I lost my mother when I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school – 12 days before my 15th birthday. Losing her was so traumatic that I basically went into shock for about 40 years. I couldn’t remember her voice, her face, or even what she cooked for dinner.
“Are You my Mother?” began with a painting called “Legacy.” It was the very first painting I did of her and it shows my mother holding me as a baby, with my older brother – about 4 at the time – holding onto her. In the photo I painted from she is looking down at me with what could be interpreted as a loving gaze. But in the painting she is looking at me in anger, and my brother looks totally lost.
Those feelings of anger and loss weren’t anything I planned for, or even felt as I was painting. But I knew that I was onto something – a way to explore my own feelings of loss and anger at her dying.
Interestingly, after beginning the series I started remembering her again. It was as if painting her was my way of grieving for what I had lost in not knowing her better, not understanding who she really was the way only an adult can.
While this series was initially about my mother it has evolved to include other significant people and events in my life, particularly those family members who stepped in and did the “mothering” I so desperately needed.
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