A Letter Of Hope For My Single Mother

A museum date with my mother at the Perez art Museum Miami admiring artwork by Firelei Baez in Miami, FL.

A museum date with my mother at the Perez art Museum Miami admiring artwork by Firelei Baez in Miami, FL.

I grew up with a single Mom.

You would probably expect my “Mother’s Day” social media dedication to sound something like this:

“My Mom is a strong independent woman…or she worked so hard to fulfill the job of two parents…etc”.

While those statements are true, and I truly do admire my Mother’s strength…I know that kind of hard working lifestyle was not always easy. It was difficult to see her work so hard without the nurturing love and support that she deserved from a partner.

My mother and I at my MFA in Curatorial Practice Graduation at the Maryland Institute College of Art, 2014 in Baltimore, MD.

My mother and I at my MFA in Curatorial Practice Graduation at the Maryland Institute College of Art, 2014 in Baltimore, MD.

As positive as I may seem on the outside, growing up with a single mother greatly affected me and my life choices. Looking back, I realize that affected my approach to things like my past arts advocacy, only responding to what was wrong with the world. Or when I held the burden of constantly thinking: How could I work harder to make the world a better place through art and my higher education? How can I be the positive change in my family?

That’s a lot of burden to hold onto as a young individual, right?!

These expectations lead me to working out of scarcity, anger, and fear (which are legitimate feelings, but not good for my overall mental well being). This lead to holding a lot of grudges that resulted from carrying such burdens.

Me in front of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. Photo by  Fluffy Pop Postcards .

Me in front of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. Photo by Fluffy Pop Postcards.

But what I really yearned for was more love, more positivity, more mindfulness, more responses rather than reactions when facing all the isms me and my friends experience.

Then one day it hit me. I deserve to embrace more love in my professional work! But how can I do that as a hopeful romantic curator in an art world that even discourages artists from making cheesy break up art? (True story. I went to art school for 6 years, but I made breakup art anyways cuz IDGAF).

I thought:

Why not think of weddings as art exhibitions that tell our love stories?

That’s how I channeled my anger from my arts advocacy in curating relevant and accessible art exhibitions about community and social issues to embracing my love for people, my love for art, AND my love for love. I know that we all want more love and more connection in this world, even if some extremists believe that is a naive way to combat hate and pain.

Photo by my <3 Anthony Summers in front of  Olivia Steele 's public sculpture at  Sacred Space Miami .

Photo by my <3 Anthony Summers in front of Olivia Steele's public sculpture at Sacred Space Miami.

Sharing this as a wedding planner may seem counter productive within an industry that is all about catering to the extreme expectations of being that perfectionist, detail crazed wedding planner with that plaster smile in a wedding industrial complex that prioritizes placing perfect/childless/white/hetero/monogamous relationships on a pedestal while simultaneously ignoring the ugly realities of an oppressive society. That is not my reality as a woke curator turned wedding planner. That wedding planning bubble is not the reality for most people.

I hope to bridge these gaps and change these narratives at Creative Unions because I know that just like my mother, we all have real AF stories to tell in a world that is not always picture perfect. Art can do that in the most powerful and beautiful ways, without necessarily triggering people on one of the many special days that is supposed to be joyful. 

Gustav Klimt,&nbsp; The Kiss.&nbsp; Image sourced from  Google Arts &amp; Culture

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss. Image sourced from Google Arts & Culture

Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” is my mother’s favorite painting. Probably because it exuberates the kind of love she always wanted. Soft, tender, balanced, and classy. (Who doesn’t love that iconic painting?)

Even thought Klimt can be overrated in the art world’s eyes, I would totally make a Gustav Klimt inspired Creative Union for my mother. Even if it’s just an artsy self love party for her and her friends surrounded by the art that tells her unique love story. I know she would love it. And I know she deserves to be celebrated for who she is rather than solely focusing on how hard she continues to work to make ends meet, with or without a partner.

Mom visiting me in Baltimore, MD when I used to live and work there.

Mom visiting me in Baltimore, MD when I used to live and work there.

Mom, I hope you find continue to find that love in yourself. Just let me know when you are ready, and I will get started on planning your Creative Union a fuckin sap!

Happy Mother's Day!

Love,

Michelle


 

Why Unions?

This post is part 3 of 3 from the premiere Why Creative Unions blog series which focuses on the Creative Union’s 3 core values: inclusivity, expression, and community.

#TBT to the usual pic of me with the birthday girl tiara (YES THAT IS A SAILOR MOON CAKE), loving to be the center of attention, as always. PS - I don’t think I am too old to wear tiaras on my birthday nowadays!

#TBT to the usual pic of me with the birthday girl tiara (YES THAT IS A SAILOR MOON CAKE), loving to be the center of attention, as always. PS - I don’t think I am too old to wear tiaras on my birthday nowadays!

I LOVE the feeling of being around a community that I felt like I belong to, who doesn’t? Simply put, we are social animals. It’s the reason why we invite our friends and families to our weddings, birthday parties, grieve with our loved ones when we lose someone close to us, or get together to celebrate graduating with an MFA. Out of all those moments, one tends to get more attention than the others. Guess which one? Yup...your wedding day.

Growing up, I remember other girls envisioning their wedding day. Planning their perfect white dresses, perfect husbands and perfect flowers. Around the age of 10, I questioned why they spent so much time mapping out their quinceañeras and weddings instead of planning their careers as New York City Art Curators and daydreaming about what they would get for their next birthday. I mean, what could be more important than your exhibition titles and Sailor Moon toy collection? Wow, how times have changed...

Looking back, I now understand why young girls are conditioned to think of their wedding as one of life’s most special days. It’s this culturally symbolic moment when you are put on an unattainably high pedestal for all of your friends and family to gawk at and are celebrated for your perfection and your ability to achieve the social pinnacle of femaledom: Wife-hood. The fact that you accomplished this feat before your biological clock ran out makes your achievement all the more impressive. Don’t get me wrong, thinking about life’s special moments is totally normal, especially when it’s ingrained into our psyche based on family traditions, the media, and patriarchy. It’s a choice, and you decide what and how you want to celebrate that choice! #youdoyouboo

If you choose to get married, COOL! But it’s not the only highlight of your life. In fact, it is one of MANY special days that will occur in your life. If you want to get married, do it, and have a wedding. But as a woke person who likes to question all kinds of systems and traditions, I still feel crunchy about the institution of marriage being so deeply rooted in patriarchy and excluding same sex couples.

As Beth Olson perfectly puts it in this article:

If you have a more progressive view of the world, The Wedding Industry and process of planning a wedding in general can be a real enigma. On one hand it’s “Fuck the Patriarchy!” But does that mean you can’t also want a white dress and a dance party?
— Beth Olson, photographer

^ My point exactly! Although I am hesitant to participate in these patriarchal and exclusive traditions, I still find so much value in bringing people together to celebrate life’s moments the way I choose to, especially on my wedding day.

I want to share my love story without feeling pressured by old traditions. I want to fight the patriarchy and cut my cake at the same damn time (and eat it too). But more importantly, I want to share that day with the ones I love most.

Image source from  One Room With A View

Image source from One Room With A View

There’s another tricky part...where do you draw the line with invitations to your Creative Union?

When I think of weddings, I mostly imagine a spotlight on a couple celebrating their love in front of 100+ people. I assume that the couple’s closest family members, friends, and loved ones are there to party with them. Unfortunately at every wedding, you see those stray work acquaintances with their Tinder dates who only want free booze and were invited so you could avoid future work drama. You also have those old high school and college friends you feel obligated to invite, even though you only keep in touch via a few Instagram likes and comments which are filled with meaningless emojis expressing only a fraction of the complex human emotional spectrum. And don’t forget your second Aunt’s third husband’s children whom you’ve never met but have heard about incessantly in their annual horrible Holiday letter. Must you always invite these social dregs?!?!?!?!

When you choose to get married, I hope this is not the case. Your wedding should be an intimate and special day that you choose to share with those you love and intend on keeping in your life. Your wedding is not just a romantic and ritualistic union between you and your partner, it is also a union of your communities. The community you choose to celebrate with is an important one, because who else would you like to share such a personal moments with? You wanna look back at the wedding photos, and actually know the people in them! BOOM SHAKKA LAKKA!

 
Caption: Source: www.dictionary.com

Caption: Source: www.dictionary.com

 

What I love about bringing people together through artful celebration is the capacity to heal old wounds, build stronger communities, and respond to the problems of the world by honoring people and their resilience in the face of adversity. The power of unity is in your Creative Union, when celebrating the loving commitment between you and your partner also becomes a form of resistance during today’s political climate which strives to tear us apart.

A marriage celebration is a union of two partners and the community. These kinds of values are key to my business, and why I prefer the term union over wedding. The term wedding can carry a racist, ableist, and heteronormative undertone. On the other hand, unions are inclusive of all gender orientations, cultural traditions, and religions.

A Creative Union is a specially curated art exhibition and marriage ceremony that brings people together to celebrate your love story.

Despite all the unjust things happening in the world right now, commUNITY is essential to everything, from political grassroots organizing, to creating healthy ecosystems for our basic needs, to creating what you define as a happy home. Love makes it that much easier to accomplish all of the above. It requires a love of self, the kind of self love that overflows so that you can share it with someone else, and your community. That is the kind of self love that comes from knowing that your story matters. It’s the kind of love we need to create ripple effects in our society. We need each other now more than ever.  

-Michelle Ivette Gomez

Founder and Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC


 

ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.

Why Be Creative?

This post is part 2 of 3 from the premiere Why Creative Unions blog series which focuses on the Creative Union’s 3 core values: inclusivity, expression, and community.

#TBT to those times when I created abuelita paintings AS A CHILD.

#TBT to those times when I created abuelita paintings AS A CHILD.

I was 8 years old when I entered my first art gallery. I can remember the white glare of the Miami sun beating down on my mother as we strolled down the infamous Lincoln Road mall on South Beach. We walked passed the Romero Britto gallery and I immediately stopped in my tracks. The bright, polka dotted, high contrasting patterns behind the windows were intoxicating to my 8 year old brain (What kid doesn’t like Romero Britto? Plus, he is a brilliant marketer). Without question, I walked right in. I remember feeling so small upon entering the gallery. As I scanned every painting hanging on the white walls, my eyes quickly focused on one thing: the red dots.

My confident little self walked right up to the stuffy gallerist and asked to speak to this Romero Britto. I was told the artist was not there, but that I could speak to the gallery manager. I then met a tall man in a suit who gleefully came up to me to say hello. Feeling starstruck, I said “Hi, I am Michelle, I am an artist. I make oil painting landscapes. What is the red sticker on the wall for?”

He explained that the artworks with red dots meant that they had been sold. After hearing that, you might as well have put the red dot sticker on my forehead because I was SOLD. Little did he know that this moment in time will inspire my entire life trajectory in a matter of 5 minutes. Right then and there, I fell in love with the idea of making art exhibitions for a living.

That precious plastic insert with the archives of an interaction that changed me forever.

That precious plastic insert with the archives of an interaction that changed me forever.

  

I do not remember the rest of my conversation with Britto’s gallery manager, but I do remember getting his business card and grabbing all the promotional materials about Britto’s famous art career I could carry, archiving them in plastic inserts in a binder and safely storing them in my art closet. Those promotional materials still sit in the same plastic inserts today as a souvenir of where I once came from, reminding me that from that moment on - I wanted to make art exhibitions for the rest of my life.

Since then, I have worn many hats as an arts professional. I achieved  my dream of attending the top arts school in the country to get my BFA in General Fine Arts. Then I  received my MFA in Curatorial Practice while curating professionally in traditional art galleries and public spaces. "But how did I go from curating traditional art exhibitions to curating exhibitions that tell love stories in and outside of that box?" Good question.

  

Photo of “Images and Ruins”, a group exhibition I curated at School 33, Baltimore, MD in 2013

Photo of “Images and Ruins”, a group exhibition I curated at School 33, Baltimore, MD in 2013

One day, I was installing one of those typical art exhibitions in a gallery in Baltimore. It was 3am as I was finishing up the last touches when I had an epiphany. I realized that the artists I was working with reflected neither myself nor the communities that surrounded the gallery. The artwork did not engage anyone beyond the typical art audience. I drank the art world koolaid, and could not figure out the answer to the most important question I learned to ask myself when creating exhibitions in graduate school: “In order to what?”.

While I love the infinite possibilities associated with the traditional white cube, I began to get bored with this model because I was unchallenged. I questioned, “Why is it that when I think of an “art exhibition”, I think of the following scenario?”

  1. White walls

  2. Stuffy receptionist secretly judging you for how basic you are

  3. Static and conceptual artworks hung at centerline

  4. Cold, grey cement floor

  5. Repeat Art world folks only coming to the opening reception to preach to the choir

  6. Wine and cheese

  7. Boring panel discussions full of chin rubbing

The tastemakers who made the above scenario the dominant model of exhibition presentation have trained my brain to identify contemporary art through their anglo/white/western lens. This lens is what has shaped art HIStory, and has infiltrated the way I understand, define, and assign value to art.

With a longing to challenge the norms of curatorial practice found in mainstream arts institutions, I focused on expressing people’s stories through collaborative and inclusive community centered curatorial practice methods to co-create relevant art exhibitions about people’s lives. For example, I organized “Estamos Aquí (We Are Here)” a guerilla public art project that projected the portraits and stories about Baltimore’s Latino community leaders on the side of a building, and “CUTZ: Black Men in Focus”, a photography and video exhibition by artist Gracie Xavier that explored Black Male identity through the lens of the African American barbershop at Gallery CA in Baltimore, MD.

Photo of   “Estamos Aquí (We Are Here)”

Photo of “Estamos Aquí (We Are Here)”

These exhibitions came to life when the people who helped make the exhibit possible were present and celebrating. More importantly, they brought disconnected people together around relevant social issues.

PHOTO OF “CUTZ: Black Men in Focus” BY GRACIE XAVIER.

PHOTO OF “CUTZ: Black Men in Focus” BY GRACIE XAVIER.

Then one day it hit me... I love love, and bringing people together, why not make exhibitions about those stories? Love stories matter too! Making exhibitions come alive through marriage ceremonies was a literal “marriage” of the two worlds I loved most: art + weddings. The perfect match.

Many arts professionals may argue that many people do not have access to art. While that is true in many cases (especially within the education system), I believe that art is in all of us and always around us. It’s the art that we live with on a daily basis: the blankets your mother and grandmother crocheted, the community garden your neighbors created, the photographs you take, the altars you make, the way you design your home, the way you dress, the rituals you participate in, and the events that you plan to celebrate life’s special moments.

We are inherently creative. Art is everywhere. Art tells our stories and helps shape the way we see ourselves and each other.

Why not express your truest self in the most unique way possible, even on your wedding day? With art, anything is possible.

-Michelle Ivette Gomez

Founder and Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC


ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.

Why Love, Now?

This post is part 1 of 3 from the premiere Why Creative Unions blog series which focuses on the Creative Union’s 3 core values: inclusivity, expression, and community.

#TBT to being a smart aleck with my hand under my chin since 1989 questioning why every love song is about love.

#TBT to being a smart aleck with my hand under my chin since 1989 questioning why every love song is about love.

I remember sitting in the back of my mother's 1992 blue Honda Accord after she picked me up from elementary school, the hot Miami sun was barreling down on us, and that 90’s “I’m Blue” song by Eiffel 65 was playing. This upbeat euro-pop earworm that seemed to pulse with melancholic vibes sent my head bopping along with the da ba dee da ba daa, satisfying my need to escape my racing thoughts (not much has changed since). Like any typical kid with an insane amount of curiosity and a love for questioning absolutely everything, I looked outside the car window as I concentrated on the “I’m Blue” song lyrics to analyze why this song was so different. Suddenly I realized it wasn’t about a love story. Mind blown. So I asked my Mommy, “Why is every song about love?”. She must have been caught off guard by such a precocious question, one that she probably wasn't prepared to answer parked in front of Flagami Elementary. She never quite answered me, and I still ask myself that same question today.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a romantic at heart (I mean, I did start a wedding company), but my inner child’s curiosity was never suppressed. Why is every story in popular media about romantic love? It’s a question that has permeated my consciousness since that day after school in my mom’s car. Why is it that when I think of romantic comedies, love songs, and weddings, I immediately think of white, straight couples in false Hollywood narratives with thin able bodied straight white women wearing white dresses walking serenely down the aisle to the “man” of her dreams as if he was the only thing that matters to greet the end of her biological clock?  

Image source from Refinery29

Image source from Refinery29

Something about that image just rubs me the wrong way. WE’RE NOT ALL KATHERINE HEIGL IN 27 DRESSES (nor do I want to have 27 bridesmaids)! Hollywood’s fabrications and its classic love stories have become so imprinted in our memory that most people have become brainwashed into thinking that straight + white + hotel = perfect wedding. But guess what, it doesn’t have to be that way! That image can’t reflect everyone (not even close).

Here’s a fun game. Grab a sheet of paper, a pen and take 30 seconds to try and write down every wedding you’ve ever seen on film or television.

Done? Good, here’s my list:

  1. The Little Mermaid

  2. 27 Dresses

  3. Father Of The Bride

  4. Bridezilla

  5. Honeymoon In Vegas

  6. The Princess Bride

  7. The Wedding Singer

  8. Love Actually

  9. My Best Friends Wedding

  10. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

  11. Maid in Manhattan (I love J-Lo btw)

  12. Sex & The City (Truth: I met Sarah Jessica Parker once!)

You get the picture. I could go on and on and on, it’s that easy. And how many of those weddings were white + straight + hotel = perfect wedding?

See my point?

David Bornfriend/A24 ( Image sourced from NPR.org )

David Bornfriend/A24 (Image sourced from NPR.org)

Ok switching gears here a bit. You’ll understand why later. My favorite film of 2016 was “Moonlight.” If you haven’t seen it, stop what you are doing and watch it now (It won 3 Oscars including 2017 Best Picture, and has garnered the most amount of think pieces I have ever seen).

Co-written by Miami native Tarell McCraney, Moonlight is a stunning story of a young gay Black man at three pivotal moments in his life. While it is a coming of age drama, it doesn’t aim to be the typical love story that ends with a marriage, instead it subverts the classic love story without totally escaping from the realities of navigating the world as a gay Black man growing up in Liberty City, Miami. It’s profound, subtly intense and devastatingly beautiful.

Wait, but with everything going on in the world at the moment, why talk about love, movies, and marriage? Why love, now? Aren’t we getting sidetracked from the real issues? Nope, just watch this video to have Dylan Marron answer those questions.

My point here is, stories build empathy and shape the way we see things in popular media, within our own communities, and in our personal relationships. If romantic love stories saturate our world so much, then why don’t we see ourselves reflected in them?

Barry Jenkins, the Director of Moonlight asked himself why he never saw two Black men cook for each other on the big screen, then created a scene that did just that. His courage reminds me of that overflowing and confident self love that comes from an inner fire that propels you to make the changes you want to see in the world.

David Bornfriend/A24 (Image sourced from  Slate.com )

David Bornfriend/A24 (Image sourced from Slate.com)

Like Barry, and Tarell, I ask questions about love and representation all the time: in the arts, over a marathon of romantic comedies (no shame), and scrolling through Pinterest wedding boards. Now I decided to do something about the lack of representation, the same way Barry and Tarell created their own path. Without knowing it at the time, my inner 9-year-old sparked a fire to change the wedding industry by subverting the classic wedding love story. I no longer wanted to abide by wedding rules that come from an entire set of dominant cultural traditions imprinted in my brain and passed down to every subsequent generation like a crazed photocopier set on duplicate.

With the 1st ever event planning company solely dedicated to realizing the unique love stories of Creatives through art, I can finally see myself in the wedding industry. I’ve gone full circle, like Eiffel 65 making a song that isn’t prescribing to high dosages of dominant songs that saturate your ears with illusional romance.

So what is that infamous Italian/90’s/Eurodance #1 hit wonder “I’m Blue” really about? Besides the fact that it’s about a fictional character name Zorotl (Yes, it is a blue alien who has it’s own website), On its surface, “I'm Blue” is a metaphor for how the songwriter/character sees the world. In the song, he questions the mundane life choices he makes from the job he chooses to the girlfriend he picks, but it's also othering the character. It sets him apart from the rest of the world and it becomes a badge of honor. He exuberantly sings about his blueness and celebrates his uniqueness. The term blue has always been associated with depression, but is blue really all that depressing?

Photo by Michelle Ivette Gomez

Photo by Michelle Ivette Gomez

In Moonlight, Little (the main character) goes to the beach with his mentor, Juan. Juan shares a story about his childhood in Cuba as a subtle reference to the erasure of Miami’s Black Cubans. Growing up, Juan used to run around when the moon was out and this one time, this old lady told him, “In moonlight, Black boys look blue. You’re blue. That’s what I’m going to call you: ‘ Blue’.”

I love that image. When I think of blue, I think of creativity, intelligence, serenity, and infinite freedom. When I think of blue, I imagine being in the ocean, in the middle of it all looking up at the clear blue sunny sky with a smile on my face, remembering all of the endless possibilities that can be realized with my unlimited and creative potential.

After Juan shares his childhood story, Little asks Juan, “Is your name Blue?”

Juan: “Nah. At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you're going to be. Can't let nobody make that decision for you."

That's why I decided to make the change I want to see in the world to help people realize their unique potential and encourage them to be who they want to be, because their love stories matter.

Maybe blue is more beautiful than depressing, maybe we all just want to be seen after all, under the moonlight.

 

-Michelle Ivette Gomez

Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC


ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.