120: Six Decades of Artist/Mother Life – a Legacy of Vitality and Creativity with Helen Redman

Artist/Mother Podcast
Artist/Mother Podcast
120: Six Decades of Artist/Mother Life - a Legacy of Vitality and Creativity with Helen Redman

What does it mean to leave a legacy? For Helen Redman, it includes preserving her art, but also continuing to nurture creativity and vitality until the very end. In this 2nd episode of her two-part interview, we talk about connecting the thru-lines in her work over the years, preserving her art, and passing on wisdom to the next generation of Artist/Mothers. What a privilege it has been to interview Helen who moves through life with such passion, grace, and dignity. A big thank you to her daughter, Nicole, also present in these interviews. She has added tremendous insight to our discussion.

The intertwining of life and death, of collecting and cutting – these are elements that weave together seamlessly in Helen’s work. From her sweeping and symbolic uses of color to her collaging together of images, Helen’s portraits are revealing and vibrant – “making something visible that is invisible.” Throughout the decades, diverse and personal patterns have been present in Helen’s work – a way to symbolize and reference more about the soul of a person. In recent years, fantasy has come to the foreground in Monstrous Times and Deities vs Covid, blurring the boundary between real and artificial. She recalls the importance of “seeing” people for who they really are, but also the importance of catharsis – a way to respond to the surreal culture that surrounds her.

As we wrapped up our time together, we asked both Helen and Nicole what Helen’s legacy means to her, and also what she wants other Artist/Mothers to know. Nicole talks of her mother with reverence – speaking to her vibrancy of spirit but also of her art. Nicole feels that one of the biggest lessons she has learned from her mother is one of following your dreams – “never letting the pilot light go out”…keeping the flame alive is so important! For Helen, the word “legacy” looms large – conserving her many decades of artwork is a task she doesn’t want to burden her family with (even though they offer to do it). She also considers what it means to be a feminist artist mother. It takes strength and perseverance to not only nurture a family, but also your art practice. Helen wants other Artist/Mothers to know that dreams modified are OK – that bringing balance to your life always brings a shift – when something new comes in, something else may have to go. To spend a life nurturing creativity – that is a life well-lived.

Final Five:

Biggest Art Crush: Black and chicano culture, Calida Garcia Rawles, Simone Leigh, Citizen Raja, Alison Saar, Romare Bearden

Dream Trip: return to Paris where her daughter was born

Film or book: The Disney animated movie Soul, the music documentary Summer of Soul, and the Swedish TV series Bonus Family 

Favorite meal: Indian food

Husband, writer, pop culture maven, and musicologist Kenny Weissberg, who has been her loving and laughing support for 50 years. Children: Nicole and Paul, and grandchildren: Shira, Issac and Ethan. Curators: Michelle Millar Fisher, Amy Galpin, Alessandra Moctezuma, and Lynn Susholtz. Stacie B. Greene my artist/computer wingwoman!

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

Shira at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, viewing her grandmother and mother pregnant with her. 2021
Helen and Nicole celebrating the printing of Designing Motherhood from MIT Press. 2021
Nicole with her cutout (age 5), Oil on plywood cutout, 40” x14”, 1969
Nicole’s Puberty (age 12), oil on canvas, 60X46”, 1976
Helen in studio with Portrait of Paul (age 12), oil on shaped canvas, 67” x 57”, 1977, The cartoon characters depicted were all Paul’s favorite superheroes. I combined them with his wonderful imaginary drawings of space travelers.
Paul Back From San Fransisco (age 20), Oil on canvas, 56”x44”, 1985
Sharing the Lap Lane, acrylic on canvas, 29” x 58”, 1993
The Change, acrylic on canvas, 40” x 30”, 1993
Nursing in the Time of Covid-19, Mixed media on colored recycled paper, 16 ½ ” x 11 ¾ ”, 2020
Matters, mixed media on cardboard, 16 X 10”, digital border by Paul Barchilon
Variant Lactogenesis, mixed media on wood, 23.75 x 18”, 2021

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