Art comes in many forms, but no matter the medium, it allows us to express what words may not. In honor of Inspire Your Heart with Art Day, Evelyn Mix, artist and Heart Mom, shares with us how creating “Behind the Smiles” helped her process life as part of the heart community and connect with others on a similar journey. Art can lift spirits and spread CHD Awareness.
Before my daughter was born, Art was just pure enjoyment to me. I loved every bit of it and would draw whenever possible. I even graduated college with a Bachelors in Fine Arts with an emphasis in printmaking. At that time, my favorite subject was animals. I would paint, draw, carve, and do woodcut prints of all sorts of animals. I was told many times that I should make a career out of my artwork but I never really found my niche in the art community. I think it was because even though had a great talent my artwork lacked the passion within my heart.
My love for art never faded although it did take a backseat for a while when my daughter, Lydia was born. My life was turned upside down and shattered into a million pieces when we found out she had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of heartache, guilt, emotions, and pain beyond expression. The doctors told my husband and I that she would die unless she had open heart surgery. So, at 10 days she had her first open heart surgery called the Norwood. We watched our daughter fight to live for 4 months. Then at 4 months old she had her second open heart surgery, the Glenn. After the Glenn she slowly started to get stronger. Finally, after 5 months in the hospital, we got the best news, “She is strong enough to go home.” We were beyond elated.
My new journey began, a stay at home mom to a child with extreme medical needs. While I was happy she was home, my depression, emotions, and responsibilities still sat on my shoulders. Every minute of the day and night I spent taking care of not only my daughter but my son, Tate, as well. I tried a couple times to draw but failed because my head and heart just wasn’t ready.
Despite several setbacks, including developmental delays, hip dysplasia, severe GERD, and other diagnoses, Lydia was thriving. Finally, I felt like I was able to start processing my emotions. So I picked up a pencil and starting drawing again. I started by drawing my favorite subject, animals. With each drawing my enjoyment of artwork returned, although, I still felt like God wanted me to confront my feelings. So through the help of God, family, and friends I decided to pour it out into artwork. Art began to transform from just an idea of pure enjoyment into a catalyst for expressing everything that I kept bottled up.
The artwork “Behind the Smiles” emerged. A compilation of all the emotions that I was drowning in. But this piece was not just about all of my emotions but of so many parents going through similar journeys. I had reached out to other parents who shared with me single words that they used to describe their life as a CHD parent. I used 100 of those words in the artwork. With every pencil stroke I felt my burdens lift a little, it was very freeing and therapeutic.
Once “Behind the Smiles” was completed I wanted to share it in hopes it would inspire others. I started with a local art exhibit, Barry County Artist Exhibition. While I was happy with how many it reached in my local town, I wanted to reach more. That’s when I decided to put it in a larger art competition called Artprize. Through Artprize, I wanted to bring awareness to CHD. I would have never guessed how much awareness it would bring or how many lives it would touch and inspire. It gave hope to many families and the feeling that they were not alone in their emotions. I was also able to donate half of the sale price to Conquering CHD-Michigan.
Art has now become a voice for not only me but for so many others. I am not alone. We are not alone. I am continuing this idea in my future artwork. I am creating artwork about being not only a CHD Parent but also a special needs parent. My hope is that I can inspire many by showing the world my life, our life, and our children’s incredible journey. I am no longer hiding my feelings. I want the world to become more aware.
Evelyn Mix is an artist and a stay at home mom to two special needs children, Tate, who was recently diagnosed with Autism and Lydia who was born in 2018 with HLHS. Evelyn and her husband Josh have been married since 2005. The Mix Family lives in Michigan.