Joan Charquero – I grew up in a Northwest suburb of Chicago. My mother was a very accomplished jazz and classical pianist. Much artwork was present around my home, but no one in my immediate family was active in the visual arts. However, there was a friend of the family, who took care of me on many occasions between the ages of 4 and 6. She was an artist and inspired me!
ADD seemed to be an early challenge in our family. My younger brother, like myself, displayed all the symptoms of a hyperactive child, although undiagnosed. He became passionately involved with music and I with visual arts. Presently, he is working as a professional classical guitarist, composer and music teacher. In schools, I had measurable difficulty with many aspects of learning. Although I had the desire to become a better student, everything around me seemed too confusing. The messy desks, daydreaming, inability to keep track of homework and not always being clear about what was communicated, were all a part of my school experience. It was an uncomfortable place to be and learn. For lack of any other label, my teachers said that I was an “underachiever”. Paradoxically, my mind was so busy overachieving, that it appeared that I was underachieving.
Early on, I discovered that drawing was a great companion to classroom discussion. My teachers always felt that I could not be paying attention and drawing at the same time. Yet ironically, it was the act of drawing that enabled the information to sink in. (Today, I still draw during meetings.) During my summers, I spent the long hours poring over art books and copying the works of the masters. I had found something that would take up the energy of youth and applied it to something that I dearly loved. My family and teachers were impressed with my artistic ability. And unlike school and academics, artistic expression was a sacred domain where no one could be critical. There was freedom…and mistakes, as I knew them, did not exist. In fact, mistakes became creative opportunities.
In high school, I went to a boarding school in Connecticut that combined the arts and academics. The benefit of a changed environment further encouraged me to work on my skills and continue my education at an art college. I was accepted to The Minneapolis College of Art and Design. The kinesthetic approach to education “matched” my style of learning. Always fascinated with enigmatic objects, I began doing found object sculpture. In fact, it is not a far cry from the jewelry that I make today. Half the joy has always been “the thrill of the hunt” – carefully gathering materials that may or not work in a piece.
Later in life, I became involved with marriage and raising my two daughters. We lived in South America for three years. When we returned to the U.S., my older daughter was tested for ADHD. After reviewing the Conner’s Scale, the light bulb went on. Many of my daughter’s symptoms mirrored my own. Today, I am working in a Federal Grant Site wraparound program. While organizing a mother and daughter bead making event, a forgotten spark was ignited, and I began making jewelry. This has brought tremendous joy and energy into my life.
A message for those with ADHD — consider the arts as a safe haven. It is a place to grow that is beautiful, expressionistic, and a welcome pause from the rigorous, important world of traditional education.
Medium: Necklace – Sterling and glass beads
Medium: Necklace – Sterling, glass beads