Photo Credit: Louisa Fry

Photo Credit: Louisa Fry

 

About CJ Howard

Even though I participated in my first art exhibition when I was only 11 years old, I never thought I could be an artist.

As the overachieving first-born in my family, I was perpetually wrapped up in different models of success. Graduating top of my class in high school and college, I was determined to “be the best”, and to be honest, being “the best” in the art world terrified me.

So, rather than risk “failing” as an artist, I became an arts administrator. I led galleries, directed arts non-profits, and launched a variety of art wellness programs. I was bringing art to people and “making a difference”, but I was avoiding making my own art. Surprise surprise, I perpetually felt unfulfilled and unhappy.

Then I got pregnant, and everything in my world turned upside down. My energy levels tanked. I faced health crisis after health crisis. And I still kept beating my head into the wall, pretending like I was fine.

Finally, when my son was four months old, I had a postpartum psychotic break.

I was taken from my son, hospitalized, and had to completely dismantle my life in order to focus on healing.

Dismantling everything meant, all of a sudden, I had choice. I no longer felt obligated to another person or institution. My promises, my baggage, my expectations — they were all moot. This clarity not only reconfigured my personal life — it redirected my career. And from this place, I am creating.

Now, I am painting.

All my life experiences, pain, and creative awareness have composted together to form these delicate, complex oil paintings.

The brightly colored oil paints take on a life of their own. The mothers and children are both dependent and independent — often caught in a liminal world between joy and sorrow, consciousness and unconsciousness, life and death.

The paintings are helping me to process my own paradoxical feelings about motherhood, with its unbridled love, loss of freedom, and death of self.

The gift of motherhood burns down the forest — and then leaves the trees. The gift of motherhood connects a woman to her deepest self — and then smashes that self to pieces. The gift of motherhood requires a blood sacrifice for admission — and then reveals the meaning of the universe.

If you’d like to follow along as this journey continues to unfold, please join my mailing list!

I’m so happy to make your acquaintance.

Let’s heal this world through beauty together.

With luv,

CJH

The artist as an artisan of the sacred can cooperate in bringing the sacred to birth in this world.
— Malidoma Patrice Somé