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The Woman Who Spawned MsMorphosis Gets Some Well-Deserved Recognition

mom's painting (5:10)

I read something once that said there are two types of love in this world – the type where two things that are one have to separate, and then the type where two things that are separate become one. The ultimate example of the former is maternal love, where a woman is forced to not only grow this little thing inside of her, but then sacrifice for it for 18+ years (I’m now 24 and I still need her support on a more-than-regular basis), and then find a way to continue to love and accept this thing for whatever it grows into as an individual being. It’s the most bizarre thing, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful.

Her studio & a charcoal sketch. All photos taken without permission.

I hate to brag (ok, I don’t hate it, but it sounds better if I’m bashful while bragging) but I really lucked out in the mom department. I know everyone says this, but my mom really is my best friend. I can sit in a room with my best 20-something girlfriends and my mom and I’ll say pretty much the exact same stuff. Her ability to empathize, love me, and enjoy me exactly for who I am has allowed me to be brutally honest – even when I sound inappropriate, dysfunctional, and insane. At the end of the day her parenting technique was brilliant, because this love and acceptance of me makes me feel like a really crappy person when I let her (and my dad) down. So, in the end, her trust and love has made me hard-working and (relatively) upstanding. Very cool. Very Osho.

The neatest part about this woman, though, is that she has a beautiful handle on the whole “modern woman” experience. She’s a wonderful mom and wife (I’ve written about her and my dad and their marriage that undoubtedly gave me unrealistic expectations about love on this post: The Nature of Love), but she’s also an independent person with her own past. She’s educated, has had successful careers, and has grown into a really, really incredible professional artist.

This week an issue of Southwest Art Magazine came out that profiled her as an emerging artist to watch, and it’s hilarious seeing her written about in print. So formal. So professional. It’s a great article, and a fun magazine to read, so you should check it out here (!!!!): Southwest Art – Ann Gargotto – Emerging Artist

However, as her daughter and offspring, it’s my job to humble her in her moment in the spotlight. Much like when we go clothes shopping and I make gagging sounds at half the things she tries on (hilarious to anyone who knows her, since she’s barely over 100 lbs and looks adorable in everything), it’s important that I shed light on the real woman behind the paintings. Here we go – 5 things the article leaves out about Ann Gargotto:

1. Although they make her choice of subject matter and painting style seem very nonchalant and haphazard, they should know that it isn’t all as Mary Poppins as it sounds. No – the woman is obsessed. She will paint radishes from three thousand different angles. She will obsess about a stem, a shadow, an everything. There’s nothing nonchalant about her painting style – it’s the most focused, obsessive, perfectionistic process I’ve ever seen.

2. Before she was doing oil paints she had a long love affair with pastels. Her pastels were unbelievable. Then, one day she decided to do oil painting, and now here we are some three years later and she’s turned into some sort of Rembrandt. It’s humbling to watch, since I can still barely figure out how to mix a skin tone after 4 years on my own little artsy journey.

3. If you are ever making plans with her, know that there is this underlying thing in her calendar called “painting.” Getting time to paint (while still having a family and working with my dad and yada yada yada) is constantly – constantly – on her mind. She will do anything for two hours in that studio with no one bothering her. If I call during that period “just to catch up” there is a distinct edge to her voice, a wonderful little way of relating the internal struggle she’s going through between wanting to be there for me 24/7 (for 24 years now) and just wanting a minute to paint. It’s really sweet, actually.

4. She has this hilarious gift with painting animals – dogs and cats. Now, she’s the sweetest woman alive and loves our pets (especially Beau, the single most goofy looking dog on the planet) but she’s not what I would call “an animal person” per se… but she starts to paint an animal and it’s magic. It’s completely out of her control and absolutely bona fide hilarious.

The best Christmas present ever: a painting she did for me of Bella, my dog/life partner

5. Every time she starts a painting she’s convinced she doesn’t know how to paint anymore and will never do another painting again in her life. Then, it always turns out amazing. It’s amazing how hard it is to be an artist – every time she has to start she is literally facing a blank canvas. Every time it terrifies her. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my mom, it’s that no matter how incredible or gifted you are at something, it’s always hard to face a blank canvas. But she does it, every day, and her work is absolutely phenomenal.

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2 Responses to The Woman Who Spawned MsMorphosis Gets Some Well-Deserved Recognition

  1. Ann Gargotto says:

    To my darling daughter: The excitement and pride I felt with the Southwest Art Magazine article PALES in comparison to how I felt when I read your post. I’ve always thought that I was the luckiest mom in the world and times like this confirm it. Thank you, Jenner Ben, for making me feel like this today – you’re the best and I love you more than life itself!!!!!!!!!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I can’t comment on being the daughter of said woman who spawned the incredible msmorphosis, but I can comment as her sister. Another thing that wasn’t mentioned in the article is that she is so competent and smart when it comes to dealing with necessary business matters that no one else can figure out. On top of that, she is always there for anyone who needs her. I am so happy that she has found something she has such a great talent for and is so passionate about! She is the best sister in the world!

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