We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Sarmiento and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
My work and life balance has been tricky and difficult to manage as an immigrant because I don’t have the support of my family here. For some time, my husband was the only one allowed to work under his visa and I was a stay at home mom with two girls and having time to create art during my daughter’s early years was very limited.
Motherhood taught me to be more organized, being able to plan and problem solve very quickly helped me learn how to multitask. When my kids started to go to school, I began teaching at the Art Institute.
In the media they idealize and promote having a “balanced life” and it creates a lot of pressure and now I know there is no such thing of maintaining a perfect balance. One minute it feels you are balanced, but something gets thrown into your life and you are in the cycle of trying to balance again.
When I started my studio business, 11 years ago, I was still teaching and managing my kids, who were in high school at this point. Being able to start it was dream come true, but I didn’t know how to do it yet. I took a leap of faith and dove right into it
At that point in time, I started out with art festivals for about five years, however it didn’t take my business as ahead as I had expected. Then my business shifted to teach sculpture privately and that gave me the means to buy more equipment and expand my studio at home. It was a move that felt more productive and truer to myself.
My ultimate dream was to have more flexibility and time to work in the studio, take care of my aging parents and teach workshops. It was not an easy decision to leave my teaching at the university as it had been a long-term source of steady income and provided stability. I was hesitant to make the decision as it required conquering my deepest fears.
Perfect balance doesn’t exist, you do your best with what you know at the time and learn from your mistakes. A lesson that I learned this past year is that I don’t need to keep my to do list growing like crazy, I needed an undo list to get the time to do what is meaningful to me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art is based on what I call sacred connections. I want to bring the experience to the observer as sacred or ritual places that you can perceive with observing in the presence of ancient monuments, with nature and the universe. I am excited about how all the series that I am working now are related to the exploration of us in the world, the universe, and our desire for transcendence. The Awakening series was the first one, then the Cosmic and later the Elements. It is an inner exploration of transcendence, where we come from and our place in nature and the universe.
Where I am today professionally has been a compilation of my upbringing in Colombia: partially growing up in the city and a farm, the rich prehistorical history of the pre-Columbian cultures and the influence of the Spaniards as well. My move to the USA to study sculpture changed the trajectory of my career because it opened so many opportunities to exhibit, teach and be mentored by great artists.
During this past year I have been learning more on other ways to pivot my business and expanding on marketing of my studio practice. A part of my practice is still teaching, so I had to figure it out virtual teaching and creating kits for people to do cement casting at home. Additionally, the opportunity to take classes from other artists has been helpful with learning new techniques that I am now applying to my work.
With my artwork I want it to become part of the urban and rural landscape giving the observers a sacred connection and experience their own intimate relationships. Moreover, I want to inspire others to be creative sharing what I know teaching techniques and materials in a variety of workshops around the world and these days online as well.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When I have family and Friends visiting I love to take them to the Aquarium, Coke museum, Centennial park, the Atlanta Beltline and lunch at Manuels Tavern. Would drive through Virginia Highlands, Buckhead area and eat at Tai Chili in Briarcliff Rd. As someone that loves nature, I will drive them north and take them to the Gibbs gardens and eat at Bi guns BBQ north of Jasper. Then drive north to Blue Ridge and do the Scenic railway and end up in one of towns great restaurants. Probably will spend the night in a cabin overlooking lake Blue Ridge and get to do some kayaking and fishing. There are a lot of Agritourism places to visit as well North of Blue ridge I will visit the 6 pond farm stay in the bus or the tree house and then drive back through the vineyards and buy organic products at Mountain Valley Farm and Store close to Ellijay. From there drive East and stop by Amicalola Falls and then to Dahlonega to visit the square and the antique stores. From there go back north East to Lake Burton and lake seed for beautiful peaceful views.
Later head north east to Rabun Gap visit the Hambridge Center and then go to Clayton and stop at the Ace Hardware store. Back in town I will go to the Botanical gardens and the Zoo and later visit Martin Luther King center and then the Auburn market and across the sculpture studio at Georgia State where I went to school.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am here today by the love and support of my family in Colombia and my husband and daughters here and friends that have become my family here. There are so many people that have influenced and helped me through the years my friend Martha Murray has become a sister to me, and our kids are like cousins. My graduate classmate Kelly Thames and I have been in the journey of teaching art, raising our kids, and living on the same area for years.
I have been mentored by so many incredible talented people, my professor George Beasley and his wife Judy have been mentors and family to me and my daughters. Ayokunle Odeleye brought me to teach sculpture at Kennesaw State University and we created the sculpture club. Linda Hightower was the chair of the art department and gave me great advice and was encouraging and supportive. Additionally, I was teaching at the Art Institute where I learned a lot from my coworkers and supported me in so many ways. Barbara Nesin encouraged me to apply for a full-time position, Katrina Callahan taught me a lot and supported my coordinator position and Dean Turner showed me his kindness and support during the last years I worked there.
The other organization that have giving me a lot of support and has allowed me to grow is Midsouth Sculpture Alliance. In 2015 I was the co-chair of the National conference here in Atlanta. Since then I have been involved as a board member and have met a lot of sculptors and students that keep me inspired and make me feel that I have a network that is constantly offering new opportunities.