Art and Motherhood on the West Austin Studio Tour

Four WEST exhibitors reveal how their work is informed by being a mom


Texas Virgin's Bower

Valerie Fowler

Valerie Fowler has a fascination with botanicals that often translates, after weeks and weeks of applying a stunning variety of pigments to canvas, into near psychedelic renderings of abundant plant life and the patterns such vegetal complication can form. The acclaimed painter is also responsible for the illustrations and hand-cranked moving panoramas of the Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase multimedia show created by her husband Brian Beattie. And, like Virginia Fleck and Yuliya Lanina and quite a few other artists showing in the West Austin Studio Tour, Fowler is also a mother. Not an easy combination, all those things.

"Well, I have a lot of help from my husband," says Fowler. "He's sympathetic because he's also an artist – a musician – and we started, really early on, dividing up all the child care. Now our kids are teenagers – our son is 18, our daughter is 17 and a half – so they're on their way now, pretty much. But back then we had a schedule where, three days a week, he had charge of the kids; and, three days a week, I had charge of the kids. We had 10am to 6pm shifts, and one day was family day. It was kind of a strict schedule, but it really worked for us – we did that for years and years. And now they need us less and less. But still, I have a flexible schedule. So, like today, I was painting until 3:30, and then out the door to pick up my daughter and run a couple of errands. But I'm luckier than a lot of moms, because I'm able to do that."

Sometimes, it turns out, home is also where the art is.

"During the first years I had kids, I gardened and I painted plants – well, I still paint plants – so most of the paintings have a personal source: from my yard, my garden. And there were things that my kids brought me over the years. My son brought me these spiky palm fronds when he was a toddler, and I painted them – I still have them in my studio. And the kids would bring me cool rocks, and we'd go on hikes, and that also influenced my work. Before I had kids, I painted figures – humans – and I stopped doing that after I had kids. Then it was just plants and botanical things."

These botanical paintings will be among what Fowler has on display in her second-floor studio during WEST, but she'll also have more recent work available.

"Lately I've been doing large-scale drawings of my neighborhood," she says. "Some of it looks like the neighborhood; some of it looks like you wouldn't know where it was from. I've got one new big painting I'm working on, too, plus the drawings." She smiles among the instruments of her creation. "I've been busy."

Truthfully spoken like, we daresay, a mom or an artist – but especially both.


Valerie Fowler is showing at tour stop 131, Wonder Studios, 1211 Ravine.

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