imkirkwood artist

I create visual narratives with my fine art drawings and computer prints


Value of a name

Posted by iris m. kirkwood on September 6, 2011 at 11:20 AM

                                                  Is an artist made or born?

                My mom had eleven brothers and four sisters. Her own mother died when she was twelve so mom learned all about raising little kids early. She spent her teenage years as a surrogate mother to all the brothers and sisters that were younger than her. And she fought and bossed the ones that were older. My mom learned that little children are alot of work. They have to be fed regularly, they need clean clothes and shoes that fit. Girls need their hair combed and when there's more than one kid in the room someone is always crying.

             When the time came for my mom to start her adult life she fell in love with my father. During the course of her big romance she became pregnant. Mom was less than happy about this fact. The experience of taking care of all those brothers and sisters had left a bad taste in her mouth for responsibility. But eventually during the nine months she began to hope for a girl and think of a name for the baby(me).

            Adrianne. My mom decided if it's a girl  she'd name her Adrianne. She practiced writing this name. She liked the way it looked. She liked the way it sounded and she loved that no one she knew had this name.

         Well on the day I was born when my mom got her first good look at me...she was disappointed. She said 'this baby doesn't look like an Adrianne' and her mind went blank.My dad offered comfort but was at a loss to the nature of the problem. His opinion was if you want to name the baby Adrianne-name her Adrianne  'ain't nobody stopping you'. But he only voiced this opinion once.

     When I was born women stayed in the hospital for 5 days. This gave the  hospital nurses time to teach the new mother how to bath, hold and feed her baby, as well as facilitate the bonding process. Well my mother didn't need to be taught any of those things. But the bonding process was not going well. I was not Adrianne. Now my mother was stuck with a total stranger and she was not looking forward to it.

       On the fifth day when it was time to be discharged my dad was a little worried because I remained unnamed. Friends and family had been in to visit and made suggestions  that were not well recieved. When one of the nurses that had been particularly nice to my mom came in to say goodbye almost as an after thought my mom asked her-' what's your first  name?'          


And that's what I was named Iris. It was an uncommon name-not ordinary at all then or even now.

 I asked my eighty year old mom once why didn't I look like an Adrianne to her. She said-You just didn't.  Every once in a while I wonder if I would still be me-an artist and a nurse if I had looked like an Adrianne to my mother. Who can pinpoint the moment or the method that makes one-themself?


   The following is a drawing I just finished. Part of my ongoing series Culture of Women title:



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The Pencil Drawings by Iris M. Kirkwood

Available from Amazon :  


Talking Leaves Books,

3158 Main St., Buffalo NY