The connection between mother and daughter can be a strong one, even during those horrible teenage years. Nothing makes a woman consider prematurely tying her tubes like an episode of Maury themed on out-of-control teen girls. Yet after every Youre such a bitch, Mom yelled in a single episode, the mother will still look at her tube-top-wearing offspring with teary eyes of love.

Luckily for artist Nicole Waszak, whose piece 37 Months (Bubbles) graces our cover this week, shes far from dealing with any teen angst with her 4-year-old daughter, Nora, whos served as her mommys muse for three years. However, Nora has alluded to a possible future at odds with her mom.

My daughter looked at me the other day, and she said, Mommy, someday I wont be your little girl anymore and wont be your sweetheart, Waszak, 30, says. When she was 2, there was a point where she said, No more pictures, Mommy. Now she really likes it. Well see how she feels when shes a teenager.

The Escondido artist plans to paint Nora throughout her life, making her the prime subject of her body of work. Her latest collection of paintings featuring her daughter will be on view at Distinction Gallery (317 E. Grand Ave. in Escondido) for the exhibition Dreaming in the Hippodrome, opening with a reception from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 8.

For this series, Waszak wanted to portray the safe, wondrous and imaginary places children create for themselves, inspired by the fascinating way Nora experiences the things around her. Witnessing those experiences has also helped the artist come to terms with her own difficult childhood.

I was abused when I was younger and had a lot of problems, Waszak says. I wasnt very feminine growing up. Shes really helped me get in touch with my feminine side and helped me remember things from my childhood and look at my childhood in a more pleasant light.

Waszak takes an almost collage-like approach when creating a piece. She starts with a photo of Nora that she paints and then places that image on a background. She then adds elements she thinks match the overall feel of the piece.

Thats how the cover piece came to be. Waszak layered bubbles on the image of Nora because she felt they echo her delicate position and her mood.

Theyre playful and have a sweet, childish presence, she adds.

Waszak is excited for the exhibition and wants to create a fresh and positive energy throughout the gallery. Shell have fresh flowers and cupcakes on hand and DJs adding to the bright and happy mood.

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