35 has been a long time coming. While I'm no longer 35, I began this painting when I was 34, I think. Sometime in 2012, I believe, or maybe 2013, those years are a bit of a blur. I was running my gallery in Newton, NJ, a large 1250 sq' space where I was teaching, curating and exhibiting shows, and painting. Those years were great, and I have fond memories of the space, the art, and the people I connected with through art.
At the same time, it was tough. We honor and lift up women who do it all, and laud all the hard work. But, behind all of the successes, events, and work, I was struggling. My oldest son was 3 and in daycare 4 days a week, I was working tremendous hours, and my husband was commuting an 1 1/2 by to Millburn, NJ, and traveling on top of it for work. In the midst, we wanted to have a second child. I grew up with a sibling, as did my husband, so we wanted that for my son. All the while, my husband and I were discussing a move from Newton, which on top of everything was draining; not knowing whether to close my gallery, where we would go, what I would do.
The second time around, this process was not easy. Looking back at my life at the time, I can see why. I eventually got pregnant sometime in 2011, and was so thrilled that I wanted to tell my family and close friends, earlier than most do. I always felt if something did happen, I would want the support of my family. Sadly, something did happen, and I miscarried around 6 weeks. It was hard. I sometimes minimize the difficulty by saying, well it wasn't as hard as others' situations, but it doesn't matter. A loss is a loss and it is emotionally difficult to deal with. Beyond that, recovering physically was something I wasn't prepared for. It took a toll on my body and it took me almost a year to move on, not so much emotionally, but to normalize my body and physically let go.
This piece was started sometime after I miscarried, which the term in itself has a negative connotation and suggests that the mother did something wrong. I never felt it was my fault, and was hopeful that I would be able to conceive in the future. During that time I put so much pressure on myself, that I ended up with increased anxiety, a trip to the ER for a panic attack, and of course the side effect was an inability to let my body relax and be open to a pregnancy. After therapy, many doctors appointments for various issues, I finally found an answer from a doctor who, after some minor medications worked, told me your body is healthy, you can start trying. He worked with me, he was honest with me, and his statement lifted a weight off my shoulders. About a month later, I was pregnant with my, now, 3-year old son.
I've dealt with appliances as a subject for various reasons; maybe out of fear or just not knowing yet how to deal with the figure. They have become metaphors for people. Many are unfamiliar with the small appliance depicted in my work; it's a Sunbeam egg cooker. It was my mother's; she gave it to me several years ago to use in my work. This entire work is an evolution from my Maésta paintings featuring an appliance version of a Madonna and child seated on a throne. No longer is the chair the seat of the appliance, but a reference to a kitchen sink that has been collaged with egg shells. If you count the pearls, you will see there are 34. At the time after my miscarriage, 35 was the year when all things fertility-wise start going downhill (so we were told) and you become classified as high risk. This year hung over the head of many of my friends, including myself at the time. I ended up pregnant at 34, and delivered at 35, a healthy natural birth.
We ended up selling our house and closing my gallery two months prior to his birth, and relocating to a temporary apartment in Short Hills. All of my art supplies were boxed up shy of a sketchbook and a few watercolors. We were there for only 5 months before moving permanently to our home in West Orange. I took the time after having my son to care for him, minimize the time my oldest was in pre-school and get our house settled. That first year and a half are a bit of a blur with lots of sleepless nights and very full days. I produced little if any artwork during that time.
I gradually set up my studio, began teaching again, and I believe it wasn't until last year, that I pulled out this painting to resume work on it. I'm not one that easily lets go of things (as you can see). And, while some artists can just toss out a painting, say it's not significant for me, that wasn't the case. I needed to finish this, see it through to the end; it was important. So finally after 3 intense months working on this a few hours a week, I felt it was completed. It is done. That period of my life is over, but not forgotten. It was beautiful, tough, and while I often felt discouraged, there was hope that a second child would come, despite 35 hanging over my head.
Now, 35 is not such a problem and new research is coming out that suggests women who give birth at later ages, actually live longer! I stumbled on an article in The Daily Beast by Jean Twenge, psychologist and author of The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant, that noted 35 was derived based on French birth records from 1670 and 1830! It was thought that 1 out of 3 women could not get pregnant between the ages of 35 - 39. Those statistics lasted so far into the future that it affected my thinking about my pregnancy capabilities only a few years ago. New studies show 80% of that age group does become pregnant. So to those who have experienced miscarriage, struggles with pregnancy, fertility, you are not alone. I'm so thankful that this is a conversation that we are starting to have, and am very grateful that my second child did arrive, and thrilled that "35" has been resolved and is no longer on my easel.
Head over to my Facebook album of works in progress if you'd like to see the development and transformation of "35" over the past several years. Contact me for interest in the "35" or exhibit opportunities for the work.
I live so close to NYC, but historically I seldom take advantage of its proximity, shy of attending family celebrations. Now that I'm a short train ride away and I've made a commitment this year to start seeing work by other artists and attending shows other than my own, I finally planned a weekday art day in NYC. As a working teaching artist, this is something I need to prioritize more and with my kids in school for longer stretches, it's actually doable, or so I thought.
I've been lucky to spend time getting to know another creative mom from South Orange (next door to West Orange), who happens to be a published poet. Our meeting is a long story, and I'm not good at short stories. So as brief as I can, it involves meeting her husband, Lee Seidenberg, while figure drawing during a South Orange creative festival, mutually admiring our works, having a conversation, discovering his wife, Marcia Le Beau, worked with my sister-in-law in the advertising industry, told my sister-in-law about the chance meeting, she said Marcia was great, we tried to link up to socialize, hasn't happened because of our crazy schedules, and then Lee gives Marcia watercolor lessons as a gift, taught by, none other than, me. It also happens that my husband's name is also Lee and Marcia and I are both SU alums, oh and we're both Pennsylvania gals. Marcia has been taking my class at Work and Play since January, and I've had the opportunity to get to know her, help her develop her visual art, and discover her amazing creativity as a poet.
While I opened my field trip to all of my students, only Marcia was free to join me. The intended plan was to head to The Met Breuer to see the Unfinished exhibit. However, the NJTransit delays had other plans for us, and we decided to stay closer to Penn Station, walk the Highline and check out some galleries in Chelsea. We headed down the Highline, stopped in for a water at a sweet cafe near 10th and something, where I saw my first eye candy of the day: a Synesso espresso maker, an appliance after my own heart. Beyond the art today, I ended up shooting some reference shots of two beautiful coffee makers and a coffee grinder. As it turns out, Marcia has an acquaintance, Debra Marcoux, who is the director of Markel Fine Arts, and as it turns out, lives in my neighborhood.
Markel Fine Arts has a show featuring two artists, Sarah Irvin and Josette Urso, both abstractionists, but entirely different focuses. Sarah is a mom, using writing, ink, and Yupo paper to convey the temporality of memory and language, inspired by her experiences during pregnancy and early motherhood. I didn't get a chance to photograph her work, but you can explore it more through Markel Fine Arts. Josette Urso is a Brooklyn-based artist who uses landscape as her schema. Not only does she work in oil, but also renders incredibly complex ink drawings from her studio window. We bounced around a few other galleries, finally ending up at George Billis Gallery where I discovered the abstract, patterned works of John Belingheri. My photos don't do the work any justice. You need to see them in person. And, John Belingheri's show, alongside with David Febland and Chuck Aydlett, opens tonight from 6 - 8pm if you're in Chelsea.
We ended our trip with a visit to Underline Coffee which is owned by partners and husband and wife, Brandon and Debra, the same Debra who directs Kathryn Markel. They opened up about two years ago and everything, including much of the interior design, is hand cut, hand brewed, and hand built. We had delicious toast, and amazing coffee and tea, plus got a chance to meet and chat with Brandon.
Our time was short, our plans changed, but we rolled with it and booked it home in the nick of time for Marcia to pick up her kids from school. We're hoping to make another trip in to actually get to the Met Breuer. Keep your fingers crossed that we can make it happen; in the meantime, I highly suggest you read some of Marcia's poetry at www.marcialebeau.com. They are quick, witty, in some cases funny, and a pleasure to read.
Looking forward to my next post? Here's what's in the works: the background to my newly finished painting, a rare opportunity to purchase work by artist Tony Lordi, and a chance to own a one of a kind original work that will soon get a lot of viewing. Want to get these in your inbox? Follow me on Bloglovin or subscribe on the right.
An email came through my inbox recently from a local charity, Oasis, asking for donations to support their moms. With mothers on our mind I thought now is the perfect time to launch a month-long mission to raise awareness about Oasis and donate 15% of profits from my art sales.
Oasis is based in nearby Paterson, NJ, a city that exhibits a child poverty rate of 42%, compared to a 16% statewide rate. I've supported them in the past due to their excellent programs and their rating on Charity Navigator, plus 83% of their donations go directly to the women and children they aim to help. I've worked with and donated to other organizations in the past that help moms due to the direct link in helping future generations. By helping moms become self-sufficient, their children benefit directly by a higher quality of life. Moms are important.
All of the art on my web site and anything in my studio qualifies towards my donation (with the exception of a few pieces going out to exhibit this month). A limited selection of works are available for online purchases in my store, and most other available works are in my portfolio. Shipping is available for anything not listed in my store, just contact me with the art of interest and we will determine shipping costs or delivery details. If you're within a 25 mile radius, I'm happy to offer complimentary delivery. Any commissioned works, including my Wedding Cake Portraits, also qualify towards my donation. I would love to aid in Oasis' mission to "change the lives of women and children by breaking the cycle of poverty through compassionate programs designed to feed, clothe, educate and empower women and children in need." Enjoy browsing through my works and I hope you'll find some art to love that will help me lift up a mom in Paterson.
A special thanks to my mom, my husband, and my kids as we approach mother's day. I'm grateful for my mom's unconditional love and lessons in becoming a mother, and for my husband in helping me through the ups and downs of motherhood, and to my kids who have taught me a new kind of love and become creative in ways I never thought possible. Happy Mothers Day to my mom, my sister on her first Mother's Day, and to all of the moms out there who work so hard every day to feed, clothe, and love your kids.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Sometimes called the Kitchen God's Artist, I'm balancing mothering two energetic sons, a big mutt Ringo, making and teaching art. TraillWorks is the apron under which I create and teach. My own art develops mostly in my West Orange home studio, but is sometimes spurred through my teaching.
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