Local photographer and painter Erin Hüber has been an artist her entire life. Raised by her mother and grandmother, both painters, she has always found creativity to come naturally. An award-winning artist in school, Hüber had designs on an art degree from Anderson University before a near-fatal automobile accident dramatically changed her life.
While on a weekend trip home from school in 1995, Hüber was in a car collision that caused serious injuries, including 12 broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and a torn aorta. After a yearlong recovery, she journeyed to Europe with a friend, knowing "she was an artist and she wanted to live an artist's life -- whatever that meant." While in Switzerland, she learned she was pregnant. "The news opened my eyes to a new me," she says. "For the first time I felt like I was forced to focus and take something seriously I had a purpose outside of myself. I had no idea what that looked like, but I planned to make it good."
Fast forward to the present and you'll find Hüber exploring art in paint, photography, and paper-cutting, while also mothering six children. "I've tried my best at balancing being an artist and a mother the whole time, which has been a challenge," she says. Her struggle led her to develop the Mother Artist Project (MAP), which has proven to be an emotional and moving topic. She hears from mothers who break the heart with comments like "I used to be an artist once." Thankfully, these same women are grateful to Hüber, saying, "You're showing me I can do both. I don't have to do just one."
Hüber will debut MAP publicly at the Harrison Center for the Arts (1505 N. Delaware St.) on Friday, May 2, in the Gallery Annex from 6 to 10 p.m. She's selected about 20 images to share with the public and hopes the work will continue to find its way to galleries as word spreads. Hüber has had luck with the project from its inception, noting that one of the first artists she spoke to passed her information on to another few people. "MAP kind of had legs and just went on. I didn't struggle to find people; they came to me," she says.
MAP got its start online in January of this year. Hüber shared her story, and then she began interviewing mother artists throughout the state. She's begun expanding the stories she publishes, most recently interviewing musician Anne Heaton who lives in Chicago and tours with her two children. Initially, Hüber thought she'd post a new entry once a month or so. However, the project has simply taken off. "People are continuously volunteering themselves up -- I hit a nerve, I guess," she adds.
Hüber speaks with reverence about the mother artists she's interviewed, saying, "documenting these people is an honor." Each woman volunteers her time and invites Hüber into her home or studio to meet her family. "I'm capturing what people don't really talk about, like how hard these women are working," she says. "Some of them have full-time jobs and are still artists and still mothers. Everyone has a story. Every mother is different, every artist is different."
In June Hüber will travel to New York to interview more artists. Her hope is that the work will hop from gallery to gallery and eventually go worldwide. She's looking forward to the different geography and the lifestyle it presents there and the chance to interview a "city mom" -- someone used to taking trains and walking everywhere as opposed to mother artists here who can just jump in a car when they need to go somewhere.
After visiting the East Coast, Hüber will head to Los Angeles to interview a friend and mother whose daughter recently signed a recording contract. She wants to keep MAP open to all types of artists, including musicians, yoga teachers, fire-eaters, and belly dancers. She considers her project similar to Humans of New York as she documents behind-the-scenes glimpses of mother artists worldwide.
Hüber remains genuinely thankful for the attention and donations the project has gotten so far, which have enabled her to work on the blog, start crafting a website and travel around the country. She's currently paying for all of her travels herself, noting that she can easily drop $600 on framing for a show no bigger than the one at the Harrison. To help MAP continue, she's also applied for a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission. Even without a grant, one senses that Hüber's work with MAP would continue. "When these artist moms were going to college, I was at home changing diapers, wishing I could finish art school," she explains. "When it came time for them to have children of their own, they looked at me as an example -- a single mom who was determined to be an artist ... who was going to paint and make art anyway."
After the MAP premiere at the Harrison, Hüber will be part of a self-portrait show at Ashland Gallery (6537 Carrollton Avenue) with Michelle Merle Pace and Benaiah Cusack on May 9. Being able to manipulate images and "make them mysterious" is some of her favorite work. Hüber certainly inspires, turning a lifelong love of art and recovery from a near-tragedy into a mission to nurture her children and her art. She calls MAP "a mission she had to accomplish" and is clearly already successful given the art she's made and the mother artists she's validated by giving them a voice.