The Blessed State: A Conversation With Mila Furstova
Mothering brings us into another level of consciousness in which we share our inner life. How does having children affect our artistic expression when we are dedicated to a talent, a vocation, or a career? For some, it can mean putting aside that vocation; for others, amalgamating the two may bring out an even deeper expression of our talent.
Mila Furstova, a Czech-born woman, always knew she wanted to draw, and at 14 attended an art school. In spite of discouragements, including a rejection from the Academy of Arts in Prague, Mila wound up in England and studied at the Royal College of Art, and her professional career began soon afterward.
Then, one day, her agent, Fraser, suggested to her that the band Coldplay might be interested in her work for an album cover. Mila brushed it off as a pipe dream, but as it turned out, Coldplay’s manager, Phil Harvey, already owned some of her artwork. He and Fraser introduced the band to more of her beautiful pieces, leading her to the opportunity of a lifetime—designing the cover for Coldplay’s album Ghost Stories.
Fraser also sent over Mila’s story to Pathways, sharing her deeply moving gallery on motherhood. Each piece beautifully captured my soul’s attention. I set up a time to meet Mila. I had to know: Were my interpretations similar to hers? In the end, her message would inspire my values and the values of our Pathways community.
Our conversation began by talking about motherhood. When Mila was first considering becoming a mother, she experienced discouragement from loved ones. She spoke about the artist Georgia O’Keefe, whose husband, a great art critic, said to her, “I don’t want you to have children—you’re an artist!” And so Georgia never did. Mila referenced the cultural bias that motherhood interferes with an artist’s creativity and ability. She had a different experience, however: “Being a mother—it reaches so deep into one’s essence that the art potentially becomes better.”
In her interview for the Coldplay website, Mila revealed her artistic process. “Etching involves working on metal plates. You cover it in wax and then you work on it. So I had the needle and I was listening [to Ghost Stories]. And it felt like walking into this dark room in which Chris was singing. And the darkness was the plate and I had the needle. So I tried to trace his feelings. And I tried to trust my intuition.”
Later she explained that intuition in more detail. “I don’t like doing sketches; I like drawing straight into the plate. When I draw I sometimes stop and think for a long time. If somebody saw me in my studio they’d go, ‘What is happening?’ because suddenly I will stop and go to the corner of the room, or I’ll turn the plate upside down and ask, ‘What’s coming next?’ Because I don’t know what’s coming, I almost try to imagine that the plate already exists, and I try to think of some sort of ‘memory of the future’—what will be there? And then I trace it, like archeology. I try to pull it out.”
This is so relevant to mothering. If mothers could take a moment and pause, they’d tap into the intuitive archetype of mothering. It’s an archetype we’re so separated from in our everyday lives. If only mothers realized how “not to force the drawing,” but to take that moment and pause, feel, and maybe turn it all upside down and ask, “How can I look at this differently and feel how I need to be with my child?” Mila’s experience as an artist is also a lesson in mothering— to trust that intuition.
“I think today, intuition is totally underestimated,” says Mila. “So much is driven through reason. If we look at something and have a feeling about it, we kind of say, ‘Oh, it’s just a feeling.’ Well, the feeling is archetypal, isn’t it? It’s that primal wisdom in us. And we in modern times choose often not to see it, because we don’t understand it. But I think that we should be open to it in motherhood, in writing, in art—in everything, really.”
“I try to talk about women universally throughout my work. I sometimes end up drawing myself, but it’s not my intention,” she says. “I want to talk about all of us, or about what I think we feel as women. So in this piece [pictured at left] I share the experience of the woman on the boat going toward this island in the sea. I have the feeling that I’m being drawn to motherhood, and there’s the image of mother Mary holding the child on the gatehouse.
“And the wave that is drawn can represent reality, but reality is being cut away,” Mila says. “It’s like a plate of light that slowly becomes invisible. I tried to have that represent the connection between the world and the heavens—the light of intuition—that you can’t measure. And so the woman in the boat is being drawn by this invisible force towards this gate representing sainthood and motherhood. And the whole thing is about entering a new land and becoming a different person through it.”
“This drawing shows the deeply woven essence of connectivity on the journey into motherhood,” says Mila. “As a woman moves forward on this journey, she will pass through the wisdom of divine mothering—every mother’s true resource for her new expression. Through the connecting flow of energy she will access this wisdom again and again in her journey as a mother. I think a woman becomes strengthened when she sees that she is always in the flow of that wisdom.”
Mila’s work captures the essence of a woman’s journey into motherhood. Now we see the essence of that mother’s shielding, protective mantle. The mother’s state of being creates a veil through which her children perceive all of their experiences. If she is in peace, they can be in peace. The mother’s presence assures them that it’s all OK.
I remember when my kids were little they were all outside playing. Looking at them, I realized I wanted to capture the experience in every cell of my body so that I would never, ever forget it. I wanted to know that 20 years later, looking back, I could feel as if I was always there. The contemplative look of this woman [above] looking off and yet still present in the moment with her children—this is the state of being I wish for all mothers to feel.
Children are happiest when they are with us. The drawing of the peaceful baby sound asleep in his mom’s cradle [opposite, left] exemplifies this contentment. When the mother is content to do what she does, that in and of itself offers a state of ease and trust in the baby. Jean Leidloff addresses this in her book The Continuum Concept. Indigenous moms pick up their babies and go about their daily activities. And the babies, included in the mother’s activities, are content to experience life through their mother’s actions. They are not made to be the center of attention, so they learn to be part of the mother’s activities.
Working with Coldplay has brought Mila to another level of life experience. She is careful to point out that she is not referring to fame or fortune, but rather the growth of understanding of mothering within herself.
Mila was blessed to have a loving mother and grandmother, and, like all women, she did not realize the strength it took to be a mother until her own journey began. Her drawing of the mother choosing her “angel wings” for the day comes from her real-life struggles to stay present to her children’s needs. She feels that each day she puts on a new set of angel wings to be prepared to show kindness and love to her children.
“With art it is much like birth,” says Mila. “You reach that point and then you have to let go and allow your intuition to take over. To let go of the desire to control and to allow yourself to flow with it. There is no crossing the ocean without losing sight of the shore. Art and birth are both journeys of crossing the ocean. They both take courage and trust.”
In pregnancy we tune into a language that has no sound. We are one with this silent secret within, and as mothers we dance between a continuous awareness of our little ones and our outer expression in the world.
Our states of being during pregnancy are experienced by our children as well. About her second pregnancy, Mila says: “When she was growing in my tummy I was listening to Coldplay’s new album over and over again. I was trying to see the images that I would draw. In the Czech Republic we call pregnancy ‘the blessed state,’ and I really felt I was blessed. I will never forget that time. And now when she hears their music she flows with it! It’s sort of part of her.”
“The Blessed State.” What a beautiful way to honor and appreciate a mother and child’s developing relationship.
The feelings of an artist’s creation—anticipation, doubt, fear, joy, ease, and love—are the same feelings we all have throughout motherhood. The more we consciously trust in this internal communication, the greater our confidence becomes in our ability to express the masterpiece of motherhood. Mila’s message to the world is this: Mothers, be courageous. Trust your intuition. There is a source of wisdom for you to tap into, and it is always there.
Wings for Coldplay
Wings for Coldplay is the exhibition accompanying the worldwide premiere of the documentary of the same name, which tells the story of Mila Furstova’s journey to become the album artist for the biggest band in the world. The exhibition not only features many of Mila’s Ghost Stories drawings and artworks signed by Coldplay, but it also displays more than a dozen of her intricate and imaginative new works that have been inspired by that journey, and how it has influenced her personal life.
Since Mila gave birth to her second child the same day she finished the last Coldplay artwork, motherhood features heavily in the show.
And since it feels like a dream to Mila that her work, created at the start of her labor, has been seen by more than a billion people, she has taken up dreams as the subject matter for her latest series. Alongside these works will be classic Mila Furstova pieces, including the very work which first inspired Coldplay frontman Chris Martin’s idea for the Ghost Stories album cover.
The exhibition is scheduled for March 1–12 at A Gallery, located at 205 Royal College St., London, United Kingdom. Visit online at agallery.co.uk.