An intimate portrait of an artist and mother in lockdown

By Genevieve Oswald
Posted 5/14/20

"The thing is I don't really feel like an artist," said Marianne Farhney as we walked together sharing the wide width of a dirt road in El Prado. Marianne Farhney is a local artist who arrived in Taos shortly after graduating from the San Franscico Art School with a BA in Fine Art in 2004. The bio on her website simply states "(She) was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the D.C. area. She has been creating, making and crafting for as long as she can remember."

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An intimate portrait of an artist and mother in lockdown

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"The thing is I don't really feel like an artist," said Marianne Farhney as we walked together sharing the wide width of a dirt road in El Prado. Marianne Farhney is a local artist who arrived in Taos shortly after graduating from the San Franscico Art School with a BA in Fine Art in 2004. The bio on her website simply states "(She) was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the D.C. area. She has been creating, making and crafting for as long as she can remember."

Our interview was scheduled not because she is about to exhibit a large body of work, but rather, because Marianne is a dedicated artist, mother of two young boys, and living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Marianne's art crosses many mediums. She sketches, doodles, paints, makes sculpture, dazzles in performance art, dons her own wearable art, is a master barista, chocolatier and more. Clearly, she is a woman of talent. Our walk began outside her newly built home which she nonchalantly informed me she also designed.

"I'm really proud of it" Marianne said, followed quickly by "building a house, being a full-time mom and working to pay the bills has made it hard to keep the kind of schedule I like for making art. This is why I don't really feel like an artist sometimes."

For some artists the pandemic is a dream come true: time off from the job that pays the bills, no interruptions, government-funded financial support. It is, as it has been said, like an artist in residency at home. But this is not the case for artists who are also parents of young children with minimal support. Marianne carries the majority of the burden of parenting, this is true for most women with small children at home; all of whom know all too well how difficult it is to find time for themselves.

"I used to be more disciplined about taking the time to make art," Marianne tells me as we listen to the babble of spring aceqias. "I would get up early and go to bed late, I don't do that anymore. I need the rest. I don't like to be tired."

Finding an hour a day to make art for a working parent is equivalent to striking gold. Finding hours in a row, which are needed to really get into the work, that's like finding a unicorn. Not impossible, but not necessarily plausible. Marianne was adamant, "I always take an hour to doodle each day. Some people journal, I doodle." An hour a day is a reasonable commitment for anyone with so much on their plate. "But for me, I need more time than an hour to do something. Finding that time is hard."

"Instead of having ridiculous hours for my work I am now including my kids in my creative time. I lay out all of my materials and I encourage them to make something," said Marianne. This strategy enables her to get the long hours she likes to spend, and needs to spend, working on her creative projects without interruption.

Knowing Marianne you might question if she ever does in fact tire or need sleep for that matter. She is always cheerful with a bright smile on her face. Her lean muscular body implies she either works out a lot or has a really strong metabolism. She has a quick mind, which is as creative as the expressions it makes artistically and in conversation, wherein you find yourself fluttering about like a kaleidoscope of butterflies.

"I have a hard time talking about my art, but I know I have to," Marianne told me shyly. "What I want to do with it is to share an emotional experience. To express something I am feeling on the inside in a way that the viewer can experience it. Like a writer takes an idea and morphs it into something someone can read and understand, that is what I am doing with my art." As we walked through changing environs, from dry desert to moist wetlands lush with water and verdant views, we discussed the interconnectedness of all things, inevitable changes that will come with the pandemic, our desire to feel safe in an inherently unsafe world. That last truth brought us each to pause before Marianne's naturally cheerful disposition bounced us back to something a little more navigable. We spoke of the things we were grateful for during this time, like being able to take a walk with a friend. As we neared her home Marianne reflected on what a current day is like, "I play the role of heroine, villain, mother, teacher, friend, enemy, all in one day. It's exhausting, yet I am so grateful for it. I feel really lucky to have this time to spend with my kids."

And while they may not always know it, they are lucky to have the time to spend with her. When she gets long hours in the studio these days she focuses on her "wire and crystal sculptures." Her functional sculptures which could easily be dubbed chandeliers, are exquisitely crafted works of whimsical structural art and can be found with the rest of her gallery of works on her website. While ideas for future works and future shows percolate, Marianne is currently content taking her hour a day to doodle and living her beautiful life in our beautiful valley where she, like the rest of us, will continue to be "shaped and humanized by Taos."

To see more, visit www.marfahr.com/

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