Art is my passion. I have been painting all my life having been inspired by my late mother, the renowned Russian artist Berta Kuznetsova. I have a BA degree in Fine Art from Pratt, but chose to hold a day job in IT.
At some point in my life, after I met my husband I realized that no one ever wanted to have a child more than I did. A year before I got pregnant I lost my Mom in a car accident. Being that we were very close, I felt her absence every second of the day, but even more so when I got pregnant. Mother is like air: when you have it you don’t notice it, when you don’t - you feel the void so much!
At some point a miracle happened and I got pregnant! As my pregnancy progressed, I felt as if I was born pregnant. I was really looking forward to my maternity leave, thinking that I would paint during the last months of my pregnancy. Of course, this is not how it went in real life. I delivered and forgot about painting for a while…
After the standard 12 week maternity leave, I went back to work. My first day back, I felt completely lost. It just didn’t make sense for my son to be at home with his nanny and for me to be at work. Days turned into weeks and I fell into a routine that involved breastfeeding at nights and in the mornings. I constantly felt exhausted.
After a while, recognizing that painting is something that helped me through difficult situations in the past, I started going into my studio. Initially I would just come into the studio, sit and read, or doodle something. At some point, I started painting, but painting for short periods of time on the weekends was not sufficient for me to produce anything complete. I would come back after a break, in a different state of mind, and not be able to continue the piece I previously started. I would start a new piece and the cycle would repeat, leaving me disappointed and frustrated. On top of that, physical exhaustion was wearing on me. Only my son was my solace among the chaos. He brought me infinite happiness and my world revolved around him, but what about me? Am I existent? Who am I as a person - as an artist?
January 1, 2002 - after months of frustration, an idea came to me. I will paint one small picture each day for a year, resulting in 365 completed pictures! That very night, I took one small canvas I had at home and painted my first diary entry. I poured my feelings onto canvas as a way of restoring my internal harmony and made a commitment to paint one picture every day.
From then on, I devoted 2-3 hours a night, after my son’s bedtime, to painting. It was my escape. I still had the usual challenges - lack of sleep, work frustration, but those challenges no longer bothered me. I was happy and flying like a bird! Daily, religiously, regardless of the day of the week, I went into my studio and wrote my story on a canvas.
After a while, I found myself lost between two worlds; the night when I can think clearly but am often creatively challenged and the day when my usual struggles threaten to overtake me. Which world was real? All I knew was that seeing the world through my son’s eyes was the biggest thrill and the happiest time of my life. There was nothing in this world I wanted more than to be a mother.
The time came when I started to skip art entries until I finally stopped. Initially, I was very angry with myself as it wasn’t in accordance with my plan. Only much later did I realize that ending the project when I did was an organic part of my story because I had finished my Art Marathon just as the stressed eased off! I needed the art to survive and to keep my sanity during this wonderful and difficult time. When I couldn’t physically function in this real world because I was absolutely exhausted: my inside world, my art saved me.
The result is 182 paintings that tell the story of my internal struggle and reconciliation of my two identities.
As we celebrated my son’s 15th birthday, I suddenly recalled these 182 paintings. Feeling an intense need to share them with the world, I created my website – showing the joys and sorrows, love and fears, chaos and colors that flowed through me in the first years of motherhood.
12 of these paintings are on display at the show: A Mother’s Art Marathon that will open this Saturday, April 30th at the Masterpiece Gallery in Harrison, NY. Through this exhibition, I hope to convey the feelings that I felt at that pivotal time in my life. I often felt like I was living two lives and my art from that time reflects that. I want to use my experience to help others who are faced with similar challenges find peace and balance the way that I did through art.
I am also scheduled to speak at the 2016 Motherhood Conference at Manhattan College on May 6 (mommuseum.org) sharing A Mother’s Art Marathon story.