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Brushes & Bonds: Navigating Love and Art in Changing Times

In 1989, my junior year at UW, I found myself kneeling before a mound of clay, intent on sculpting my essence. I was attempting to mold this clay into a tangible representation of an internal struggle—a conflict deeply rooted in the societal fabric of the late 80s. In one hand, the figure delicately clasped a ring symbolizing marriage. In the other, a paintbrush, embodying my zealous passion for art. This sculpture mirrored my dilemma—I was I love and an artist. I couldn’t imagine any future where I could be both an artist and a wife, not because society dictated it, but due to the nature of the creative calling.


The late 80s marked a time when women had made significant strides. Unlike the rigid roles of the 40s and 50s, it was deemed acceptable to pursue a career while having a husband. The conflict didn’t stem from the fear of sacrificing my career for marriage; rather, it emerged from the intrinsic nature of being an artist. To me, being an artist wasn’t akin to a conventional job like accounting or working as a cashier—it demanded the essence of my being, requiring me to infuse my soul into every stroke of paint.


Even to this day, I find it nearly impossible to think about things like what’s for dinner or the stack of bills siting by my computer when I’m in a creative mindset. All that stuff needs to completely go away for my mind to start singing.


The notion of balancing an art career with marriage seemed inconceivable and frankly, overwhelming. I grappled not only with the idea of pouring my entire being into my art but also with the question of who would accept and understand this devotion. The thought of eventually having children further complicated matters—how could I manage both nurturing a family and being consumed by my artistic pursuits?


The conflicts didn’t stem from societal pressure to conform but from the inherent incompatibility between the intensity of an artistic calling and the traditional expectations of family life. The prospect of diving wholeheartedly into my art while simultaneously navigating love, marriage and motherhood felt daunting and nearly impossible.


Reflecting on those times now, it interesting to see how the landscape has shifted, and frightening to see the ways it has stayed the same. Today, the choice for young women to balance career and family seems narrower, and the societal expectations are more pervasive. Yet, the very essence of my dilemma—the challenge of reconciling passion and societal expectations—resonates with the struggles many still face.


I’m in my late 50’s now and 10 years ago I met and married my soulmate, and about 3 years ago I rediscovered my calling as an artist after suffering 30 years in corporate hell. It’s a full circle story and I now find myself straddling these identities in a dance of understanding and compromise. My partner, too, comes from the same generation as me, one where these conflicts weren’t merely philosophical but deeply embedded in our lived experiences.


In the evolution of our relationship, my husband and I have navigated the intricacies of sustaining a partnership where my creative soul often demands solitude and immersion. There are moments—quite often, truth be told—when I retreat into my artistic haven, requiring long periods of emotional distance. It's during these times that my husband has learned to give me the space I need, understanding that my creative process demands solitude and uninterrupted focus.


Learning the delicate art of granting me this space was not an easy feat for him. It required a profound understanding that my periods of withdrawal were not a reflection of our bond but rather an integral part of nurturing my artistry, and frankly, my healing. Over time, we've discovered that in these moments, his patience and support from a distance speak volumes. It's a dance we've learned—one where he respects my need for seclusion, giving me the freedom to delve into my creative cave without feeling abandoned.


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Equally important was the realization that once emerged from my artistic cocoon, it's our teamwork that makes the magic happen. He has learned that while I may be emotionally distant during my creative episodes, our bond remains unshaken, ready to bloom when I resurface. Together, we've embraced the notion that supporting each other's passions sometimes requires a gentle step back, allowing the other the space to flourish.


Our journey has been one of understanding, compromise, and the recognition that sustaining a relationship between an artist and a partner demands flexibility and unwavering support. It’s the acknowledgment that allowing each other room for growth, even if it means periods of separateness, ultimately strengthens our bond.


My heart swells with admiration for the current generation’s unapologetic stance in embracing their rights and aspirations, often having to demand support. I’m equally impressed with the preponderance of women supporting each other, living together, leaving dead relationships, and bonding in the absence of healthy men that can meet their needs. The future is most defiantly female.


My frustration flares when confronted with archaic mindsets and regressive behavior. The angry feminist inside me shouts to be heard. But I’m beginning to use the energy this rage provides me to propel me forward. The day I stop advocating for change and support the fight against injustices I will be dead.


To the younger generation, I urge you: embrace your passions fiercely, navigate the conflicts courageously, and harness your anger for meaningful action. The fight for authenticity and freedom remains timeless. Let our collective rage be the catalyst for a future where every individual’s dreams are valued and respected, regardless of societal norms.


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I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please leave your comments. I love hearing from my readers. Thank you!





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Carolyn Wonders

ARTIST | WRITER

Modern life with its social, political, and cultural debates leaves us all raw, triggered, and anxious. We are bombarded by rhetoric that is carefully chosen to obscure truth and advance agendas. I see art as a universal language that can transcend that which twists us into parrots of this rhetoric. Living with art you love and seeing through an artist’s eyes can help us see these superficial debates for what they are and get us in touch with what really matters.

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