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Naked and Nude: Adventures Growing Up with an Artist Mom

by Kristin Cooper May 13, 2018

Naked and Nude: Adventures Growing Up with an Artist Mom

My mom came home one night with a large pastel drawing of a naked woman sitting on a chair, 7-months pregnant. My 7-year-old self was not sure if I was more baffled by seeing a very pregnant woman completely naked or my mom disappearing for hours to draw a naked pregnant woman.

“She’s not naked, Krissie, she’s nude.” 

Without saying a word, I stared at the drawing not quite sure of the difference between naked and nude. All I knew was she did not have clothes on and I had never seen a very pregnant woman “nude” … or naked. I am the youngest of three kids. I was the last baby bump in my house.

“What, are you surprised by this?” she said with a bit of a laugh, kneeling to snuggle me close. “It’s art, Krissie. Life drawing. Artists have been drawing the human form since the beginning of time.”

I studied her face for a while, finally deciding she seems OK with this, so I guess it’s OK …

It’s art.

This understanding made it a little easier when she came home with a large pastel of a bushy bearded completely naked man. I mean, nude. Completely.

More than the surprise of the pastel subject matter, and trying to visualize the scenario of my mom drawing these complete strangers, I was struck by her -- her energy, how her eyes sparkled, how her voice seemed higher and more animated -- how happy she was.

Up to this point she was all mine, or so it seemed to me, spending her days creating with me while my siblings were at school. Paper dolls, anything involving glue, sequins, ribbon, paint, clay, markers, fabric, beads – you name it, we played with it. I loved every bit of her attention and enthusiasm; she made me feel like I could do anything.

I watched her frame these pastel drawings and others. I helped her load them in the car and carry them into a gallery. I saw her pointing, directing where her artwork should hang. Confident, like she'd done this before. I watched her hammer nails and hang her art, fussing to level each frame just so.

The next night she disappeared again to the gallery opening, looking beautiful like Mary Tyler Moore in her rust-colored double knit pantsuit, long tasseled necklace, bangle bracelets, and dressy leather boots.

Who was this woman?

I have trouble putting my 7-year-old feelings into words ... It was like my mom hid her superhero costume in the back of her closet my whole life and started wearing it under her mom clothes on drawing night.



Kristin Cooper
Kristin Cooper


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