In this interview we talk in depth about how the death of her first child, Paula, impacted her so deeply that it wasn’t until she started going through menopause that she truly processed her grief.

After graduating from the University of Miami, she moved to Colorado for graduate school. She met her first husband, the father of her three children, and obtained her MFA at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus. Despite it being the 1960’s, Helen still found camaraderie with several male professors who encouraged her and challenged her to become a professional artist. She began her love affair with line and color – specifically these elements depicted within the human form. After graduate school, Helen “shot out like a cannon” – showing regularly and gaining momentum. In the midst of preparing for her first solo museum show, while pregnant with her second child, Nicole (who was also present for this interview), her first child, Paula, died suddenly and tragically at only 20 months of age. 

As we kept talking, we explored how this grief of losing a child and also the joy of bringing a new baby into the world could be held simultaneously – this tension being best explored, for Helen, through her art. Bright bold colors joyously meander through the paintings of this time period – the naked bodies of herself and her children exposed, but free. Her daughter, Nicole, recalls how the home they grew up in was always alive with color on every surface of the house – walls, floors, and even doors.

Thanks to Nicole’s practice as a Tefilah/Prayer leader and Head of the Hevra Kadisha/Jewish Burial Society, they both are now able to help others grieve.  Together in their respective ways, they have the clarity to accept loss and to be ever mindful of the beauty that exists between pain and joy.

Please join us for Part II in the next episode, where we continue this conversation exploring the incredible life and art of Helen Redman.

To see more of Helen’s work please visit her website and follow her on IG @redman_helen

To learn more about Nicole and her work, please check out her website and find her on IG @nicolebarchilonfrank

The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn

Expectant Artist AKA Green Faced Pregnant Artist oil pastel on paper, 43” x 30” Framed size: 34″ X 47.5″, 1964, GIFT: Elizabeth A Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum
Mary and Brown Dog, oil painting, 1963 in the permanent collection of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Helen Pregnant with Paula (standing), Ink on paper, 13 3/4″ x 11”, 1962, collection of Frost Art Museum, 2020
Nursing Paula, Collage & acrylic on masonite, 4’ x 4’, 1962
Baby Paula Sketch (in crib with clothespin and Chinese doll)Ink on paper, 17×14″ (approx)1962
Paul in Harvard Bib (age 2 1/2 months) oil pastel 25” x 20”framed 31 ¼” x 25 ¼”1966
Helen and Paula at home, 1963, photo by Arnold Gassan, Helen’s painting “Radka in Black Rose Blouse” in background
Maternal Echo (AKA Orange Faced Pregnant Artist) oil pastel on paper, 43” x 30” Framed size; 46.75″ x 33.75″ 1964
Nicole in My Arms, oil pastel on paper, 25”x20”, 1964
Nicole on Jacques’ Shoulder, Oil pastel on paper, 25X 20”, 1964, Collection of Rose Medical Center, Denver, CO.
Helen Nursing Paul with Nicole, 1965
Mama Nicole (29 Years)acrylic, 36″ x 29″1993 collaborative with Shira and Issac
Reconnecting with Paula, colored drawing, 26 X 20”, 1995
Nicole at 2yrs, 1966, next to her sister’s memorial at Columbia Cemetery, Boulder, CO. Commissioned sculpture by De Wain Valentine has been nicknamed the Lollipop Stone.
with Helen’s memorial to Paula in San Diego, 2021

5 Responses

  1. Staley pearl

    This is beautiful beautiful beautiful. So grateful to the artist/mother podcast and Helen for the open and powerful conversation.

  2. Wonderful to hear Helen speak of her art and her life in her own voice. Helen had my deepest respect from the moment I first met her work. I was touched enough to reach out to her in the hopes she might take me on as a student. My respect and affection deepened after meeting her in person and spending time in conversation. To this day, I adore her!

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