We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Minshew Cowsert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Monica, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Who remembers the (holy crap – it is called vintage)Weeble Wobble toys? They came out in the early 70’s and would famously Weeble and Wobble, but not fall down. In art and life we need to be able to embrace a certain lack of balance. This is hard, as we are wired for balance, symmetry, and equilibrium. This can be a struggle when life gets in the way and you have to constantly adjust to make room for changes and in these times we have a choice.
I was a few careers and a few kids in before seriously picking up a paint brush, so work was not ever a problem. Being able to focus on creativity while also juggling little lives of soccer practices, doctor appointments, science fair, the lost uniform shoe, ballet, snack day…this was a problem. There were days when I succeeded, but many more when I failed miserably and wondered why I bothered pushing on. It is hard…work.
I certainly strive for work-life balance, but work hard to embrace when it can’t be reached. This is hard. I am not in control of everything that goes on around me, but do have control of how I react. And isn’t this what life is all about really? To weeble and wobble, but not fall down!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I came to painting as an adult and oh, what I would give to have a strong background in actually knowing what I am doing. I say that half jokingly, but that leaves another half of truth! I was lucky to grow up with an interior designer mom and a retail background. It has been important when it comes to making art, to think about color trends and the actual marketability of what I create. It doesn’t drive my art, but the knowledge is there and valuable to fall back on.
The business of art is certainly challenging. People tend to think of it as fun. It is fun. It is also a risk. It is business. It is bills and high rent. It is expensive materials and canvases to store. It is marketing. It is self promotion…worst of the worst. It is a flooded studio the day before a show. It is Covid and cancelled shows. It is social media. It is spilled paints and dirty clothes. It is years of trying, mistakes, lessons and work. And that last word is what the business of art really is. Work.
I have fun with my art and hope it comes out in what I make. Sometimes I hear a word and think…I have to get that word on a canvas ASAP. I am inspired by nature and the world around me, and just like to give it a twist. Color is king in my art. I have been asked to nail down a style, and maybe this would have been easier to define had I gotten that education…but when I google the definitions of the individual styles, I seem to take a little from all of them with different things I do. Honestly I think if you just say something with conviction people will believe it – I think it is called an elevator speech. I’ll work on this, but in the meantime, I’ll just say I’m an impressionistic figurative artist with a fauvist expressionism slant. With a little abstract thrown in now and then of course.
I was asking my dad about an upcoming art show. It is big and scary for me. It is risky and a stretch out of my comfort zone. He said do it because my art gives off energy that people just have to see. My husband shows up at all my shows for support (I think he wonders what I do at the studio all the time and is really surprised when its up on the walls). My son picked a painting a few years ago and refuses to sell it even after a few offers. My daughter helps with marketing and gets the social media like a teen should and cheers me on. And I know my mom would have been so proud. This is the important stuff.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In the beautiful Lakewood Area start with brunch at The Heights, where the worst part is choosing what to have. All good. Walk a few doors down when done to Curiosities…which as the name states, is full of things that you never knew you were curious about. It is a feast for the eyes and you will need some time to explore…especially if you paired brunch with mimosas. No trip to this area would be complete without a walk through the Arboretum…overlooking Dallas’ Whiterock Lake. If you need to pack a lunch you better hit Jimmy’s Food Store for a good bottle of wine and sandwiches to go…and grab a blanket to catch a nap so you can wake up in time to hit Matt’s Rancho Martinez, where the Bob Armstrong queso and Chili Rellenos are a must. I get the Ranch Water, but my friend Anne swears by their margaritas, and she knows her margaritas! Spend your next day exploring Greenville Ave., and I don’t even know where to say to end up for eating…because there are so many winners on this street. It is full of local places with up and coming chefs, the prices can be good, and the area is a fun place to walk and pop in places. You can’t go wrong…but if you just want a good beer and don’t mind sitting in horrible old lawn chairs…go to a side street and hit the Truck Yard. They have some staple foods, but add rotating food trucks every day. It is perfect for a sunny day, and the dog is welcome too.
The Cedars neighborhood would not have been on my radar had I not moved my studio there, but low and behold, it is a neat area. The Farmers Market is about 30 seconds from my studio by car, as is Heritage Village, that takes you back to some of Dallas’ roots and history. There are neat galleries like Ro2 Art, that always bring in fresh artists. Monica’s Mex-Tex Cantina, formerly Monica’s Aca y Alla, has moved to the area and can’t be beat for Mexican food. The Sandwich Hag’s head chef is famously generous and supportive of folks with disabilities, and has the most amazing Banh Mi Sandwiches in Dallas. Don’t plan to eat inside…only outdoor seating here. My favorite has to be Lee Harvey’s where you sit at picnic tables, drink cold beer, eat amazing burgers and hear bands. Oh I love this place. It is so not what you think of when you think of Dallas.
In Downtown Dallas you will be busy. The museums alone are worth the trip. There is a cluster of good ones like the generously free Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Perot (that I really want to go to without kids)Museum! Don’t forget about the Sixth Floor Museum and the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. I just can’t worry about you eating today…there are places at Clyde Warren Park, in museums, up and down the streets…but if it were up to me, I’d walk over to the downtown Neiman Marcus store and eat at the Zodiac. There is so much to do downtown that this will take a few days!
The Design District is really a fun area to explore. There are galleries, antique stores, art studios, anything for your home stores….and it is a large area with many nooks and crannies. The Uncommon Market is my favorite explore store, but I suspect you could go for days and not see it all. As for places to eat, Meddlesome Moth is always good. I saw Laura Bush there one day. I’m convinced George and I should be friends but I can’t figure out how to make it happen. I met him once and went completely tongue-tied and he might have thought I was crazy. I kinda was temporarily…
A few other notables to hit “on your trip” would be an amazing find in the Oak Lawn area called Homewood. This chef can pair the oddest thing together and you will be thinking about the food for days. I can’t tell you what they are famous for because he switches the menu all the time. Just get what the chef likes that day. Oh, and the most wonderful gallery tucked in a neighborhood on Spring Valley Road is the Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden. It is small and worth the trip and plan to see the gardens. If you can’t find them, ask.…they are there and you won’t believe this hidden treat!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The thread of amazing strong women has been woven like a warm blanket around me providing encouragement and support. No shoutout would be complete without a nod to my mom, who was creative down to her toes. Her world was a palette that she painted every day and made everything she touched more beautiful. Everyone should have a Honey in their lives. I was lucky enough to call her mom. Art took its’ shape for me when I met Marianne Gargour who took me from art classes to having a studio of my own. She still teaches art, but is now a creative coach as well. and I did a series of one on one sessions this past year to help rethink and reset some goals to think bigger. I would highly recommend it for anyone in general!
Heather Ray photographer