This week's interview features the amazing Isadora Stowe. Her work is beautiful and full of meaning and connection. I am so happy to have her in the series. Thank you Isadora!
Describe your art and your creative process.
I investigate how we interpret, construct, and negotiate our worlds. I am strongly influenced by Surrealism, expressing the inner self through symbolism and with that, creating a personal narrative syntax. My upbringing has been influential as well. My parents, who came from two very different cultural backgrounds, met in the Peace Corps in the 60’s and, our family traveled a lot Growing up in the southwest border region, and living for a time in Mexico, was instrumental in developing my work. These are the major themes: the connections we make with one another, how we culturally negotiate space and self, rites of passage, ideas of transformation,
My BFA/MFA are in drawing and painting which are my first loves, but my Dad is a printmaker, so I have employed that medium for a long time as well. Recently I have been using my drawings in videos that interact with my painting and drawing installations. I want my exhibitions to envelop the viewer, so that when you walk into the space, the walls are drawn and painted in addition to the hung paintings, with projected video and audio. I want the experience to be as sensory inclusive as possible, so that the viewer experiences a narrative syntax that will connect to their memories and associations with these images/sounds. How we construct our environments and make sense of all of these connections to self and one another are the hallmarks of my creative process.
My creative process centers around research, which includes travel, reading, gathering images, and for the past four years studying and recreating maps with my drawings and paintings. A series of work will come from fascination with a subject, and then the connections to other series of work will be made, and then something new that has been brewing for years starts to surface.
What's a positive way that your art has changed since becoming a parent?
It has deepened my understanding of how important my art practice is to have a place in my life. As a new mother there were so many negotiations of self, and in each stage of my child’s development, my practice changed based on how I was able to meet my child’s needs. I think with each step of her independence, my practice gets a little more space. I think that this is the real struggle for balance that I and other working mothers try to negotiate daily. The reality is there are more societal expectations for mothers in terms of parenting time and responsibilities. It is such a prominent and poignant experience for me to create and maintain that balance, it has shown up as subject matter in my artwork, such as my “Lucia and Me” series. I used drawings that my daughter made along side me while I was working in the studio, and I fused them together with traced drawings of mine on mylar to make new paintings. They create this kind of chasm where you can see both our visual languages layered together, making a new narrative at a time that I was struggling to achieve balance.
When are you most productive and what helps keep you going?
I am most productive when I am pressed most for time--which as a mother seems to be the natural state of things. Deadlines drive my work in many ways, they help me to focus and break down the process in steps and goals that allow me to narrow objectives for the day, week and month. I work best when I give myself goals and I don’t have any room to not make the work. I know several mothers who also work this way--I’m not sure if it is because we are mothers, and perhaps there isn’t really another option?
It’s all about keeping the studio goal orientation--if things are mapped out in advance, I’m more likely to make my fixed schedules adapt. One of my MFA professors, Craig Cully, gave me the following advice, “just go into your studio every day for an hour, even if you just sit there, make it a daily practice.” That really resonated with me, this daily commitment to the studio, no matter what level of productivity you accomplish, you just dedicate yourself to the practice. It’s not easy, and I think everyone has to find their own formula that's flexible enough to adapt continually as your responsibilities to your children ebb and flow, but if the intention is there, it will happen.
Where do you get the most inspiration for your work?
Everywhere. I pull a lot from my childhood, past experiences, past relationships; traveling and reading help me the most. Really any process that helps me leave who I am and kind of experience the world without expectations or a prerequisite of how it think it will turn out, help me to become inspired. I also try to create new experiences for myself like asking people for book and music recommendations so that I can get out of my trajectory of what I would usually listen to or read, etc. I am a big fan of the idea that there is so much more out there than I can imagine, and I’ve got some clues but mostly I’m figuring it out and staying curious about the world helps to inspire me. I also take lots of notes, when I visit galleries, museums, artist studios, find an image online, a passage in a book- all of it ends up in my journals, they are cryptic but they are like little maps. Sometimes I will get to an idea, and then I will re-read a couple pages from a trip or experience somewhere year’s ago- and then I start connecting the dots, and I realize it was something I was thinking about for a very long time. One of my undergraduate degrees is in Cultural Anthropology, so in addition to my BFA/MFA in painting and drawing, the fascination of observation as a tool to understand myself and make sense of the world is a major proponent for finding that inspiration.
Parenting does have its challenges and other schedules to think about. How do you give yourself and your art the space it needs?
I use Napoleon Hill’s quote as my mantra; “Don't wait the time will never be just right”. In addition to being a parent, I teach Art full time at a Community College as well as juggle a continuous exhibition schedule, and within all of those three categories are numerous commitment’s always vying for my time. I have to make choices everyday about how to juggle, prioritize and create that space that I need to make work. And it will never be just right, or easy, there are things I have to give up or sidetrack, mostly in terms of things that are “easy” like setting time limits for social media, watching TV, and making the choice that socializing is about quality and not quantity. Sometimes it’s harder, like how much sleep can I realistically function on the next day if I get in this studio time. My studio also has sections of art supplies specifically for my daughter. I’ve always made my studio a space for the both of us (I work in only water based media- for safety). This has helped a lot because she and I can still share time and be independently working, and I like to think I am giving her this gift of process and practice in the arts in this shared language that she can tap into.
Name a creative parent who inspires you and why.
There are so many who inspire me but two who come to mind particularly that live in the same city in New Mexico as myself are the ceramicist Sharbani das Gupta, and Book Artist and Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, Katya Reka . These women are my touchstones and inspirations. I can have a short conversation with them and I am completely rejuvenated and motivated in the studio. Creating a supportive community of mothering artists has been such an important prescription of health for me! I thank you for creating this blog and highlighting mothers who are negotiating this process. It’s knowing and having access to these kinds of stories that help us all. THANK YOU MEGAN!
I'm no longer doing Creative Mothers interview, but this will remain as an archive. Thank you for all of the love!
About the Series
Let's face it, being a mother can be the most challenging, and the most rewarding thing. Being a mother who needs to be creative can be even more challenging, it can even feel lonely at times.
So let's dig deeper into the lives of creative mothers, share their amazing work, and get some insight into creating while parenting. Hopefully, inspiring other artistic, creative mothers, and women who may one day be mothers themselves, along the way.
Explore Past Interviews
Suzi Banks Baum
Shelli Bond Pabis
Elizabeth B. Borowsky
Kellee Wynne Conrad
Kisco Print Shop
Art by Megan