Inspired by scientific theory the art of Tara Flores is brilliantly vibrant and filled with a sense of high energy. Each large scale canvas is covered with lines, shapes and dashes visually representing the experience of life and the beauty of science. A mother of two, Tara successfully balances her passion for art and her responsibilities as a parent enriching her life and the life of her children in the process, I find out how she does it in this Artist Meets Mother interview.
Tell me a bit about your art. What inspires you to paint?
I paint multi-layered abstract pieces that usually include line work or dashes over top all the layers of washes and brushstrokes. My style has changed a little in the past year or two but I feel like I’m circling and narrowing in on what will be a way of working that holds my interest and feels right. I’ve always been interested in science and since art school I’ve been inspired by the movement of energy as it relates to emotion, communication, and health. I wonder about the microscopic mechanisms that allow us to feel such a crazy range of feelings and let other beings know what we want them to know. I’m also fascinated by the transition from health to illness and back again. In my recent series the dashes often represent photons and are meant to convey this movement of energy. In the past year or so I’ve also met a few wonderful artists online that I’m now collaborating with and that’s really exciting. It’s a fantastic feeling to have a vision and the opportunity to explore it and bring it into existence, but it’s a whole other experience to share that vision with someone else who is equally as excited and inspired. I think this year is going to involve a lot of boundary-pushing work and progress and I can’t wait.
Can you share anything of your journey as a mother with us? How many children do you have?
I have a 7 year old and a 1 year old. It’s a pretty interesting spread. On the one hand, my oldest is a really good helper with his little sister but some days I can’t help but think that if I had my kids closer together I’d be done with diapers by now, both would be in school and I would have the studio time I struggle for. Ultimately, if I’m honest with myself, it’s actually a good thing that it worked out the way that it did because I’m not a multi-tasker in the least. I have gotten to spend individual time with each of them as babies and really take time to bond, which I think is exactly what I needed. When I was pregnant with my first I was laid off from an office job. It was the end of 2008 and I ended up staying home until he went to preschool. I got another office job for a few years before I felt a serious urge to commit to my art career “full time.” Just after that we had our second and I’m still the main caregiver at home. I wouldn’t trade being able to be here for my kids but I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that it’s a tough position to be in. To feel like you’re doing the most important job in the world, obviously for your family but also in many ways for society, and struggle with issues of earning potential as a woman with not so flexible availability, the price of childcare, not to mention the degree to which the patriarchal expectations of the role of “housewife” affect your relationship. It’s all a lot to deal with.
Do you feel that motherhood has changed your experience as an artist?
I’ve found Motherhood to be hugely motivating in pretty much every area of life. Motherhood is inspiring in so many ways and has helped me become far more self-aware which is invaluable for an artist. I also think coming up against the complications with time, boundaries and finances that being a stay-at-home mom and creative entrepreneur presents has only proven to me how committed I am to nurturing and growing my creative practice and career. If I haven’t quit yet, I can’t think of a situation that would make me want to. I think some people want to grasp onto at least part of their pre-kid identity as an individual, and that’s valid, but I still think that there’s no part of you that Motherhood doesn’t change in some way- your views, your dreams, your depth and capacity to feel- so I can’t see how it wouldn’t affect my artistic views or what I choose to create.
Tell me a bit about your process. Do you involve your children in your art at all or is your time spent creating time for yourself?
My process usually begins in my head. I get flashes of colors or shapes and recurring thoughts about a specific concept or palette and I know I’m close to a series. Sometimes it takes me a while to get my thoughts straight and actually start but I’m getting better at that. I’m way less self-conscious than I used to be about just getting something on the canvas and messing around until it starts flowing.
Part of that is the fact that I use house paint which isn’t nearly as expensive as artist’s oils or acrylics. Not that I think it’s the best choice health-wise, but I know for sure that my practice really flourished after I made that switch after school and stopped being so stingy and precious with the paint. I also work on several canvases at once. I feel like this helps to create a cohesive series because they can all inform each other in real time. Plus I feel like I’m being more productive, which helps when I’m painting for a show.
For commissions I work with the client, drawing direction from their favorite pieces from my portfolio and the space in their home where they want the work to hang. I always feel a responsibility as an artist to convey not only the value of art but the magic of it too, so to help my clients feel like a part of a process and really be invested in the piece, I offer the option to Document the Process. I sketch, take notes and photograph each stage, and share it with them as either a series of texts or emails as I go or a printed photo book at the end. Even as the artist I kind of want a book for each of my paintings.
As far as my kids and art go, I don’t actually involve my kids in what I create. I mentioned before that I’m a horrible multi-tasker and it’s so true. I’m a better functioning human if I’m able to focus and that means, no noise or interruptions or I’m totally thrown. I’d love to say that I let loose and play and create with my kids all the time but I don’t. We’ll paint and draw every now and then, and I try my best to keep my hands off what they do and my opinions to myself, but it’s tough. I think it would be easier if my studio wasn’t full of stuff they can’t touch and I hope that art is something we can share and talk about more when they’re a little bit older but for now I won’t push it. I like my alone time to process thoughts and create. I’ve also decided not to drag them through another museum or art fair until they’re good and ready. I trust they will be creative in their own ways.
Describe to us your workspace. Where do you create?
I have a space in our walk-out basement that has a few windows where I’ve set up my tables, easel and lights. It’s great because I’m in the house and that makes it easier with a little one. When she was tiny I would paint with her in an ergo but now that she’s bigger and able to climb out of the pack & play and cause general destruction, if she’s not being watched by someone else, I’m really not able to work. One notable thing about my studio space is that it doesn’t have doors that I can shut and lock the world out. It makes practicing boundaries a bit difficult for the family, especially my son, who is in second grade. I think it’s hard for him to recognize that I’m actually working when I’m sitting there playing around with paint in the basement.
What positives do you feel being a mother brings to your artistic practice?
Before I became a mother I didn’t quite understand how much I was capable of. I underestimated my strength and need for conviction and something to really devote myself to. Even though I went to art school, I wasn’t super confident or focused with my art. I took a few years off from painting after graduation (though this wasn’t really my intention) and then became a mother. My son turned one before I painted again but my practice and my faith in myself was renewed. Childbirth is hard and my first experience was not ideal but it changed me for the better. But after becoming a mom my time was suddenly not my own. I switched to acrylics, learned to loosen up and paint faster. I started working on multiple pieces at once and basically learned how to be more efficient. Knowing that I have more to worry about and care for than just myself has certainly strengthened my resolve to make my art business work. I’ve proven to myself, with the help of my children, that I can do hard things and that helps me every day.
What challenges does it bring?
Ha! Well, issues of time, money, energy come to mind. I’ve found myself having to work around my family’s schedule which means running to the studio when my son is in school and we can afford a nanny for my daughter or when my husband isn’t traveling for work and can take both kids out of the house for a while. But there’s always that pull to join them and just spend some family time. Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through the stress of getting my art career off the ground while I still have a toddler. In some ways it seems way more sane to pick it all back up once she’s in preschool in a year and a half, but at my core, I’m a painter. That’s my truth and I know that when I ignore it or prioritize too many things or people ahead of it, it hurts. The stress of it literally causes me physical pain if I let it build up and that’s what I think happens with most of us. People ignore their dreams or don’t say what they need to say and become unhappy and stressed with no authentic outlet and they end up with high blood pressure or anxiety attacks or cancer. Part of bringing a life into this world or choosing to raise and care for another life, is recognizing that life is short and there are no guarantees but that we’re here to give it our best. I think becoming a mother, with all of its challenges, helped to clarify that for me.
Being both a mother and an artist can be a difficult balance. How do you try and manage this?
In the past year or so I’ve kind of traded in my idea or quest for balance for a respect for the natural cycles in life. We are cyclical beings. Just like the seasons come and go, I think there’s a time for everything. A time for focusing on work, a time for focusing on family, a time to pull back and relax and pay attention to self-care and a time to push harder for what you want to accomplish. You just can’t do it all at once and I don’t think women can “have it all,” at least not all at once. So maybe it ends up being balanced out with respect to the whole of your life, but it’s certainly not balanced day to day.
Self-care is important as a mother. Do you feel that being an artist benefits your parenting in any way?
I’m positive that being an artist benefits my parenting. It benefits me as a human at the most basic level. When I feel accomplished in the studio and that I’ve experienced a sense of flow and at least have attempted to bring my visions to life, I have a sense of fulfillment and positivity that allows me to know that my creativity is being tended to. Without that nagging feeling of being bombarded with ideas that aren’t acted upon, I have the headspace and patience to really be present with my kids or whatever life event presents itself. Hands down it is not like this all the time. I am not always present and 100% fulfilled, but that cause and effect relationship has played out enough times for me to recognize that this is how it works for me. So, I try my best to get in the studio as often as I can.
Where can we see more of your artwork?
My website is www.taraflores.com which has a portfolio page with artist statements for each series that explain a bit about what inspired the work. Available works are listed on Etsy and Saatchi Art and I share current work and works in progress on my Instagram account, @tarafloresart. As far as shows go, I have an upcoming show at Horseshoe in Seattle on view from April through June.