Student Stories: Jessica Holleque /// Mothers and Makers

My personal work has always been, at its most simple, about leaning into curiosities. When photography felt like an island (fueled by a social media world that breeds comparison and competition), I found myself longing for a healthier creative community. I grew tired of only seeing the highlight reels of artists’ polished finished products. I knew the soul of creativity, that messy and intangible magic, was in the process.


My interest in exploring and photographing the female artist experience was sparked in Michelle Gardella’s “Family Tapestry” course two years ago. While this didn’t immediately become a core focus in my photography, I can now look back and trace this thread moving through my body of work ever since.



I began to seek out female artists in my local community and ask to photograph them at work. This practice invites a much more intimate and up-close conversation with each woman’s experience as an artist, while also sharing my own.

A few months ago, my curiosity began leading me to questions about motherhood and its relationship to being a female artist. Why is it ingrained that being an artist is inherently selfish? Why is motherhood sold as the ultimate act of selflessness and sacrifice? This illusion of dichotomy between the two is so limiting.

I knew from my work of photographing artists in the process, paired with my personal network of brave, radiant mothers putting incredible art into the world, that there exists a fuller, more complex, imaginative, and grace-filled way of living out these identities.

That is the heart of my Mothers and Makers project: to highlight and honor the stories of women living out the dual experience of being an artist and a mother.


Jessica Holleque lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and is a longtime DEFINE student. Some of her favorite classes include Awakening the Spark, Family Tapestry, Visual Storytelling, Wedding Photography X-ray, and The Unapologetic Artist. You can find her on Instagram as @jessicaholleque and see more of her Mothers and Makers project at

Our “Student Stories” are just a few of the many testimonials and stories of growth we hear about from students in our community, along with some magnificent work. We hope you’re as inspired by these as we are.

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