When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
Art was always something I devoted time to, subconsciously almost, but never thought of it as a serious career choice until my third year in undergrad. I was on track to get an English/Creative Writing-Fiction degree when I took a figure painting class. Our assignment was to recreate a master painting from the Renaissance period that had at least one nude in it. We had to create the painting life size, and were given half the semester to work on it. I began to obsess over this painting and spent every minute I could in the studio working on it. Most nights I went home happily exhausted in the wee hours of the morning after working on this painting. The actual painting did not turn out amazing, and surprisingly, that never bothered me. I became hooked on the process of paintinng. That is when I knew this was what I had to do.
When did you become a mother?
2:22 p.m., 2/22/2012. And no, that wasn't completely accidental.
What are your challenges as a mother.
Work, the need for adult conversation, the desire to have a clean house, cancer, and of course, all the ways those things conflict with motherhood.
What has been the driving force behind keeping a balance between being a mother and an artist?
I turn into a very crabby human being if I stay away from painting for too long. Spending time in the studio is good for my marriage. I also earn an income from being an artist, so that helps keep me in my studio on a regular basis and eliminates most guilt I have about being there.
Do you have a studio? Where is it?
The Harrison Center in Indianapolis, IN
When do you spend time making art?
Mostly during the day. I am diurnal by nature.
What is your favorite medium?
Oil on canvas, though I occasionally work on small drawings, watercolor, and collage at home after my daughter has gone to bed.
Have you ever considered giving up being an artist in order to be a mother?
I couldn't. It would be cruel and unfair to everyone, and I am not sure it would be physically or mentally possible for me to give it up. That said, I love my daughter more than I love my art. But I love my daughter more than I love my breath, and still I couldn't give up breathing for her. It is the same with art.
What is your advice for a new artist mom?
First of all, who am I to give anyone advice? We all must find out what works best for us. That said, for anyone to make art, they must set aside time and space that is theirs to make art in, however that may look.
Do you have support from family and friends while making art?
Does a lawyer have support from friends and family while practicing law? Does a nurse have support from friends and family while taking care of patients? Hopefully. We all do what we need to do.
Do you feel like you are taken seriously as a mother artist?
I am sure not. I certainly hope so. But I take myself seriously, and that is enough to keep me going.
Do you think mother artists are taken seriously in society?
Rarely, and historically, no. I hope that changes soon.
What do you say when someone asks you "What does your husband do for a living?".
I never say what later I wish I had. What I hope to say next time someone asks me that question is "why do you ask?".
What is your story?
I received my BFA from the University of Montana, and MFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I have been working full-time as an artist since 2003. It is the only full-time job I have ever had. In November 2011 when I was 5 months pregnant with my first and only child I was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. I had the tumor removed and 5 rounds of chemotherapy while pregnant. My daughter was born and then I had 5 more rounds ( all while raising an infant). During that time I had 2 solo shows, one in town, one out of state, and completed the two largest commissioned paintings I have ever had. After I finished the chemo, I was cancer-free for almost 1 1/2 years. In August 2013 they discovered another tumor in my liver. I had two more surgeries and am currently doing another course of chemotherapy. The recurrence puts me in Stage IV. I have had so much wonderful support from family, friends, and strangers through all of this. I have learned that no matter how weak I feel, that I am stronger than I know. I have learned that people are fundamentally kind. I have learned how close we all are to life and to death. I have learned that moments count so I had better enjoy them.
What advice can you give to other artist moms about pursing their passions regardless of their situation?
Know that - some artist moms do give up making art and often times this creates a path of resentment and heartache. Make time, make space even if it is rare and tiny. At home my space is a plastic box of watercolors, pencils and paper stashed under the couch. My time is at night, after my daughter goes to bed, before I fall asleep, on the nights that there is any time. At work, I have a studio and daycare, a daycare I created when I couldn't find what I was looking for when I was ready to go back to work. It isn't easy.
To see more of Susan Hodgin's work check out her website at :
The Harrison Center For the Arts
1505 N Delaware St.
Indianapolis, IN 46142