Heather Kirtland - contemporary visual artist, art educator
Maryland / United Stated
We are beyond thrilled to have interviewed Heather Kirtland! Heather is a contemporary artist, art educator, co-founder of the Carve Out Time for Art community and co-author of an inspiring book called The Motherhood of Art!
Heather, you are a visual artist, art educator, a wife and mother of two beautiful children and one dog. You are a multi-passionate creative with a degree in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Tell us all about your journey into the art world (brief bio/history/backstory).
I have always created. I was able to focus on studio work in my final years of high school and knew I wanted to go to a fine arts school versus liberal arts. I really wanted to dive in. I knew that making a living from my art, especially in the mid-nineties was slim, but I wanted a full studio arts experience and figured that I could work any job for income and still focus on my art.
I did do that for a few years after college and then I was lucky enough to kinda fall into becoming a hairstylist at a really amazing salon. For the first time since graduation I was able to work in a creative field and still have some “juice” left to continue my studio practice. My creativity has ebbed and flowed and has found a nice balance between studio output and showing/selling my work.
You were awarded The Maryland State Arts Council Grant and you were a resident artist at The Holt Center. How has this experience influenced your art practice?
I was awarded the MSAC straight out of college. I actually used my senior thesis work to apply to it. It gave me such a confidence boost and really helped me to continue to reach out to galleries and open calls.
My time at the Holt Center was a big learning experience. It was the first and only time I had a studio space outside of my home. To my surprise I really struggled to make work there. Perhaps it was pressure, or timing. I’m not sure why but I felt pretty stagnant. I learned the space to create is really only a small part of the process for me. I’ve been the most productive in a tiny corner of our home den. I still dream of building a studio on our property though! Best of both worlds maybe?
How has your art practice changed when becoming a mother?
I was snowballed in the early years with my first child and questioned if I was ever going to be creative again. After I came out of that fog and self doubt spiral I entered one of the most creative years of my life. I find that even if it isn’t my first choice I do well knowing that my studio time is finite. I have to get down to business when I have time. I am less precious and more apt to try things. I would also say that I’m less afraid to put myself and my work out there. Motherhood puts a lot of things into perspective.
Together with Marissa Huber you released an amazing book called The Motherhood of Art which is a collection of inspiring interviews with fellow art mums. You are also the co-founder of the Carve Out Time for Art community. How did you two meet and come up with these projects?
We meet on Instagram!! I commented on a post about her mother artist interviews. Marissa then reached out to me to be interviewed. It was through that that we both revealed that we had wanted to create a book and once we chatted on the phone we knew we’d work well together. From there the community just grew! It’s been a such a rewarding and humbling experience.
How did you feel about motherhood in the past, and how do you feel about it now?
I wasn’t sure I was going to have kids. That art school mantra of not being able to be a serious artist and mother was pretty ingrained in me. As I got older I knew it was important to me to have my own family and I could have never known how hard and rewarding it was going to be. There was a moment when I thought I wouldn’t be able to have both, and now I just love finding all the ways these two parts of me feed of one another.
Do you involve your children in your studio practice?
My kids were not studio babies. They were way too rambunctious and curious. I needed that as my time. Now that my studio space is in our living space it just seems a part of daily life. I do let them come paint once in a while and it’s really fun. I also ask their opinion on what I am working on quite a bit too.
What is the message behind your art?
I play around with human situations and the feeling that they may invoke. I use the house form as a persona, and create compositions around the form that sets up tension, release or chaos.
What does your art do for you?
It feeds me. It helps me deal with anxiety, gives me somewhere to celebrate joy and the phenomenon of creating something from nothing.
What are your plans for the future (career, parenting, etc.)?
There is that studio…I am really hoping to make that happen in the next two years. I would like to host designers and have gatherings (when that is a thing again). I am continuing to work on a body of work and would love to have a solo exhibition. And I really cannot wait to travel again! My daughter and I are always planning our UK dream trip.
What advice do you have for fellow art mums?
Be gentle with yourself. Enjoy your kids. Take time for you. It's okay to struggle with your identity, you're a lot of things all at once and there are growing pains.