Parenting the Visual Artist: Looking Back

When she was three, she did a self-portrait that left us speechless.
At five she first took on Women’s Empowerment, creating an abstract piece on several sheets of 8.5 x 11″ paper – carefully taped together, allowing for large scale expression – that she called “Woman with Backbone”. It was later used as a book cover on an academic textbook.
 We hoped we knew what we were doing.

My husband dubbed her “Our High Maintenance Kid” – HMK, for short.

She was intense, inhumanly sensitive, and incredibly determined. He quipped that if she just had access to a small country that she could run, she would be immensely more satisfied.

We hung on for the ride, scaffolding where we could, and providing as much encouragement as possible for her extraordinary needs and her incredible drive to produce, to learn and to contribute to the world.

Today she is 32.

She is a professional artist, an activist, a teacher, a writer, and a mentor to some amazingly talented young visual artists.

I offer these small historical insights to parents of similar children, from the perspective of nearly 3 decades.

The RAGE TO MASTER, EMOTIONAL COMPLEXITY, EXCEPTIONAL COGNITIVE CAPACITY, and INTENSE CURIOSITY – hallmarks of the very gifted child – are now all in play, in very interesting and mostly satisfying ways for her.
Let us keep building healthy communities and networks to support our children. Let us keep our belief in them stoked, and in ourselves as parents, as they grow and explore all aspects of who they are.