We had the good fortune of connecting with Theresa Knopf and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Theresa, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Work life balance has always been a struggle for me. I had children in my early twenties and had to juggle family, college, and creative pursuits all while holding down a full-time job in education and technology. Throughout those early years I would sacrifice my sleep and well-being to keep all the plates spinning. I could never be busy enough and filled every single moment of every single day with activities that I thought were in pursuit of some version of a better me: perfect mother, good employee, straight A student, active in volunteering in my community, with a vibrant and active art studio practice. It wasn’t until I fell ill and was hospitalized for complications with a chronic invisible illness that I was forced to re-evaluate.
I would say that now I find myself in pursuit of balance.
What I mean by this is I stopped pursuing perfection and instead allow myself to just be. Meditation has helped with this. Spending time everyday, in silence, with myself has helped me come to a place of acceptance. I know deep down in my soul I am an artist. Even when I am not making art, because I need rest, or my family needs my full attention, or I’m working in public education and technology in a pandemic, that my paints and my studio and all the wonderful creative ideas I have jotted down in my sketchbook will be there, when I’m ready, when I’m able. The balance is in self acceptance and care. The artist, the mother, the lover of humanity, those are all parts of me. I know that now, and I don’t have to prove it to anyone. That’s not to say that I don’t have moments where that perfectionism sneaks back in and creates self-doubt, but I now have the tools to help quiet that obsessive perfectionism a little so I can be more balanced, more at ease with myself, and more free creatively.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art is a combination of drawing, painting, fiber art, collage, printmaking, and experimental photography. Rather than choosing one medium, I prefer to make work based on concept and material driven exploration of ideas to abstract personal history and fictional narratives. Sometimes the fictional narrative comes from literature, sometimes it comes from the stories families tell, or conceal. I love stories and memories. Memory is so slippery, you never really know how factual family histories are by the time they’ve made it to you, especially if passed down a few generations. That’s what I really enjoy most, exploring memory and connection, and questions of how our past experiences or even those experiences passed down the generations affect us now. For me, making art in this way is like a ritual or communion.
It’s not always easy to work with memory in this way, sometimes it can bring up past traumas. It really requires a lot of self-reflection and discipline, and a lot of care when your subject matter is so personal.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Obviously not much is open currently, but when I’ve had friends and family visit from out of the area, I always start with a picnic at The Getty. I think it’s a great first introduction to Los Angeles: a trip on the 405, art and culture with mountain views, city views, and on a clear day you can see the ocean. Of course, beach days are a must. Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach are classic destinations, but I prefer the short drive up to Carpinteria for a more peaceful, contemplative experience, it really depends on who I’m showing around which beach we go to. As for food experiences and Contemporary Art Galleries, a day in Downtown is always fun, there really is just so much to see and do and eat in DTLA. But my favorite thing of all, if it’s Summer, I take my guests to see Free Shakespeare at Griffith Park. I am not lying when I say, Independent Shakespeare Co. is one of the best things about Summer in Los Angeles. In addition to great theater, they create a program around the performances in collaboration with other arts organizations so that you get to really experience the rich and diverse arts and culture of Los Angeles. Plus Griffith Park and the Old Zoo is just so beautiful. It’s so much fun. I go every year!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I draw so much love and support from my family. In particular, my spouse, composer and musician, Dustin Morgan who fearlessly chases dreams and inspires and encourages me to do the same. Had he not encouraged me to take art classes after work at the local community college to make time to follow my passions, I don’t know that I would have ever given myself that permission. He recognized that I was allowing expectations of who I should be, weigh down the person I could be. And for that I am forever grateful. I am fortunate to have met many wonderful educators over the years, but two stand out as really giving me the encouragement and support I needed to navigate this long and challenging journey. Professor Joy Von Wolffersdorff, who taught those community college art classes and actively encouraged me to continue education in art. So I did, and at CSUN I met Professor Samantha Fields. I have never met someone so passionate about art, and works tirelessly in service of their students. She was my mentor and friend through Graduate School, and even now takes time to send words of encouragement, long after the student/teacher relationship is over. Words cannot describe my love and gratitude.
Theresa Knopf Shawn Michaels