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Feminist Art and the Maternal

Feminist Art and the Maternal

Andrea Liss
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Feminist Art and the Maternal
    Book Description:

    Feminist motherhood is a surprisingly unexplored subject. In fact, feminism and motherhood have been often thought of as incompatible. Profound, provocative, and innovative, Feminist Art and the Maternal is the first work to critically examine the dilemmas and promises of representing feminist motherhood in contemporary art and visual culture. Andrea Liss incorporates theory with personal reflections on the maternal, and advances a fresh perspective on both feminism and art.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6627-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction Thinking (M)otherwise: NEW BODIES OF KNOWLEDGE
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    She stands in front of a projected image of a Renaissance Madonna. The sinuous line of the Mother Mary’s flowing gown, her angelic gaze upon her infant son, and the undeniable calm and power of this maternal image make a deep impression on the class. The Mother Mary’s splendid body superimposed upon hers, my student declares that she will never be a mother. The glow from the projector highlights the outline of her stout and resolutely poised body. Her thick reddish brown hair is cropped just below her ears. She wears blue jean overalls over a white, lacy top. A...

  5. Chapter 1 Breaching the Taboo
    (pp. 1-22)

    In her essay “The Pains and Pleasures of Rebirth,” contemporary art critic and curator Lucy Lippard cogently questioned the absence of artwork by women that addressed images or experiences of motherhood.¹ Her questioning took place in relationship to production in the field of feminist art about women’s domestic work produced in the early 1970s in the United States. Developing feminist theories and experimental feminist visual art of the 1960s and 1970s sought to give women the right to articulate and represent their crucial experiencesas women. Such articulations often utilized the realm of the domestic, sometimes through thoughtful and ironic...

  6. Chapter 2 Intersubjectivities: MARY KELLY′S POST-PARTUM DOCUMENT
    (pp. 23-42)

    Surprisingly, being a lover of words, I never paid much attention to what “postpartum” meant until immediately after I gave birth to my son. Then I heard the term too often in the clinical sense of “having given birth.” Now I find the mere mention of “postpartum” pleasurable in its solemn and wondrous connotations: a word that signals an entirely new state of being for the woman–mother and for the infant. Postpartum: after the birth, after the separation. I was left with a physical body that the caesarian delivery had made unfamiliar. I was also new to myself on...

    (pp. 43-68)

    Silky hair as soft as duck down, no longer blond like his grandson’s but richer. My father loved to comb his luscious silver hair after he took a long shower every weeknight, having worked all day as a plumber in other people’s homes. He toiled in the intimate spaces that define people’s daily domestic maintenance: their kitchens, bathrooms, and sewers. No customer was better than another, from the Hollywood movie stars whose agents took their time to pay to the elderly ladies who gave him pennies and home-baked goodies. My father was proud of his work; he rejoiced in keeping...

  8. Chapter 4 Mamas Out of Place
    (pp. 69-92)

    Maternal work as an active projection of the labor and care called for to create a more humane and just world is also to be found in the art and thinking of the next generation of artist–mothers. They strategically rethink traditional aspects of the maternal to create artwork that challenges the conventional place of the mother. In Arizona-based artist Ellen McMahon’s provocative artist’s bookNo New Work(1993), the central image pictures her infant daughter seen from the side, her lovely face aglow from the light coming in through a window from which she peers out with wonder and...

  9. Chapter 5 Making the Maternal Visible: RENÉE COX′S FAMILY PORTRAITS
    (pp. 93-108)

    The woman is pictured in a state of tenderness, solemnity, and service. She is graceful, stabilizing, foundational. Her name, however, remains unknown to us. “Slave” is the name they gave her. The label “Slave and Child,” rather than “Woman and Child,” places the woman in a subhuman category outside the normal interpersonal relations designated by the words “man, woman, and child.” This woman’s historical inscription of servitude survives in the photograph’s contemporary caption. The young girl, too, swathed in all her white finery, goes unnamed. But “child” is an echo of the privilege, legitimacy, and sexuality this young girl would...

    (pp. 109-120)

    Ngozi Onwurah’s remarkably powerful and poignant filmThe Body Beautiful(1991; twenty three minutes) makes boldly visible the intense conflicts and deepening love in a British Nigerian daughter’s changing and transformative relationship with her white British mother.¹ Onwurah’s loving merging of visible differences into the intimacies of a particular mother–daughter relationship takes place in the face of patriarchal value systems that divide women into those who are desired and those who are scorned.The Body Beautifulis life affirming in its exploration of healing the cruel schisms that have severed the power and passion of mother–daughter intersubjectivities. This...

    (pp. 121-124)

    There she is, the University of Southern California’s self-proclaimed “poster girl” of breast cancer. Sarcastic as she is about her ambiguous status, I don’t want to know how well she is surviving chemotherapy. I don’t want to know how cheery she is throughout her treatments. And I certainly don’t want to see how fashionable and lovely she looks in her soft wool beret, as my hair begins to scandalously loosen and fall from my scalp. She looks so calm, almost smug in her baldness. I am falling apart.

    I have made several attempts to read thisLos Angeles Timesseries...

    (pp. 125-144)

    Once I became a mother—from the moment my son was born, from the instant that he became a separate being— I was unexpectedly seized by the chilling fear of losing him. If even for seconds, these intermittent waves continue to shake me and completely overwhelm me. Illness, accident, perverse kidnapping, the violence of war, or other horrible events can take our child(ren) from us. Imagining losing my son as an infant, a child, a teenager, or a young man (which he is now), I still hear and feel that terrible fear beneath the lull and chaos of the everyday....

  13. In Lieu of a Conclusion: MATERNAL PASSIONS
    (pp. 145-154)

    In magical moments my relationship with my seventeen-year-old son feels devoid of the profound gender, age, and other differences that exist between us. At least this is how it feels to me. Remember, this is the mother’s story. I have just received a phone call from my angelic son, assuring me he is OK, that he is safely off of the freeway and on his way to the Santa Monica Pier. He has recently received his driver’s license and is careful to set me at ease. He comforts me to assure himself. “How is Grandma?” he tenderly asks. On this...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 155-162)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-170)
  16. Index
    (pp. 171-176)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 177-177)