It’s been a year since I started my portrait project, ”You’re So Pretty,” and in that time I’ve completed six portraits, most of them women from our community. They already show the variety of things that women do. And there are a lot more women out there that I’ve yet to call on that I want to include. Women are involved in so many entities, many we are barely aware of.
Last Fall I travelled to Frankfort to meet with Joanna Hay who runs her own production/media company. She describes herself as a storyteller who uses film and video to record and transform pictures and audio into stories, most of them about interesting places here in Kentucky. I met Joanna several years ago when I was on the board of local arts organization that needed some direction in strategic planning. We got a grant from KPAN, and Joanna came to Paducah to guide us through a weekend of exercises. I felt a connection and was impressed with her knowledge and wide range of expertise and interests. Besides her media production business and arts consulting, Joanna is also a violinist who plays in in two groups, Stirfry Musette from Kentucky and Coq Au Vin out of Nantucket.
As I said — women do a lot of things.
Her portrait includes her installation, “Rivers that Talk and Bridges that Sing,” a sound recording of river sounds and violin music played by Joanna and her brother. Housed in an upright canoe on the banks of the Kentucky River in Frankfort, it is inspired by childhood memory, the threat of flooding and the desire to care for the river.
Back in Paducah I sought out Brandi Harless, the former mayor of Paducah. So, a former politician. But I was interested in what she’s been doing all along, even before she embarked into politics. Brandi is a fellow alumni of Boston University where she received a Master’s Degree in public health. Like me, she’s a healthcare enthusiast and is interested in finding ways to make our healthcare system better. I’ve done that through existing healthcare and policy organizations and providing direct patient care. Brandi is the co-founder of Prevent Scripts, a company that works with primary care providers to improve quality of care of patients with chronic illnesses through a web app. The app helps both patients and physicians monitor patients’ key wellness factors such as intake of fruits and vegetables, amount of water intake, weight, and blood glucose, to help them develop healthy lifestyle habits. Improving health indicators in patients means fewer people developing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension, to begin with. And that means lowering healthcare costs.
Brandi also became a first time mom recently, putting her into that special category that so many women today are in: working mother. It’s an added stress on women to try to juggle both jobs — because being a mom is a full time job. Having a partner to support you in trying to achieve a work-life balance is key, and Brandi has that in her husband, Adam.
I met Brandi in her home where I also got to meet little Emmett, nine months old at the time. We went to her home office where there was plenty of evidence that Emmett is a presence in Brandi’s daily work life. Puddles of various toys congregated on the floor to keep him occupied while his mom engrosses herself in her business.
My composition choice for Brandi’s portrait portrays this juggling act that so many working women struggle with. It’s a testament to their achievements and the dual roles they play in becoming both mom and professional woman.