Arts » Visual Arts

Watching their eyes light up

A preview of the collaborative drawings between mothers and daughters at the Harrison Center


Erin Hüber with her painting "Safe Haven" - SUBMITTED
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  • Erin Hüber with her painting "Safe Haven"

The last time I interviewed Erin Hüber was April, 2014. At the time, she was preparing for an exhibition of her black and white photographs at the Harrison Center for the Arts. This exhibition, centering on her work as founder of the Mother Artist Project (MAP), documented the trials and triumphs of women who are mothers and artists.

In encountering the interviews and photographs of mother artists collected on Hüber 's MAP blog, you see these women trying to perform a balancing act, one where the societal expectations are often weighted against them. Hüber, who graduated from Pike High School in 1995, learned this in her attempt to make it through art school.

It's possible that the current show at the Harrison Center, Mother Artist Project: A Collaboration, focuses more on the joys of motherhood than the societal constraints imposed on women; the exhibition displays the work of five mother artists creating art in collaboration with their children.

"When you do a collaboration, you kind of have to let go of the control thing," says Hüber. "Because you're working with someone else and they get to have their little two cents."

Not all of the artists, however, felt any qualms about giving up control. Harrison Center artist Emma Overman didn't have any problem letting her daughter Annabelle participate in her work. And for Hüber, getting Overman's painting "Evergreen" in the exhibition was a must.

Overman's painting "Evergreen" that her daughter Annabelle added touches of chalk to. - SUBMITTED
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  • Overman's painting "Evergreen" that her daughter Annabelle added touches of chalk to.

"[Overman] said that she allows Annabelle to color on her work in chalk," says Hüber. "And then she can just wipe it off. But with this one piece, she just didn't want to paint over ... So she took it and imitated the lines. Someone told her that the piece would have been their favorite but it was ruined by the child markings ... I insisted that she have the work in this show."

The painting depicts a woman — a classic Overman character with a football-shaped head — asleep in a fairytale forest. (I find that the markings by her daughter were far from having "ruined" the work; it added elements of mystery and expressiveness to the composition.)

Hüber, who works in multiple mediums, has items in this show as well. She collaborated with four of her children, including the talents of her oldest daughter Josephine who enjoys taking photos of clouds.

"I used her night time cloud shot and created a scene with birds, all in gold, cut out of paper," says Hüber.

This exhibition also features several paintings by Susan Hodgin — one of Hüber's first MAP subjects — who died of cancer in August 2014.

"Stars" acrylic on birch. Another example of Emma Overman's work - SUBMITTED
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  • "Stars" acrylic on birch. Another example of Emma Overman's work

"I included Susan Hodgin's work in the show to honor her life as a mother artist," says Hüber. "I feel it is important to remember those who made an impact on the lives of others. Susan truly believed in the Mother Artist Project and she was the reason why the mother artists at the Harrison Center for the Arts have a nanny service while they create art."

Since the first Mother Artist show at the Harrison Center in 2014, Hüber has kept up interviewing mother artists, at the rate of one a month. One of the recent highlights is her interview with the New York City based "StyleLikeU."

"It's a mother-daughter team who interview people like Betty Johnson," she says. "A lot of fashion designers ... anyone who has bizarre style on the streets of New York. They find them and talk about their clothing and closets."

Last year Hüber organized the Mother Artist Market, which took place for the first time at the Harrison Center in May 2015. "It's where all the mother artists get together and sell their goods, their artwork," says Hüber. "We're going to do it again this year, in May."

All this work on MAP takes a lot of time, of course, time that Hüber might otherwise spend on making art. But she's okay with this.

"Part of my personality is that I like to give back," she says. I like to do for others... And I think if I didn't see the mother artists' eyes light up about the Mother Artists' Market or about being in this show, or about being interviewed — I mean they get really emotional about it — I wouldn't do it if I didn't get that feedback, you know? As long as I can do that, I feel like I'm contributing to my community, which is what the Harrison Center is all about."

If you go
Harrison Center for the Arts
through January 29


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