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South Florida artist moms and dads strike work-life balance in 'Dual Roles' in Hollywood

Since she turned 19, Jen Clay’s two jobs have more or less stayed the same: full-time artist and full-time mom.

The jobs overlap often. The Fort Lauderdale artist was changing her daughter Myona’s diapers at the same time she was building sculptures in grad school at the University of Florida.

Take, for example, her new installation at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. Titled “My Best Friends,” Clay’s artwork resembles a dome-like womb, built with felt, wire and a disco-ball motor. At its center is a white, cartoonish fetus. Last week, Clay and Myona, now 13, performed in the art center’s main gallery while dressed in two felt costumes that Clay designed.

“When I make my work, [Myona is] around me. You can’t really separate those two jobs,” Clay says, with a laugh. “I was a single mom for a really long time, and I didn’t have babysitters, so she’s was always there, watching me create.”

Artist-parents like Clay have found kinship in the group exhibit “Dual Roles,” the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood’s family-friendly summer exhibit. In 70-plus works that plunge into the intimate lives of artist-parents, 33 South Florida mothers and fathers tackle the pressures of juggling child-rearing and a professional art career.

“For parents, they have a balance between raising kids and actually being responsible, working adults,” says Laura Marsh, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood’s curator. “Socially, we have that problem in the American workforce where we don’t really respect the family structure, or provide enough time off for child-raising.”

In the case of Miami artist Clifton Childree, he simply took his child to work. “Jubilee Bell,” which is credited to Childree and his son, Wally, depicts a rotting, black window frame against a backdrop of peeling paint, a nod to domestic spaces. Peggy Levison Nolan’s affectionate “Untitled (stickers)” is an ode to childhood abandon, showing an overhead photo of her children covered in glittery stickers.

So is Francie Bishop Good’s “Untitled (Lily’s Bedroom),” a photo capturing the cluttered chaos of her daughter’s bedroom. Lily is shown climbing the rungs of her bunk bed, a reference to “how everything feels gargantuan when you’re a kid,” Marsh says.

“For kids, the clutter is a cute moment to capture,” Marsh says. “For parents, they’re nightmares, because you have to clean it up.”

“Dual Roles” is on display through Aug. 19 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St. Admission costs $4-$7, with free admission on July 15. Call 954-921-3274 or go to ArtandCultureCenter.org.

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