Episode 315: From Painting to Memoir, a Visual Artist’s Journey Into Writing — Interview with Miriam Feldman

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Miriam Feldman.

Miriam is a painter, writer, and mother originally from Los Angeles, California. After her son, Nick’s, diagnosis with Schizophrenia more than ten years ago, she began writing to document and explore the ways this new reality affected her relationship with her children, her husband, and herself. Her blog, https://www.miriam-feldman.com, explores issues of motherhood, mental illness and the politics of our mental health system.

She is also the founder and owner of Demar Feldman Studios, Inc., a specialty painting company that focuses on architectural finishes, murals, and decorative art for residential and commercial locations in Southern California and abroad. Clients include Samuel L. Jackson & LaTanya Richardson Jackson , Wolfgang Puck, Patricia Heaton & David Hunt, Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams, Jay & Mavis Leno and many more. She has run the company for 30 years.

Miriam holds an MFA in fine art from Otis College of Art and Design. Her paintings are in collections across the United States.

Today we’re discussing her memoir He Came In With It, in which she chronicles her experiences as she came to grips with her son’s mental illness.

In this episode Miriam and I discuss:

  • How she chose what stayed in her memoir and what got cut
  • What her family said about the content of her memoirs
  • Her experience switching mediums from painting to writing

Plus, her #1 tip for writers.

About the Author

Miriam Feldman is a painter, writer, and mother originally from Los Angeles, California. After her son, Nick’s, diagnosis with Schizophrenia more than ten years ago, she began writing to document and explore the ways this new reality affected her relationship with her children, her husband, and herself. Her blog, https://www.miriam-feldman.com, explores issues of motherhood, mental illness and the politics of our mental health system. She has written a completed memoir, and is represented by Deborah Hoffman at the David Black Agency in New York http://www.davidblackagency.com.

She is also the founder and owner of Demar Feldman Studios, Inc., a specialty painting company that focuses on architectural finishes, murals, and decorative art for residential and commercial locations in Southern California and abroad. Clients include Samuel L. Jackson & LaTanya Richardson Jackson , Wolfgang Puck, Patricia Heaton& David Hunt, Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams, Jay & Mavis Leno and many more. She has run the company for 30 years.

She holds an MFA in fine art from Otis College of Art and Design. Her paintings are in collections across the United States. She is represented by Hamilton Galleries in Santa Monica, Ca.

Most recently, she joined Bring Change 2 Mind, Glenn Close’s organization to fight discrimination and educate around mental illness. She is on the Advisory Council and has a monthly blog on the website https://bringchange2mind.org. She is a frequent guest on mental health podcasts including: https://player.fm/series/who-lives-like-this/art-and-chaos-with-mimi-feldman and http://www.sheilahamilton.com/category/podcasts/. Find her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mimitheriveter/ where she is busy building a community of family and loved ones dealing with serious mental illness.

Miriam now resides on a farm in rural Washington State with her husband, Craig. Nick lives in the small town nearby. She splits her time between the farm and Los Angeles, painting, writing, and staying active in the mental health community.

You can find Miriam on her website, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Miriam Feldman

He Came in with It 

In an idyllic Los Angeles neighborhood, where generations of families enjoy deep roots in old homes, the O’Rourke family fits right in. Miriam and Craig are both artists and their four children carry on the legacy. When their teenage son, Nick, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, a tumultuous decade ensues in which the family careens permanently off the conventional course. Like the ten Biblical plagues, they are hit by one catastrophe after another, violence, evictions, arrests, a suicide attempt, a near-drowning…even cancer and a brain tumor…play against the backdrop of a wild teenage bacchanal of artmaking and drugs. With no time for hand-wringing, Miriam advances, convinced she can fix everything, while a devastated Craig retreats to their property in rural Washington State as home becomes a battlefield. 

It is while cleaning out a closet, that Miriam discovers a cache of drawings and journals written by Nick throughout his spiral into schizophrenia. She begins a solitary forensic journey into the lonely labyrinth of his mind. This is the story of how mental illness unspools an entire family. As Miriam fights to reclaim her son from the ruthless, invisible enemy, we are given an unflinching view into a world few could imagine. It exposes the shocking shortfalls of our mental health system, the destructive impact of stigma, shame and isolation, and, finally, the falsity of the notion of a perfect family. Throughout the book, it is the family’s ability to find humor in the absurdities of this life that saves them. It is a parable that illustrates the true definition of a good life, allowing for the blemishes and mistakes that are part of the universal human condition. He Came In With It is the legacy of, and for, her son Nick.

This book will resonate with all mothers, it is the universal condition, amplified. A story about what it means to persist in a life where all the rules have suddenly changed, He Came in With It is a clarion call to new understanding and compassion about mental illness. Through its honest and raw depiction of one family, it asks us to change the way we regard mental illness and contend with the chaos that is our mental health system. It makes sense of the impossible by making it relatable. This book will open your heart and your eyes.

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 315

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