Kate Hamberger on Art and Politics

Kate Hamberger on Art and Politics

Image credit: Kate Hamberger

A Solo Mom takes it to the streets

“Whatever you do, do something. Every little bit makes a difference.” —Kate Hamberger

As a Solo Mom, civil servant, and photographer, Kate Hamberger wears many hats. She also wears duct tape and handcuffs in her new durational art performance resisting the 45th president’s administration. Recently, Hamberger spent some time with ESME discussing art, inspiration, parenting, and the imperative to make this world a better place for our kids.

Q: How did you become a Solo Mom?

A: I had my first child when I was 20 and got married shortly thereafter because it seemed like the right thing to do. The marriage didn’t last very long, but soon after, I met someone new. We were together for a tumultuous six years, during which I had my second child. I became a Solo Mom for good when I decided a couple of years ago that enough was enough, and I left my abusive partner. I didn’t want my children to grow up thinking it’s normal for people who love each other to fight all the time. Fortunately, my ex and I get along much better as friends and coparents.

Q: Tell us about your background as an artist. How did you get started?

A: I’ve had an interest in the arts for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was always into drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, and just creating with whatever I could get my hands on. In high school I was accepted into an art school where I was fortunate enough to study for a year before being relocated out of state. Being forced to leave art school combined with other things, like a lack of support for my artistic endeavors, quelled my motivation for a period of time. Once out of high school, I was pushed into getting a “real” job to support myself, and when I entered college, I opted for a major that I thought would lead to gainful employment—criminal justice. After graduating and getting hired in the field, I found myself feeling unfulfilled. Through a bit of soul-searching, and with the stability of a state job, I found my way back to the arts in my free time.

Q: What inspires you to create art?

A: I find inspiration in many places, from my children to my surroundings. Nature has always been a strong theme for me, as I really enjoy the outdoors and I think that there are many beautiful details in our surroundings that we take for granted. I also draw inspiration from my personal struggles as well as current events.

Q: What is your current project?

A: I have a few projects I’m currently working on. One is a self-portrait project that will eventually become a performance-art piece addressing the issue of emotional abuse. In this project, I seek to shed light on what I believe is an often overlooked and underestimated issue that affects many people. It’s hard to gauge the extent of the problem because emotional abuse is unlikely to be reported because victims feel their pain is illegitimate. I want to help others feel that their invisible wounds are legitimate and that their pain is valid.

The other big project I’m working on, which has been ongoing since the election, is a durational performance in protest. What began as a self-portrait project in response to the vulgarity and offensiveness of then–presidential candidate Donald Trump, has become a weekly act of resistance against our increasingly dangerous leadership. I perform in protest for a minimum of two hours each week, but more often up to eight hours at a time.

Q: How does being a Solo Mom inform or influence your work as an artist?

A: Being a Solo Mom makes me more conscious of the impact that my work can potentially have. It motivates me to make statements that I hope will influence the public into making a positive impact on the world my children will grow up in.

Q: What do you find most challenging about being a Solo Mom artist?

A: Probably the most challenging things for me are finding time for my artistic pursuits and balancing the needs of my children with the demands of my work. There are days when I feel really inspired and I want to create something new, or I feel really motivated to work on something, but my children want to go somewhere or do something that conflicts with where I need to be or what my work requires of me.

Q: How do you make time for your art?

A: Sometimes making art means staying up long after the children have gone to bed. Sometimes I take a day off from my day job to work on art projects. Sometimes making time for art means having to cut out other things. It’s about deciding what is most important to me and prioritizing. Often this means neglecting domestic duties like dishes or laundry. But those things will still be here waiting for me later. Inspiration and motivation to create might not.

Q: What happens if you don’t make time for your art?

A: If I don’t make time for my art, then it just doesn’t get made, right? This is what happens more often than not. And I can tell you, one of the worst feelings is the regret of not making something when the timing was right.

Q: The current political climate has many Solo Moms thrown for a loop. Say a Solo Mom confides to you, “I want to do something, but I don’t know where to begin—there’s just so much to do.” How would you respond?

A: The current state of affairs is overwhelming for most people. Every headline these days reads like something out of a dystopian novel. It’s important not to let it intimidate you. If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to activism, choose one or two issues that are particularly important to you to focus on. From there, choose an action that you are comfortable doing, and perform it as often as you are able. It can be something as small as making a monthly donation to an organization that is doing work that you believe in. A technique that has been shown to be particularly effective is contacting your representatives about issues that matter to you, whether you do so by calling, writing, or showing up to town-hall meetings. Something that anyone can do, that I have been trying to do more of myself, is talking to people you normally wouldn’t. Reach out to those who think differently. Discuss your differences of opinion, and in doing so, take the time to listen and try to understand the other side. Fight the polarization of our country along party lines.

The most important and easiest thing you can do is to talk to your children. Talk to them about what is going on in the world, talk to them about their feelings, talk to them about loving and accepting others, and talk to them about the kind of future they want to see so that you can help them make it a reality. Just as important as teaching our children about history is teaching them about current events, which are history in the making. Whatever you do, do something. Every little bit makes a difference. Don’t lose sight of that.

Q: What are you most proud of as a Solo Mom?

A: The thing I am most proud of as a mom, solo or not, is the compassionate, intelligent, informed, appreciative, resourceful, and independent people that my children are growing into. Being a Solo Mom has meant that I haven’t been able to spoil my children with the material things and attention that they used to get in a two-parent home. That has meant they have had to go without frivolous things, and they have had to do a lot for themselves, but I can see already that they are benefiting from this experience.

Q: Pretend you have a metaphorical backpack to fill with essentials for a Solo Mom artist. What would you put in there?

A: A notebook for jotting down things you might not be able to get to right away so you don’t forget them, a camera to take pictures of anything that inspires you so you can look back when you have the time to create, snacks so you don’t forget to eat when life gets really busy, a pair of sneakers for getting off the beaten path to seek inspiration, and caffeine for obvious reasons.

Q: Where can people learn more about your work and/or follow your current project?

A: Anyone interested in what I’m doing can find me on Instagram and Twitter (@glambergerart), www.Facebook.com/Glamberger, and my portfolio site, www.glamberger.com. I can also be reached by e-mail at glambergerart@gmail.com.

Cheryl Dumesnil, ESME’s LGBTQ Resource Guide, is an author, educator, writing coach, all-around do-gooder, and one of two moms separately coparenting two amazing boys. You can follow her on Twitter at @cheryladumesnil.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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