“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” - Mary Oliver
The Creative Process:
Memories of Miscarriage, a series of eleven images, six of which are showcased here, were created using mono-printing and illustration. I began creating the series after my third miscarriage, when making art was essential, as I processed the multitude of emotions that surfaced during this difficult and solitary time. In a moment of divine inspiration, the work of NW Papercut artist, Nikki McClure, helped guide and transform the project in a number of ways.
After finishing Memories of Miscarriage, I was inspired to create an art show for fellow artists, writers and musicians who had made work about loss and grief related to pregnancy loss and infertility. Bearing Witness: The Art of Pregnancy Loss and Infertility debuted Mother’s Day weekend 2012 and again in July 2012. The show featured over thirty artists from all over the United States.
In spring of 2015, I participated in the Art of Motherhood class with Lisa Kagan. Excited by the opportunity to make art about being a mother, rather than the struggle to become one, I began exploring how to capture my love for my child and this new phase of my life in color and mixed media. The initial Art of Motherhood class led me into making more time for my own creative practice. I started a writing group with some lovely women and have been creatively fueled with a variety of projects and ideas ever since.
In the Backseat, By Kristen Larsen
The road, long and beautiful.
Our first road trip as a family of three. Three days of trees, rock, river, sagebrush, desert, fossils and back again.
I jumped in the front seat, ready to be everything: a wife who is present and mindful of his needs, a mother who can cultivate space and autonomy, and me, with whatever is left over.
I planned to leave behind the sticky handed, silliness of backseat, allowing for space for all of us and to hear her quiet toddler song, sounds and stories—the quiet murmurs of her burgeoning imagination and freedom to be.
Tears fell fast, the silent tortured cry heaved in her chest, devastation crossed her crimson face, Barely a breath escaping.
“Mama, don’t leave.”
From the moment she entered my life and whenever possible, I always sat with her in the backseat, I never wanted distance, I wanted to be with her. Always.
Year one, she grasped my hand during every car ride, not the closest one, but instead pulled my opposite arm across her lap, as much of my flesh that could reach across her little squat legs, holding me down, keeping me close.
When she stopped holding my hand, I placed my palm on her knee. She would gently place her hand on top of mine. If I drifted away, she would bring me back again. We were always together even when the quiet had settled and our own thoughts wandered.
Year three, and we simply sit together. Her independence and my acceptance sit side by side, a partnership that grew with us, strong enough to let go because we have to.
Lately it seems we are always in the car, never in the backseat. Back and forth, the drain of daycare, the drag of arms and legs flailing, minutes and mutual irritation as my little one is forced to follow me and my schedule of work/life—unbalanced.
Leaving is something I often have to do and sometimes I want to do.
“Mama, can you sit with me?”
My harried morning voice quick to remind her of the reality yet again,
“We have to leave.”
For this long and beautiful stretch of road, I lean into the back seat. The crackle in her wavering voice dissipates.
We begin carving our own world in the backseat, pressed into one another’s space, our bodies strapped down, a witness to life speeding by in slow motion as the colors of the landscape bleed from green to brown, brown to orange and the big blue sky, our companion all along.
Backseat becomes our sanctuary; to giggle, tickle, whine and groan, to nap at our leisure, and share a snack. We have hours, and we have days together. Like this. In the backseat.
“Mama, can we look at babies?”
A question she used to ask each time she saw my phone. Together we would look at pictures and videos digging through the past of her growing self, memories etched in the space of technology.
Wee stubby fingers learned to scroll through the imagery and log her favorites, smiling and watching, over and over and over again. Playing with the dog, eating new foods, laughter, yodeling; all my favorite.
In the backseat, near the end of this long road, she came upon her birth photos. One photo captured her. Nakedness, supple pink skin tinged red, her float in fluid had come to an end. Scrunched face, silent cry, blue gloves, cut cord. Mama in the distance. Just a blip in the corner of the frame. Unknowing tear filled face, waiting… watching. My laden arms stretched out on a table, unable to hold anything except immense joy and absolute fear.
Surgery was my choice in the end. A scare of dropping heartbeats and calling code, the rush of nurses, of oxygen on my face, my body shaking into fever and infection.
My heart had been scarred. Three miscarriages, three years and she, my last attempt at biological motherhood.
It was time to bring this child into the world. She arrived safely. I was waiting for her.
She stared at this photo for some time. I gazed back at her, a tremble of lip began, the tiny empath burgeoning inside her. This beautiful being, the infant that wept when she heard me sing a familiar lonesome song.
She met my eyes. A swell of tears, as we looked into one another.
“Mama, what are they doing to me?” “Making sure you were okay.” I said.
She looked back at the photo; more tears glistened on her face and mine. The depth of her blue and my hazel met again, our hearts aligned.
“Did they give me back to my mama?” she cried quietly.
My voice started to tremble.“Yes! Yes, they did.”
My swell of tears and face fill with transcendent warmth and light, the backseat is glowing. I smile at her, she smiles back.
A thousand more words at the tip of my tongue, falling off my face, trying to tell this child the story… of her.
About the Artist:
Kristen Larsen’s family is complete and chaotic with one beautiful, free spirited and loving three year old girl. Kristen spends many of her days working as an art therapist and licensed professional counselor at a program she co-created for older adults in a long-term care community. From a young age Kristen learned that making art and telling your story was an important tool for self-expression and healing.
Kristen’s future plans include leading creative and therapeutic retreats for women who have experienced loss and infertility. If you are interested in connecting with Kristen, please visit: