Canadian interdisciplinary artist
23 June 2023
I am an interdisciplinary artist born in Toronto Canada and I create oodles of abstracted hearts. My desire is to spread some love while sparking conversation about our modern definition of love. I explore love as an action rather than a passive emotion. Art is my vehicle for deep diving into childhood, intergenerational trauma, and exploring constructs outside societal norms.
My modern day artistic influences are Yayoi Kusama, Wendy Red Star, Rose Wylie, Misaki Kawai, Hannah Hanski, London Kaye and Tracey Emin.
And if I could teleport back in time I would love to visit the studios of Hilma afKlint, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell and Maud Lewis along with the studios of Jean Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly and Keith Haring.
I now live in a century home on 10 acres in rural Ontario. My partner and I are slowly restoring the home and beginning our adventures in regenerative agriculture. Art, farm, food and community! I dream of processing my own wool for textile and fiber work.
I have always been creative. As a child I would create spaces so I could tuck into my closet, close the door to the world, and just doodle and dream. We moved a lot when I was growing up and I was always redecorating my bedroom - including moving my furniture and making spaces for myself to get lost in imaginary play.
I recall this series of baby faces I drew. I would spend hours imagining them and creating unique personalities for all of them.
Like so many kids I was told by teachers and guidance counselors that I lacked any innate creative skill and that art was not a valid career choice. So I went to post secondary to study psychology, knowing it was not the right fit for me, all the while making and creating on the side.
In my early 20’s I was hospitalized for several years with depression and I put a pause on completing my degree. A story I share in depth later in the interview.
Fast forward to my 30’s. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that was impacting my physical wellbeing, my mental health, and pretty much every facet of my life. A stay at home Mom, married with two children, my marriage was on life support. A very good friend invited me to attend an art class at a local studio with her and the rest is history.
I began painting, exploring and creating again. Creating was my portal back to health.
The owner of the studio / gallery space where I was painting suggested a solo exhibit in 2017 and I have not looked back since.
I am a multidisciplinary artist and I love playing with paint, clay, beading, collage, textile, fiber and found objects- depending on the demands of daily life -and what materials are available to me.
I have 5 children - 3 are my biological kiddos and 2 are my stepchildren. The kids are age Nyles age 5 (bio Mom), Paige age 23 (bio Mom), Liv age 23, Noah age 25 (bio Mom) and Zya age 26.
My partner and I met in our early 40’s, and though we both had two children from our first marriages, we knew we wanted more. We also knew we did not want to live with regret. So we immediately got to work and our family welcomed our son Nyles into the world in 2018. He has been the glue for our big kids and such a beautiful gift to our family.
All five of the kids are creative in some capacity - whether it be drawing, painting, crocheting, needle point, sewing, cooking…
"A stay at home Mom, married with two children, my marriage was on life support. I began painting, exploring and creating again. Creating was my portal back to health."
My art life is always growing and shifting as my personal and familial life changes for me.
Right now I am taking a few weeks to care for my partner who just had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands. And last week my youngest was home with the flu. So the sofa became my studio - in between caring for sick family.
But generally I start my studio time by lighting a candle and some white sage or incense for clearing my space. I then light some palo santo and do some self reiki. I ask that the work that I am about to do be in the service of the higher good of myself and all others.
I then turn on some solfeggio frequencies and I journal 3 pages - stream of consciousness. A beautiful gift passed down to me from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artists Way”.
Sometimes it is more than 3 pages and sometimes I doodle along the way - ideas that I have for expressing universal love and healing.
I then carry this journaling over to my canvas or textile work. Painting, crocheting and weaving my daily experiences into my work. Asking the universe for what I wish for the world - love, peace, caring, abundance, compassion and I ask for healing for the parts of me that are still unlearning and learning.
I often use aromatherapy, reiki symbolism, oracle card reading, crystal and sound healing in my studio sessions. Infusing each artwork with additional energetic medicines.
My day is spent researching, creating, sourcing supplies, and doing administrative work.
I try to meet with other artists and build in time to explore museums, galleries and art exhibits.
Energetics and spirituality are a big component of my work and I incorporate reiki, sound healing , aromatherapy, and tarot/orcale in my daily studio routines.
This is full time work for me. Often I am working during the day plus evenings and weekends.
I am essentially running a small business where I am creating the product by hand - without an assistant ( on my dream list). So the hours are intense and I do my best to build my routines around family time.
I have a very supportive partner who helps with a lot of the household chores so I can focus on time with the kids and my work. He also helps out in the studio with projects he finds interesting.
And I have the kids in the studio as much as possible. I find I learn so much from their open minded exploration and conversation.
And our home is an extension of the studio - we spend a lot of time making together.
KEEP SHOWING UP! When things get hard, when things seem like they are not going to plan, or not making sense in the moment - keep showing up! In my experience, this is often when the big breakthroughs are about to occur. You just have to find the passion and drive to keep showing up for yourself and your work.
My one other big piece of advice is - BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! If you don’t believe in yourself, and your work, how can you expect others to believe in you??? Do some self reflection to find out why you don’t believe in yourself and clear those blocks. If you don’t believe in yourself, your work, your worth and your message - then why should others?
My youngest was really sick for a long stretch with covid this winter and it meant no studio time for weeks - so I started crocheting again.
A gift my Grandmother shared with me when I was a child… and from that pivoting to meet the needs of my family came my series of crocheted hearts.
I find life is always throwing curve balls, especially as a Mum caring for the needs of others, and I am constantly adapting my studio practice to consider my needs and those of my family.
I am very grateful to be a part of an artist parents group started by Sarah Cullen and Alison Thompson, called Mothra, here in Ontario. I have attended two very magical artist residencies with the group, along with my partner and our youngest son, on Toronto island. And the group now meets monthly over zoom to talk all things art, parenting and life related. Did I mention how magical this group is???
I also have very supportive kids and a partner whose family comes out to as many of my exhibits as they can. One of my stepdaughters joined me as my right hand at a recent exhibit in New York CIty and my Mother-in-law traveled with me to London UK for my exhibit there with the Other Art Fair. They not only support me but they support the arts, and artists, in general . It is fabulous!
Both support networks have led to many deep conversations about life and art. And both have shifted the way I perceive myself, my work and the world around me. I wouldn't be where I am today without them.
Parenting has taught me a lot about the importance of being in the moment, experimentation and play. And has allowed me to drop the accumulation of societal pressure and debris for perfection and judgment.
There is a freedom in the way young children express themselves in the world. How they befriend everyone they meet in a minute, and are just curious about being alongside friends, and learning from them. No masks or pretense - no ego - all heart centered openness to present possibility and play.
Do I believe Mum guilt exists - yes. Have I experienced it personally - Yes! Do I desire to perpetuate it — absolutely no.
I believe Mum guilt is part of a larger societal problem of toxic patriarchal systems, designed to diminish a woman’s worth, rather than support and celebrate women.
I find it crops up for me when I am parenting - and feel I should be working. Or when I am working and feel I should be parenting. Or when I am with friends and not with my kids and partner…. It is there, living like a mania right under the surface of my skin, always. It has me discounting every little thing I do or do not do… questioning… Am I working too much, Mothering too much, socializing too much…. Or not enough….
My way of working through it is being as fully present to each moment of my day as I can be. I have a daily journaling and meditation practice that helps a lot.
I anchor myself with reminders of what my overall day, week and month has looked liked. Right down to the nitty gritty like reminding myself that I made a healthy lunch that took 30 minutes of time - but is a priority for my health and the health of my family. Without these grounding practices I find it is very easy to lose sight of my priorities, how much I have grown, and accomplished right up to the present moment .
So I do my best to be fully present. If I am Mothering - I do it by choice. If I am painting - I am doing it by choice.
If there is a chore that I am doing that does not excite me - I focus on the larger picture blessing. I am folding laundry because I make the conscious choice to bless my family with a clean and well organized home. Another chore I do not enjoy is washing my paint brushes - so I focus on the way I will feel when I walk into a clean, tidy studio. And the way I will feel when I am painting in that clean studio with well cared for brushes. It's all a mindset thing for me. Creating the beautiful life I desire, and deserve, to live.
When my schedule calls for more rigorous work hours, away from family, I ask for help from my partner. And I trust that my family is in good stead and that I have banked precious moments with them and let them know how important they are to me. I cannot tell them enough in a day how much I love them and how I feel I won the lottery to be their Mom and partner. And because words can be cheap - I do my very best to live that caring through my daily actions and by taking more family time when my work schedule is less rigorous.
I have essentially had three entirely different experiences with Motherhood. Once when my older children (now in their early 20”s) were born, once when I stepped into the role of stepmother and then again when my 5 year old was born.
I don't identify with parenting as an identity shift at all. Parenting for me has always been more of an extension of me. A deepening of my relationship with myself, and of course, others. I see Mothering as such an immense gift.
I find Motherhood very fulfilling, but of course, it is important to me to be more than a Mother! Just as it is important to me to be more than just a daughter, or wife, or sister, or friend, or artist. All of the parts are important and they all hold different importance at different stages of life.
I do this by deeply listening to my own intuition and heart whispers and again being as fully present as possible. Learning to edit my life and prioritize what is most important to me. Saying yes to what excites me and no to what doesn’t elicit full belly butterflies.
"I find life is always throwing curve balls, especially as a Mum caring for the needs of others, and I am constantly adapting my studio practice to consider my needs and those of my family."
Art is definitely fulfilling to me and I believe I am a better person because of the work I do. But I am also a better person because I have experienced Motherhood and cultivated unconditional love for another human(S). And of course I want my children to see me living a healthy and fulfilled life beyond parenting because I want each of them to live healthy and fulfilled lives. I think the most important thing is choice. And doing the things we do consciously, with great love, from a deep desire to make the world a better place.
I recently watched a movie about Grace Kelly - an American actor who married the Prince of Monaco. For those who don’t know Grace Kelly gave up her very successful acting career to step into a different stage of her life. Mothering, supporting her husband in his role as head of state, and also doing what she felt best for the country she was called to co-pilot with her husband. And although she gave up her career, I believe she found a different purpose, and she carried out her duties with great passion. And I personally think that is a beautiful story.
I believe the answer lies in more men - husbands, fathers - doing the same. Stepping up to either be primary caregivers themselves and/or loudly celebrating and supporting the work of the women in their lives. I do not necessarily think that our societal shift to a more work-centric model of living has been healthy for anyone - with - or without children.
Full time parenting, done with great love, is one of the most important jobs one can undertake. I realize not everyone feels fulfilled in that role and I can’t help but wonder how that would change if societal opinions and remuneration about womens worth and caregiving went through a healing metamorphosis .
As Mothers I feel we can’t win - in the society we are currently role playing in.
If we work outside of the home we are judged for not being good Mothers.
If we choose to stay home we are judged for not working outside the home and furthering women's rights.
I think the problem lies in societal judgment and a course correction might find us living in a happier, healthier collective.
Having been both a full time stay at home Mom and a working Mom in this lifetime I feel the important thing is having choice and a support network to pursue our passions while caring for our families.
Creating is absolutely vital to my wellbeing and growth. Making money from creating is fabulous, but it certainly does not determine my worth, or influence my desire to continue to dream and create.
Money is simply energy. A totally manmade construct. Used by others to project unto me what they believe is the value of me and my work - as an artist Mother.
Money is great but I definitely do not allow it to determine my worth as an artist or person.
At some very sad point in history society collectively bought into the notion that women, their voices, and their work, was (and continues to be) less than that of men.
The artworld has sadly played into this toxic viewpoint by filling galleries and museums with somewhere in the vicinity of 90% male voices - some of which are extremely misogynist - such as Picasso.
The collective, and the institutions we support, will only ever be as healthy as our weakest link. And until we recognize that women’s voices, and work, are not only vital - but equal to the work of men - we will continue to have a very sick society.
I was born in 1973 and my Mother, who is Métis, was 15 when she gave birth to me.
My growing up life was very abusive and it was a pretty regular occurrence for police and childrens aid to be called to our home.
It was also common day for me to hear how my parents did not want me- and if they could do it all over again - I would not be here. I haven’t shared that publicly until now but I think it is an important thing for me to voice, because if I experienced it there are likely other young women experiencing it now, and I want them to know they absolutely do matter. And our world does need them and needs to hear their voices.
My mother was definitely expected to work outside of the home, plus carry out all of the domestic duties, and she had little to no family and community support.
It seems to me that women fought for the right to work outside of the home, and men said okay you can have it, but you still have to take care of all domestic duties. And that is still the case today with most women carrying the bulk of the domestic load while also caring for children, aging parents and working outside of the home.
When my parents divorced I recall my Mother working three jobs at one point to make ends meet.
My experience with all of this as a child, and the impact on my own parenting, is extremely complex. I am what they term a latch-key kid - I had no parents home to raise me. And as the eldest female I became responsible for the bulk of the domestic duties at a very young age.
I always knew that I wanted to be a parent. Looking back I think I craved the family connection I did not have, and I very likely unconsciously craved the soul journey children would bring, even if I was not aware of it at the time .
And I always wanted to be present for my children, to celebrate their unique voices, and for each of them to know how deeply loved and appreciated they are. That they are the most beautiful gifts in my life.
It has taken me 40 plus years to realize that I can only give this gift to my children - if I believe it of and for - myself first. This is not an easy integration in a society that continues to perpetuate the toxic myth of women being intrinsically less than. Understanding my intrinsic worth, and that my voice and work do truly matter, is ongoing work for me. It is my work of a lifetime.
THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS MENTIONS OF SUIDICE AND MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
My journey with mental health struggles began as a young child.
In my grade 7 year I essentially stopped going to school, and because I had no parent home, no one caught it.I flew under the radar - still getting well above passing grades without ever being present.
I recall having thoughts of killing myself at this time. Thoughts that I carried with me until my early 20’s when I returned home from a night out with friends, took every pill I could find in my medicine cabinet, and went to sleep hoping not to wake up.
I spent a few years as an inpatient in a psychiatric ward where I was diagnosed first as depressed and then as bipolar. Medications offered little promise and the side effects were often worse than the symptoms.
I was then prescribed electric shock therapy and had several treatments until one day the anesthetist was late and nurses decided to begin strapping me to the bed before I was sedated - so their schedule would not be affected. It was such a profound and demeaning experience that I refused any further treatment.
I then went on to try to kill myself one last time shortly after my final electroshock therapy. It was during this episode that I had a dream that all of my family were present (they never attended the hospital during my depression) and a doctor was speaking to them and telling them that I was going to die.
And that was it.
I made the decision that I wanted to live.
I made the decision that I matter to me and that is enough.
IG : @cherieharte_studio
I am currently working on a solo exhibit of my latest body of work “Gentle Loving Kindness for Everyone”. The details have not been released yet, but I am very excited, and will share on social media and to my newsletter subscribers once dates are confirmed.
Until then my work will be traveling to the Affordable Art Fair in Seattle, New York and Singapore with Spence Gallery in Toronto.