#momand : Denise, mom & professional artist & equestrian

               Photography by Osniel Rives

What a delight to introduce you to Denise Hogarth Nicely of @hogarthart ! I had the pleasure of interviewing Denise in her amazing art studio, pictured below. Denise is married to her husband Richard and is the mother of two daughters, aged 20 and 17. She is a professional artist as well as a seasoned equestrian. She commissions art from her studio in Richardson, Texas.

The seeds of passion for art, horseback riding, motherhood, and faith were all planted early on in Denise’s childhood. She was abused as a young child and found horses to be a safe place away from toxic people. She studied the herd dynamics of the horses and says that the horses taught her what healthy dynamics looked and felt like. After a particular incident of abuse when Denise was 13, she went out to one of the horses and put her arms around it as she cried, her heart against his. She describes sensing the horse taking her pain through his body and then grounding it as her pain left her. She claims that the horses taught her to be in touch with her intuition, and she still feels a strong connection to them as an adult.

That same year, another healing experience pointed her to artistic expression. One day after school, Denise began painting in her bedroom and became intensely focused on the art she was creating. She didn’t eat, get up, or leave her desk for some 15 hours. When the young artist finished the painting, she was surprised to realize that she had stayed up all night painting. She went on to take advanced art classes in school and won a scholarship from the Plano Art Association.

Also at the age of 13, Denise visited a Baptist church with a good friend during a time when she felt the need for spiritual connection. At the church, she saw a huge sculpture–about 20 feet high–of Jesus. She describes feeling a sense of kindred spirit with Christ because He was broken and so was Denise. She felt moved, and the experience stuck with her. 

Later, in her early 20s, Denise searched various world religions and ended up at a Bible church with a dynamic pastor that helped her understand how Christ leads to life. She says, “Christ’s humility, love, and willingness to take on the institutions and their hypocrisy really spoke to me. His love was fearless and strong.” She felt a connection with the message and therefore with Christ once again. She followed the call to accept Jesus as her savior and began studying the Bible. Though she raised her children in the church, she eventually felt disillusioned with what she describes as the hypocrisy and suppression of the feminine in the church. She began to look for ways to raise strong-minded girls who would question authority while using Christianity as a foundation. Now, Denise’s view of Christ is evolving. She looks for the feminine in Christ’s character as a way to connect with how she was created, which she has found to be very liberating.   

Denise taught horseback riding lessons until she decided to become a full-time stay-at-home mom. She recognizes that this decision isn’t feasible or desirable for everyone, and it required a financial sacrifice for her family. However, she believes that the decision to stay at home with her children was the best thing for her even though it was the hardest thing. Parenting has taught her the practice of putting her ego aside. She explains that she delayed the gratification of a career for the sake of her children. At the same time, she worked on practicing healthy self-care so that she wouldn’t lose herself in the process. She developed a relationship with her daughters based on listening, building trust, and providing guidance based on their individual needs. She feels that she wouldn’t have understood their personalities as completely if she had not stayed at home with them. She wanted to not only be there for her kids but also model what a healthy identity looks like. She believes that staying at home helped her to develop a strong bond with her children, and getting to know them so well has been an important part of her own awareness and self-growth.

More recently, Denise has become a full-time professional artist. Four years ago, a friend needed 20 pieces of art to display in a large dental practice. Denise had never shared her art publicly on that large of a scale before. She had brought her friend to the studio and realized that she had tons of artwork stuffed away in cubbies. She said to herself, “Art is not meant to be stuffed away. Art is intended to be viewed.” She decided she needed to get over her fear of the vulnerability involved in sharing her art. She painted 25 pieces for the dental practice, and that gave her the confidence to become a full-time artist as her kids began transitioning to college. She began to see that while the horses taught her about intuition, art taught her to pay attention to intuition. She believes she has a gift that was developed through her work with horses, art, and motherhood. She says that God has her in positions where she integrates everything she has learned into a unique ability to help others who are in need of healing, just as she was once, herself. 

Now that one daughter is in college and the other will soon follow, Denise has been ushered into a new season of motherhood. Like every season, this is one of letting go while simultaneously gaining something through the process of self-discovery. She says that the aging process is interesting because our culture sends the message that aging means decline. Denise rejects this notion and has found that maturing with age has enabled her to accept her dynamic, ever-changing nature. Another difference in parenting older children is that Denise has more time to herself and with friends. She now gets to be more involved in the community. As a young stay-at-home mother, she found the lack of external validation to be difficult. Now, she receives more external validation and enjoys helping other women to find their own path. 

Looking back, Denise realizes that she didn’t always appreciate the small moments when her children were young. She advises young mothers, during moments of frustration with their kids, to take a deep breath, hold their children closer, and validate children’s feelings in a loving, non-judgmental manner. Though it feels strange to realize that she is now closer to the grandparent stage than the stage of having young children, Denise says that when she does have grandchildren, she plans to spend a lot more time outside playing with worms and acorns than she did with her own kidsShe believes that nature is a direct line to creativity and selfexpression.

Denise closed our interview with two final thoughts that have been impactful for her. Someone once told her, “If you put your personal growth as the most important piece to your life, you will step into your wisdom and your destiny. If you just skate along unconsciously and don’t make conscious choices to grow, that’s when you experience fate. Fate normally looks like the unresolved issues of your family tree.” She also says that, “What you suppress will express, and your unresolved issues will express in your children if you don’t mindfully address them. So you gotta know what unconsciously drives you.”

You can find Denise’s artwork on her Facebook page at Hogarthart and on Instagram @hogarthart

                                   Photography by Osniel Rives  
                                   Above & below: Denise with her husband & daughters
                                   Photography by Osniel Rives
Denise shares the following books that have been helpful in her own personal growth:

Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy by David Burns 

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel Smith 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Any books by Brené Brown

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

Anxiety Free: Unravel Your Fears Before They Unravel You by Robert L. Leahy

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

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