Monday, May 5, 2014

VICKI AYRES - BENSON

  


  What is your name?

  Vicki Ayres-Benson


Where are you from?

My father was in the military so I was born in Mississippi, moved to Hawaii when I was 3 and Arizona went I was 6. I moved to Indiana with my then boyfriend after earning my BFA in sculpture at the age of 26. We were only going to stay 3 years, then move the California  so I could pursue my masters. We broke up and I stayed in Indiana.


Where do you live?

 I live in Indianapolis and since my family moved here to be with me, I guess I have to stay LOL


When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

 I realized when I was 7 years old that I wanted to be an artist. I remember learning about Vincent Van Gogh and thinking that I wanted to paint like that. When we went to the school library I always looked for art instruction and other art books to check out.


Who influenced you as an artist?


I  find inspiration everywhere, from other artists, nature, and random textures and colors. I am constantly influenced by artworks I see, but I never quite make my work look like any of those influences. As for people influencing me, I had a great high school art teacher and I can still remember her excitement when I developed a new skill. I also had an art teacher in college who gave me the confidence I needed to pursue art. I started college as a math education major, trying to pick a responsible career. Mr Garrison always told me I could make it in art.





What is your favorite medium?

I am drawn to interesting textures and color and I still love the figure. I love combining unusual materials, like oil paint, ink, shellac, paper, and carving then painting on wood. I draw,paint and sculpt, whatever catches my mood.




Do you have a studio? 

Where is it? My classroom is my current studio. I have access to any tools I need, and I keep the mess out of my house. 



When did you become a mother? 

That’s a long story… I had my first child when I was 15. Due to my age, and the times, I was forced to place him for adoption. I tried several times to have another child, but when I did manage to get pregnant, I would lose the baby. I found my son when he turned 21. A few years later I found his father and we ended up getting married and having a little girl. They are nearly 30 years apart in age. I have been a mother since I was 15 but did not get to hold and raise my own baby until I was nearly 45.



What are your challenges as a mother artist?

My biggest challenge is finding time to create my work. Since I am also a full time art teacher, many people think I get to make art all day. For the most part I only get to work on my own art after school when I am done with grading, setting up my room, creating lesson plans and hanging student work. Occasionally I will get some  time during my one free period of the day to get something done. I have had to learn how to get back into my artist mode at the drop if a hat, and that is just not something I can always do, but something I must do. I need to create, so I find a way.



What has been the driving force behind keeping a balance between being a mother and an artist?

I am not sure I am good at keeping a balance, but there is no way I can be anything else. It’s like asking me how I handle being a woman. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am an artist. I am a teacher. Sometimes I have to carve out time to focus on one part of me more than the other, but I am always all of those things.


 
When do you spend time making art?

My work is always out. I might sneak over for 5 minutes, or I might go in on the weekend. When I do in on the weekend, my daughter is with me, making her own art. When I find time during the day, there is always a student nearby asking me what I am doing. I am never alone. I am never alone except in the shower and on my drive to work.


How many children do you have? Do you want more?

I have had 5 pregnancies. One was lost to adoption, and though I have found him, I will never be his only Mom.  Three I lost to miscarriage. One I get to hold and love.  It terrifies me and fills me with joy. I thought I would have at least 3. I tried to have another after my daughter, but was not able to. I have considered adoption, but feel that if that is a path I am meant to walk then the way will become clear.


Have you ever considered giving up art in order to be a mother?

I do not know if it is even possible to give up art. I might not have as much time, but it just comes out no matter what the form. It is who I am.


Do you have support from your family and friends to keep making art?

People have always told me I was good, but never really taken art seriously. I guess that since I teach, that helps them feel like I am doing something real.



 Do you feel like you are taken seriously as a mother artist?

It is hard to be taken seriously as a mother artist. It is hard to be taken seriously as a woman artist. It is hard to be taken seriously as an artist. Period. I just keep making art, and don’t worry if others take it seriously. Maybe when I am really old and still doing it someone will notice.



Has becoming a mother influenced your art?

My art is so heavily influenced by my struggle to be a mother that I could not explain it very easily. From the pain caused by relinquishment of my first born to joy I feel for my daughter, my children are always in more work, at least symbolically. Even the ones I lost. Even the ones I wanted but never had. In many ways adoption is always there too. My father’s adoption, which left me knowing only half my roots, to my husband’s a adoption, which means I can provide very little information to my own children, I find the sense of history and belonging to be like a book where the pages have been ripped out.



Do you think mother artists are taken seriously in society?

I am not sure that women artists have been taken seriously. If a woman were to pursue art the way society thinks a true artist might, you know, like a male artist would, we are defective. Male artists are driven. Women artists are crazy. Mother artists are flawed.



What do you say when someone asks “what does your husband do for a living?” are you offended by such a question?

People often ask me is if my husband is an artist too. It feels as if they are saying someone like me would have to be with another artist.


What is your story?

 I am bigger than life. I share my story with anyone who will listen. My story is love and pain, and putting it all on canvas helps me heal. It screams Look at what you did to me! I am not the only one they sent away. I am not the only one that they don’t take seriously. Look at how much love I have. See the beauty that grows out of torment. I am not just this chubby art middle-aged teacher with a little girl.


 
What have you learned about balancing motherhood and your passions?

You cannot deny your passion, and if being a mother and being an artist is your passion, you will find a way. The mother artist will always ooze out.





What advice can you offer other mother artists about pursuing their passions regardless of their situation?

See yourself. You have to know who you are, to embrace who you are. You have to let all the parts of you matter.




What do you want to be remembered for as an artist?

I want to take this weight in my chest, this love, this pain, this joy and this fear and turn it into something beautiful. I want to create something that others will take the time to look at and feel something, to know that I must have felt deeply.

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