A Source of Peace
Born in Everett, Washington, Huggz Moses found herself in foster care at age 5. Without her mother and father at home, she felt alone and often acted out because of the mental trauma. She had always loved to color, but eventually that wasn’t enough. One day she picked up a pencil and started to doodle. With Sponge Bob Square Pants as her model, she drew every day for years. Improving with each iteration, she finally showed her artwork to her friends. She had drawn the cartoon character so precisely that her friends were in disbelief. She was 13 years old.
More important than getting kudos, she realized that drawing put her mind at ease and helped her feel peace. “Keep your hands busy,” she learned, “so you don’t focus on your troubles.” In 7th grade, a teacher encouraged her to take up painting. Though she thought adding color to her artwork would be too difficult, she tried it and was told she had talent. In fact, she entered an art contest for which she didn’t start painting until the night before. Even with a time crunch, she made a beautiful piece, and her audience was amazed at what she had produced in such a short amount of time.
Despite her natural ability, Huggz did not always feel free to share her love for art. In fact, she often felt shame in pursuing a skill that would not bring her much financial gain. It was something she loved to do in her room with the door locked, but nothing that would make a career. So, during high school, her artwork took a backseat.
Back in focus
A few pivotal experiences brought her love of art back into clear focus. When Huggz was in college and expecting her first child, a daughter, she found that painting and drawing again helped her focus and “get her head straight.” But it wasn’t until her aunt died that art began to come back into the light. Because her aunt was like a mother, Huggz felt the loss deeply and the trauma brought on symptoms that would eventually lead to a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
The first signs were numbness and tingling in her hands and face. Initially, she was able to dull these symptoms with a good massage. But then everything went black. In 2018 she ended up in the hospital, completely blind. Without her sight, she thought how sad it was that she had not taken the opportunity to explore fully the potential of her art. After three weeks and a plasma exchange, her sight gradually returned and so did a new vision for her future.
She emerged from her aunt’s death and her health problems in a dark place, both physically and mentally. She felt broken. She began to find healing in her spiritual roots as a member of the Tulalip Tribe and also in a return to making art, this time without the shame and fear she had previously felt.
A Unique Touch
With the symbolism, shapes, and colors that are often expected in tribal art, Huggz began adding her own unique touch. Her first piece was a hummingbird. Then she started painting on ceremonial drums. Still with a great need for healing in her life, she painted a large 8 foot by 8 foot depiction of a medicine woman, which was eventually purchased and displayed at a nearby tribal youth center. She was surprised to find that other people felt connected to her art and were eager to purchase her pieces. One fan praised, “Your art speaks to me.”
As her spiritual journey continues, inspiration for her art is often sparked by what is going on emotionally or what she feels will fill the blank wall in her life. At times, she tries to recreate her dreams. Sometimes, she takes requests. “Would you paint me a simple bear,” a friend might say. “Huggz-style!”
Today, Huggz continues to work towards a degree in business and entrepreneurship at Northwest Indian College. Making art still brings her strength, healing, and peace of mind. She and her two daughters like to run, hike, and take road trips. At four and five years old they watch her closely. They want to become artists too. For them and for any other youth with a dream, Huggz has some words of advice: Do what your heart wants to do. Have courage to follow your dreams and don’t let anyone discourage you.