Student 1- “Mother Art definitely challenged the notion that to be a contributing feminist artist, they had to be single and childless. That once they had children and a husband, they were no longer useful to the movement.
When several of the mothers were told they would not be able to make great art until they rid themselves of their family, the women banded together and created their own art movement that not only was more inclusive and showed another side of feminism, but also that they wove in political issues, and made the issues relatable to all, not just to women.
An example of this would be L.A Guernica, a reinterpreted version of Picasso’s Guernica, that was installed in Los Angeles landmarks to demonstrate against the massive build up of nuclear weapons.
I also loved how proud the mothers were of the Rainbow Playground. That it was their first piece together, and how empowered the women felt building the playground and working machinery they had never used before. This work challenged the need for a man, that these mothers, with children, were able to make something successful on their own.
I honestly never thought of the feminist movement from the viewpoint of a mother with a family, and I find it interesting that activists like Judy Chicago were creating works of art regarding fertility, but completely ignored mothers and fighting for them as well.”
Student 2- “I enjoyed the Mother Art Collective film. Before this class I didn’t know about them, so I learned all about them! I like how, as the title says, they tell their own story of their history, just like how they told the stories of women back in the day. They expressed not only their experiences with early works like By Mothers and Laundry Works, but the lives of others through their “the personal is political” works as well. Mother Art challenged mainstream feminism by first creating works about mothers since they weren’t welcome in the feminist studio workshop at the Woman’s Building, and continued to create works about other oppressed groups (homeless women, abortion patients, Central American woman refugees, etc).
My favorite of those was Flowers for Four Women, the stories of refugees from Central America through a video and an assemblage for each woman. The collaboration between the members of Mother Art that took focus off the creators and onto the creation is perfect for their personal is political works because they’re not telling their own stories. Four Women is about each refugee woman’s story, not about the artists of Mother Art, so people can emphasize with them even more. I admire Mother Art’s intersectionality since it’s something many feminist groups like the feminist studio workshop don’t embrace.”
Student 3- “The Mother Art Installation is the most inspiring art piece I have ever heard or seen. The entire collective is amazing. I love that each installation reflects upon a different aspect of traditional stay-at-home motherhood. The inspiring part, for me, is the way that the Mother Art collective was able to push the boundaries for what was expected and traditional of womens’ roles.”
Student 4- “My favorite project from Mother Art was the playground project. I think it is so inspiring that these mothers came together and created something when others looked down upon them. I think it is especially ridiculous that so many female artists at that time were so against motherhood, as if they felt it weakened you as a woman instead of making you stronger. Not only did the women in Mother Art prove that they were strong, talented artists to a society that didn’t consider women to be as talented as men, they also fought against the majority of female artists that looked down upon them for being mothers. These women came together and built a place for their children with their own hands. I would be so proud to have one of them as my mother.”
Student 5- “The project that I enjoyed the most that the Mother Art collective did was the playground project. I loved this project because so many people had a problem with artists being mothers and the collective showed that they could do both and do both well. The restrictions that Mother Art faced and challenged were, as I mentioned before, being artists and mothers at the same time and also the challenge of building the playground. Many of these women had never used tools before and had no idea what they were doing. But they used power tools and equipment and built a functioning playground. The issue that I noticed that both Mother Art and Rachel faced was being a women and not being taken seriously. I learned that collective art is a great way to have an idea and make it a reality. With many artist doing a piece solo is the right choice, but if you can get a couple minds all working together on something, it can be bigger and maybe even better.”
Student 6- “The Mother Art Collective was a progressive group of artist, femininist, activist, and most importantly mothers. One of their pieces was the L.A. Guernica installation that was in the federal building in L.A. (only for a short time). This piece got its inspiration from Picasso’s piece about Guernica, Spain. The Mother Art Collective took this inspiration and created a 3D installation representing the aftermath of a nuclear bomb and had images of mother and children. It showed the contrast between life and death. This installation “offended” people at the Federal Building and so they were asked to remove it.
The Mother Art Collective used major political issues as a source of their work. All the work they did had a purpose and spoke truth. Whether others wanted to see the truth in it or not. They were very brave and did what they were passionate about and also were very strong mothers and weren’t afraid to show that to anyone.”
Student 7- “From 1960-the present there have been many Feminist artists and collectives that have made a huge influence on the women’s movement, as well as political movements. One of the groups that we discussed in class was the Mother Art Collective; this group of women made an influence on the art world as well as the women’s movement for mothers in the 70’s and 80’s. They were against the idea that if women were mothers that meant they should just stay home and take care of their children and nothing else. And if they wanted to be successful artists the only way they could do so, was by leaving their family behind and solely work on their art. They set out to prove that mothers could do both and do it well.
The Mother Art Collective consisted of 8 (Velene Campbell, Jan Cook, Gloria Hajduk, Deborah Krall, Christie Kruse, Helen Million, Suzanne Siegel, and Laura Silagi) mothers who were artists, that were previously trying to be apart of a women’s art collectives in LA but felt like they weren’t supported for being mothers. They chose to then begin their own collective and have a place where they could do their art and bring their children as well. The first installation they did was putting together a play structure for their kids. They collected all the supplies and materials themselves along with using heavy equipment to construct the play structure. The fact that they were able to do this on their own as women and mothers goes to show that women can do what men can do. The typical gender rolls wouldn’t consider women to do manual labor but only domestic work. As a group and as individuals they were very strong willed and did what they wanted and what felt was right. All of their work as a collective had a purpose and a meaning. Being that they are working artists that were mothers wasn’t always easy for them but they were supported by each other. The image below is the completed Rainbow Play Structure that the collective constructed.
What I found most important and compelling about this collective was their passion for drawing attention to political issues and not just feminist issues. But they were able to relate the issues to the impact they have on mothers and children. For instance the L.A. Guernica piece was a 3D installation that was at the Federal Building in LA. This piece was inspired by a Picasso piece representing what could happen with nuclear war. In their piece you were able to actually walk through it to get a better visual and feeling for the subject matter. It depicted mothers and children in the aftermath of nuclear bombs. The installation was considered “offensive” and they were told to remove it. The image of live vs. death apparently was too disturbing. But the truth isn’t always pretty and the fact that this piece became such a controversy, to me made it more impact full. People should be disturbed by the reality of the situation that they were bringing to light.
The type of art that the mothers did was not around for ever, the installations weren’t always displayed long. They would collaborate on different types of work, instead of just paintings and sculptures (which in past history wouldn’t have been considered fine art but more of crafts). The mixed media would high light the talent of each of the artists in the collective, and somehow they were always able to communicate and work together as a team.
Another significant piece the Mother Art Collective did was called Flowers for Four Women, this installation told the story of four different refugee women from different Latin American Countries. These women were escaping extreme brutalities in their countries. Once they were here in America they did what ever kind of work they could to take care of their families. This was another example of them highlighting political issues facing women who were also mothers, who faced extreme circumstances and yet somehow they were able to continue on and seek out safety in the United States. I was extremely moved by learning about this piece because it goes to show the strength that women can have and that they can continue to be strong and be productive members of society is just incredible.
I believe that the Mother Art Collective should be significant to our Art History along with all feminist artists. They have pushed boundaries and made pieces and or performances that are compelling and make people think. They aren’t always liked by the Art Community but they don’t get discouraged. They fight for the rights of all whether, black, white, male, female, transgendered, gay, or straight. Feminist artists want what is fair and should be noticed for the work that they have done. These artists have such strength and courage and generations to come could learn so much for what they have been fighting for. They bring the private sphere to the public sphere and force the viewer to question gender roles within society. This collective proves that women can follow their passion while being great mothers to their children, not to mention expose their children to art. I think they have done amazing work and I hope that in the future people will continue to learn from these women. Follow your heart and don’t be afraid to do what you think is right for society. Don’t let others bring you down or tell you that you can’t do something. These 8 women who formed Mother Art helped put women and mothers into the Art Community. Their hard work, creativity, and passion for the arts and their family influenced each piece that they collaborated on together. They set aside the gender roles that society puts them in by bringing the private to the public sphere.”