Kim Hopson is a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, NY. In her work, she explores themes of physical limitation, otherness, and ableist bias in society. Experiencing life in a differently abled body has given her a unique viewpoint that is reflected in her paintings, drawings and collages. She focuses on the body’s relationship to the world, both physically and emotionally. Motherhood has made that difference a more central part of her art, and her work has expanded to examine those experiences in the context of parenthood. At times she has found it challenging to connect with other mothers because her struggles are focused on her disability, as well as the universal struggles of motherhood. Her artwork comes from a place of physical and emotional frustration.Her intention is to create dialogue around these topics in order to spark a larger conversation.
My artwork is a reflection of the physical and emotional frustrations I have as a disabled parent. I have a limb difference which has affected my experiences in caregiving. Especially the physical tasks of carrying my children around, struggling to zip, tie, and open things. Furthermore, my work explores the emotional toll these challenges have taken on my mental health. I had postpartum depression with my first child, and unpacking how my disability affected my caregiving helped me find my way through that arduous time. My artwork is a direct reflection of all I cope with- it is a cathartic process for me. I’ve found channeling my physical challenges into my artwork has helped curb my anxiety and given myself permission to address a lot of the issues I used to struggle with in private.
Currently, I am working on a series called ‘Sweater Weather’ that includes figures being overtaken and trapped by knitwear- a reflection of how I feel trying to wrap myself and my children in winter clothes but with all the snaps and sleeves and buttons and zippers that make my one-handed life feel constricting. I am exploring this series through drawings and mixed media collage. The drawings examine the body being wrapped in fabric through loose illustration, while the collage pieces display figures engulfed by patterns and fabric. The viewer cannot tell if the figure is being enveloped by fabric, or emerging reborn through the layered material.
1/How do you make creative work whilst also actively mothering ?
My studio is in our kitchen. I live in a small Brooklyn apartment with my partner and two small children, so I utilize the space and time I can. It’s chaotic.
2/What boundaries or challenges have you faced or overcome while working as an artist/mother?
I had postpartum depression with my first child, and that was very hard. Starting therapy and addressing how my limb difference affected my mental health, my mothering, and my outlook on life has been life changing. I’m not sure I would have willingly delved into all of it if not for becoming a mother so- really It was a huge rebirth for me.
I have the physical challenges that come with being a disabled parent, as well, which never really gets easier. I’ve gotten much better at handling the stress associated with caregiving one-handedly.
I feel my art has given me permission to express all the emotions I used to keep bottled up.
3/How has the Artist/Mother community helped you to reflect upon your practice ?
It’s been fantastic, I feel very welcomed into the community. I’ve been in 4 artist/ mother critique groups, and it’s given me a nurturing space to grow in my artistic practice.
4/How are you disrupting the idea of the “good mother” or idealised mother in your arts practice?
Oh, that’s a lot to unpack!
Before becoming a parent I never felt like I fit the mold society encouraged me to adhere to. Adding the expectations of being a ‘perfect mother’, the physical and emotional toll of it all. . .as well as navigating a physical disability- it’s tough.
I want my artwork to start a dialogue about disability and motherhood. Create a conversation that hopefully will nurture empathy and awareness about differently abled care giving. Parenting can be isolating at the best of times. Disabled voices need to be added to the broader conversation about motherhood.
5/How has art making helped you to become more resilient and maintain your wellbeing ?
It’s cathartic for me. My art is a direct result of my emotional and physical frustrations.
6/What do you feel you carry as a mother?
There is the physical and emotional toll of mothering. There are also things you carry as a person going through life that you have to rearrange and [in many instances] process to then be able to juggle the mothering weight.
>I have my pre-parent experiences and struggles that now share space with my mothering.
Motherhood has brought me so much freedom in that- I don’t know if I would have had the courage to unpack some of my struggles had I not become a parent and was kind of. . .forced to? Motherhood has healed me in a lot of ways. It has allowed me to mother myself.
7/How does drawing or process driven methodologies inform your practice?
Drawing has allowed me the informality of playing with themes in my work in a more carefree way. Painting can take a while (especially while balancing caregiving) but sketching, drawing and collage work help me solidify ideas with the ease of fitting it all in a sketchbook. I can complete 5- 10 drawings or collages in one sitting all based on an idea I’m playing around with.