Friday, December 19, 2014

Lost in Living: Review and Online Streaming

We're pleased to present part one of a two-part series featuring filmmaker Mary Trunk's documentary “Lost in Living,” which can be streamed online free of charge through December 25th, 2014 at http://vimeo.com/67761940. Trunk does a remarkable job capturing the joy, exhaustion, and the many conflicts that arise as a result of being both mother and artist.  Don’t miss this opportunity to view an important film that accurately portrays many of the issues mother/artists deal with on a daily basis.

 by Chrissy LaMaster-Doty

Mary Trunk’s feature length documentary, Lost in Living, deals with the emotional and practical tensions which arise when artists become mothers. Trunk films and interviews four artists over the course of seven years. Two of them are young artists: Caren McCaleb, a painter and video editor, and Kristina Robbins, a filmmaker. These two women are close friends and experience pregnancy and the birth of their first children at about the same time. We are allowed to see first hand the impact rearing babies and toddlers has on their lives as mother/artists. The other two women featured are writer Merrill Joan Gerber and visual artist Marjorie Schlossman, both of whom have adult children and who reflect upon the impact of their young and growing families on their careers as artists. These reflections are more dramatic when some of their grown children speak of their childhoods, and recall some of the difficulties of being the child of a mother/artist.

What is so impactful in this film are the ambiguities expressed by these mother/artists—the need to be creative contrasted with the often mundane activities of child-rearing and house work; the feelings sometimes amounting to desperation when they speak about the interruption of their artistic careers and the difficulty of getting back on track; the cavalier dismissal by many in the art world of the value of motherhood; and the regret expressed especially by the older artists at the feeling that they neglected their children for the sake of their art.

Trunk’s own struggle with both motherhood and filmmaking inspired her to make the film, and her objective/observational role as a documentarian allows each woman’s journey to be understood. Lost in Living, does not make a case for choosing between motherhood and art.  Trunk does, however, with both hard-eyed realism and immense sympathy, show us how difficult it is to manage both. In this film mother/artists will see themselves and their struggles laid out before them and perhaps feel a little less alone, a little more recognized for their efforts. This documentary is a must-see for all artists, women, and mothers who may consider themselves “lost” in living.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Chrissy LaMaster-Doty is a photographer, installation and video artist.  A fifth-generation Nebraskan, she has spent most of her life in the Midwest, teaching and holding various program and administrative positions at museums and community arts centers.  She now calls Central Illinois home, and recently earned her MA in Studio Art from Bradley University.  She is particularly interested in women’s issues, motherhood and the idea of the “maternal gaze.”  Chrissy is the mother of two college-aged children, and has spent the last 20 years attempting to find a balance between motherhood and art.   

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cultural ReProducers: Propositions, Manifestos, and Experiments

At long last, our first zine project, Cultural ReProducers: Propositions, Manifestos &
Experiments is finally in print. This risographed think-tank explores the intersection of contemporary artmaking and family life through text and images from 28 international artists published by and with the collective Temporary Services in glorious duotone with a centerfoldout poster of the Cultural ReProducers manifesto. Due to the multilayered nature of the zine (44 pages in 3 colors with a centerfoldout manifesto poster) it was painstakingly collated, folded and stapled by hand and there are just 400-ish copies in existence.

Orders within the United States are just $7 US plus shipping ($8.50 postpaid). You can support the work of Cultural ReProducers by ordering your copies directly from us here:

Thanks to Temporary Services the zine will also soon be available as a lovely e-book and archival PDFs at $2 each through their imprint Half Letter Press.

For those of you in Chicago, join us for the event Co-Occupations, a reading, curated bookshelf and zine launch co-organized with Caroline Picard for Sector 2337 on Wednesday, December 10th at 7:30pm (doors open 7pm) including a live performance by musicians/parents The Speers. The event is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Division of Labor: Chicago Artist Parents, curated by Christa Donner and Thea Liberty Nichols and on view through February 14th at Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery. Please join us if you can! Sector 2337 is located at 2337 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL.

Propositions, Manifestos & Experiments features contributions by: Christa Donner, Candida Alvarez, Laura Berman, Andrew Yang, Lise Haller Baggesen, Keiler Roberts (Powdered Milk), Lenka Clayton, Jennie Temple (Project!! Wakaka!), Stephanie Diamond, Selina Trepp, Chiara Galimberti, Lauren Weinstein, Alberto Aguilar, Fred & August Sasaki, Orla Whelan (AtHomeStudios, the Mothership Project), Crystal Ann Brown & Eliot Hown (The Hown's Den), Libby Clarke, Rebecca Niederlander & Iris Anna Regn (Broodwork), Jane Marsching & Andi Sutton (Plotform), Kyle Schlie (S.A.C.K.), Melissa Potter, Claire Ashley, Andre Francke & Kim Dhillon (Invisible Spaces of Parenthood).

Friday, November 28, 2014

Collaborations: Melissa Scherrer + Maeve

Collaborations is an ongoing series of creative projects undertaken by artists with their children. Milwaukee-based artist Melissa Scherrer makes collages, paintings and photographs with her daughter Maeve as part of her larger body of work, included prominently on her website under Professional Collaborations. Melissa is also the producer and host of Mother Friday, a weekly internet radio talk show exploring the many complexities of mothering, fathering, and creativity. Find more at www.mscherrer.com



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview: Melissa Potter

Melissa Potter is an outspoken feminist and multimedia artist whose award-winning work investigates womens’ rites of passage from marriage to motherhood through a unique combination of social practice, printmedia, papermaking, sculpture and film. Melissa has exhibited at venues including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, White Columns, the VideoDumbo Festival, and Galerija Zvono in Belgrade, Serbia. She is founder of the NY-based feminist art collective, Art364B, and her critical writing has appeared in numerous publications including BOMB, Art Papers, AfterImage, and Flash Art. She has also become an advocate for open adoption, and generously shared with us her experiences with artmaking, travel, gender roles, and new parenthood. 

CR: For starters, tell us a little bit about your son. 

Melissa: Landon Aranzamendez Potter, age 5.5 months. His temperament is extroverted and affectionate. His giggle fits are popular with pretty much everyone. He’s really a delightful baby and is usually described by his admirers as mellow.

CR: What has your process been like for returning to a studio practice as a new parent? Any surprises or strategies for work-life balance you'd share with other artists?

Melissa: Actually, I didn’t put my practice on hold during our adoption process. Landon’s birth mother chose us two weeks before she was due, and he was born weeks before my one-year sabbatical at Columbia College Chicago. The timing was exquisite.

I also have a partner with whom I share 50% of all domestic and financial responsibilities, and so I was able to keep work and art plans pretty much in place. He took the initial leave for the first three months of Landon’s life.  The leave was unpaid (another issue altogether), but I was the summer chair of my department, which helped us make ends meet.

working with Maggie Puckett in the Papermaker's Garden
Maggie Puckett, Melissa & Landon in the Papermaker's Garden
I went to Taiwan for a week when Landon was about six weeks old, and my parents came to help out, as have other dear friends and family members (they are all out East where we used to live.) In the spring, I’ll be doing a three-month Fulbright in Sarajevo. It will be an interesting challenge bringing Landon for some of that time. My husband’s job doesn’t allow him to join me for more than a couple of weeks, so we are cobbling it together with friends and my former student, Jillian Bruschera, founder of The Mobile Mill, who is coming to help with art production.

My friends in less privileged countries taught me it is possible to raise a family in a one-bedroom apartment. We try to keep life as simple and inexpensive as possible. I spent a lot of my career making art in faraway places, but I now realize how important it is to invest in the community where you live full time, too. My former student, Maggie Puckett, and I spent the summer working on our Seeds In Service project in the Papermaker’s Garden, and Landon came along a lot of days. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

CR:  You have experienced some dissonance between parents and non-parents in the art community. How have your own perspectives shifted now that you’re raising a child? What conversations or alternative structures do you think could be useful in bridging that gap?

Melissa: I was in the “no kids” tribe for half my life, and then I was a switch hitter. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but there has been some puzzlement and even an indirect question or two about what will happen to my career (which I don’t think would be asked of my male colleagues).  I made it through 12 years in NYC on less than 30K a year in a basement apartment with a broken toilet; I'm pretty sure I can do this! We define ourselves by our life choices, and I think artists are particularly this way. Basically, I think the binary distinctions between “kids” vs. “no-kids”;  “mother” vs. “childless” are distinctions of power, privilege, and social control that negatively impact women's financial and social well-being.

We have a long way to go to help women make choices instead of compromises. Something as simple as Walter Mondale’s plan for universal childcare would have created a world we couldn’t even imagine today. Non-biological parenting gave me a lot of choices with my career in our broken social system, and for that I’m really grateful. I’m equally grateful that even though the academic system is not particularly family-friendly, my former colleague worked hard to create provisions in the tenure document to accommodate family choices and responsibilities. But there is still so much more work to do so that a woman dropping out of the workplace isn’t a practical default. We need the ERA ratified!

CR: Until Landon’s adoption is finalized in November you’ve understandably decided not to write or make work about parenthood. How do you think parenthood will impact your creative work?

Melissa: Adoptions are very stressful legally. In domestic adoptions, the time from
banners from the project Feminist Felt,
with women in the Republic of Georgia
placement to legal finalization is six months. Unknown birth fathers can be located through public announcements and databases by certain states. There are endless meetings, updates, police reports, DCFS visits, and a million other fairly invasive investigations into adoptive parents’ lives, homes, employment and families. I can’t wait for the process to be done so that I don’t feel the need to censor myself. It’s probably paranoid, but the process can trigger that fear.

As an artist whose work revolves around questions of gender, I realize that open adoption is one of the biggest gender experiments possible. Adoption forces us to reconsider everything we know about the nuclear family and conventional motherhood, from patriarchal naming conventions, to the role of two families - adoptive and biological - in a child’s life. We are also a society obsessed with self-actualization, and I think adoption challenges these notions as well. We are at an exciting moment in parenting history. There are new movements to raise compassionate children, boys in particular. Gender norms are being called into question through news and writing outlets like The Good Men Project. Victim blaming and shaming is being replaced by calls for personal responsibility through organizations like White Ribbon Campaign, a coalition of men working to end violence against women.

I’m sure there will be many challenges when culture takes its hold, but as a feminist I have to believe that we can change the system with our individual choices. I believe in the axiom, “the personal is political.” The personal is also the source for a lot of my work, most recently through my blog, Gender Assignment, where I write about my life and engage others in conversation about gender roles and rituals. I can’t wait to start writing about the adoption experience in this context.

I feel like this process has made me a much more experimental and flexible person even in this short time. As well, it has really helped me renew my commitment to questioning the status quo. In regard to my art practice, I am reminded and humbled by the fact that one of the things Landon’s birth mother liked is that I am a professor of art, and that I travel a lot. It is great to be recognized for what I can bring to the table through my art career, especially since the process of adoption tends to favor more traditional lifestyles. Landon’s birth family is a whole new and active part of our community - a challenge, but a really great one. I think about them all the time and we are in contact regularly. It’s a big job, but it is satisfying and artistically inspiring in ways that I still don’t quite have language for.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC // Walter Peter and Anna Yema Ditzel


photo © Nils_Klinger
The following was announced on the windows of a small blue house at
dOCUMENTA (13), the summer 2012 installment of the international art exhibition that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany: The “60 wrd/min art critic” is available. Reviews are free of charge, and are written here on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 1 and 6 p.m. Lori Waxman will spend 25 minutes looking at submitted work and writing a 200-word review. Thoughtful responses are guaranteed. Completed reviews will be published in the Hessische/NiedersächsischeAllgemeine (HNA) weekly, and will remain on view here throughout dOCUMENTA (13).

Lori Waxman is an art critic and historian who lives in Chicago. For d13 she decamped to Kassel for three-and-a-half months, together with her husband Michael Rakowitz, an artist also included in the exhibition, and their daughter Renée, who at the time was two-and-a-half years old. Lori wrote a total of 241 reviews during the course of the project. A few of them were for artists whose work revealed their existence as parents; some were even for children.  A book of the entire project was published by Onestar Press, with an afterword by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the artistic director of dOCUMENTA (13). It can be purchased in print or downloaded as a free PDF.  Over the next few weeks Cultural ReProducers will share a series of reviews excerpted from the project, which recognizes children and parents as relevant participants in cultural dialogue.

Walter Peter
60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC // KASSEL // 186

Walter Peter
Children live in another, parallel universe that sometimes overlaps but mostly conflicts with the adult world. In a series of large colorful paintings and high contrast pencil drawings made using digitally altered photographs of his two young daughters, Walter Peter envisions this realm of endless curiosity, rampant play and unmetered time. On this planet, when balls are dropped and roll, cause and effect is learned. When swings go higher and higher, excitement and risk are tested. How does this work? What does that do? How does it feel, taste, smell? The world is fascinating to children, and children are fascinating to adults. That’s partly why we have them. But children are also mischievous and careless. Any honest parent knows this, though few admit it. Peter does, in drawings whose unforgivingly dark pencils and blown-out details sketch the edge between children having fun and children being impish trolls.

—Lori Waxman 8/15/12 2:47 PM

60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC  //  KASSEL  //  237

Anna Yema Ditzel

I love rainbows. Who doesn’t? But most of us, myself included, would be too unsentimental, or too afraid of appearing sentimental, or naïve, or guileless, to actually paint a picture of
Anna Yema Ditzel
one. For this, as for many other images and acts of the simplest joy and beauty, we need a child. And here we have one: Anna Yema Ditzel, age five, who loves to paint not just the large canvas she presents here but also playthings, tables and walls. Apart from the general loveliness of rainbows, which Ditzel certainly captures, and the accompanying pleasantness of a big green field and a bright blue sky dappled with plump white clouds, what distinguishes her painting from other similar representations is three-fold. Ditzel gives the rainbow in question more than the usual number of colors and arranges them in a novel order. She portrays the sun with not just yellow rays but also green ones. Finally, she signs her name without any restraint, using half the hues on her palette to write the letters A-N-N-A out twice, tall and energetic, as if they were horses running free across the grassy field of her imagination.

—Lori Waxman 9/15/12 3:15 PM

Monday, September 29, 2014

CR Event Series Report: Kids in the Studio

On September 13th, Cultural ReProducers teamed up with the DePaul Art Museum to present Kids in the Studio: Art, Labor, and Everyday Life, led by Copenhagen-based artists Bonnie Fortune and Brett Bloom.

The event took place in conjunction with Fires Will Burn and Ink, Paper, Politics, two exhibitions of political printmedia that provided the perfect context for a conversation about the work that both artists and parents do. Brett and Bonnie kicked things off by sharing their own approach to combining politics, creative practice and family, and discussed other projects that run counter to an art world that increasingly cuts artists off from their everyday lives. Manifestos and models presented included Palle Nielsen’s kid-centered installation “The Model: A Model for a Qualitative Society” at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, Andrea Francke’s “Invisible Spaces of Parenthood” working daycare center as art installation, and Nils Norman’s adventure playground research and sculptural projects. After several people started taking cell phone pictures of the screen, Brett and Bonnie generously offered to share their slideshow and resources with everyone (if you’d like a copy, let us know). They opened the event into a lively group discussion that nobody wanted to leave, which spilled over into the all-ages reception afterwards.

In a sunny lecture room upstairs, kids were invited to express their own agendas with colored paper, rubber stamps, and markers. By the time the adults headed up for the all-ages reception, the room was festooned with exquisite corpse drawings, a plastic cup tower, and an amazing paper rocket designed with the help of our brilliant childcare workers Ash, Macon and Craig.

We seemed to hit just the right mix of timing and people for this one, and the scene a looked a lot like the early proposal drawings we used to apply for funding for this event series: exuberant kids mobbed the refreshment and activity tables while adults connected over ideas raised in the lecture and scribbled down each other’s contact information for future conversations. Bonus: everyone went home with an experimental risograph zine designed by 3-year old Ada, created while Brett was working on Temporary Services' latest project.

On Saturday, December 6th we look forward to expanding this dialogue through the final installment in our series:  Making It What We Need,  a workshop and conversation generating concrete ideas about how institutions can support the work of cultural producers who are working it out as parents. Among other things, this event will help shape the future of what Cultural ReProducers is and does. We’d love to include your voice. This event will be presented by Cultural ReProducers organizers Christa Donner and Selina Trepp  in conjunction with the exhibition Division of Labor: Chicago Artist Parents, on view at the Glass Curtain Gallery from November 20th, 2014 - February 14th, 2015. Mark your calendars, and stay tuned for more information!

The Cultural ReProducers Event Series is a roaming series of lectures, performances, and other events designed to allow parents with small children participate more actively in the art community. These curated weekend morning events include free on-site childcare and intergenerational receptions.

Our goal is twofold: to give parents and their kids the chance to participate as critical members of the arts community, and to inspire cultural institutions to better serve artists and audiences, providing positive models for future programming. This project is made possible through support from the Propeller Fund.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC  // Julie Bernattz and Sofia Frank de Morais Barreira

photo © Nils_Klinger
The following was announced on the windows of a small blue house at dOCUMENTA (13), the summer 2012 installment of the international art exhibition that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany: The “60 wrd/min art critic” is available. Reviews are free of charge, and are written here on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 1 and 6 p.m. Lori Waxman will spend 25 minutes looking at submitted work and writing a 200-word review. Thoughtful responses are guaranteed. Completed reviews will be published in the Hessische/NiedersächsischeAllgemeine (HNA) weekly, and will remain on view here throughout dOCUMENTA (13).

Lori Waxman is an art critic and historian who lives in Chicago. For d13 she decamped to Kassel for three-and-a-half months, together with her husband Michael Rakowitz, an artist also included in the exhibition, and their daughter Renée, who at the time was two-and-a-half years old. Lori wrote a total of 241 reviews during the course of the project. A few of them were for artists whose work revealed their existence as parents; some were even for children.
 

A book of the entire project was published by Onestar Press, with an afterword by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the artistic director of dOCUMENTA (13). It can be purchased in print or downloaded as a free PDFOver the next few weeks Cultural ReProducers will share a series of reviews excerpted from the project, which recognizes children and parents as relevant participants in cultural dialogue.


Julie Bernattz
60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC  //  KASSEL  //  029

Julie Bernattz
Give a child a gift and watch what happens. Most prefer the packaging to the toy wrapped inside. It isn’t that dolls and blocks aren’t fun, but that boxes and wrapping are there to be torn, open and closed, balled up and thrown. No one is going to tell you not to destroy a piece of die-cut cardboard. Julie Bernattz, an artist who trained as a printmaker, works with the materials she has at hand. As the mother of a young girl, she has an endless supply of My Little Pony and Lalaloopsy containers that have been ripped open by eager hands. Arranged against a hot pink ground, some of these scraps reveal totally unexpected interest. Simple cardboard shapes prove most compelling. The printed sides are faerie lands empty of their inhabitants, like when Cory Arcangel removed Mario from the Super Mario Bros. video game. The backsides are raw abstractions, recalling Robert Rauschenberg’s cardboard reliefs. It’s trash but it also isn’t. In a land increasingly filled with garbage that we can just barely manage to recycle, Bernattz’s approach may become a necessary one, practically and ethically, as well as aesthetically. If you can’t toss it, look at it again, rethink it, and see if you can’t find something worthwhile there.

—Lori Waxman 6/16/12 2:37 PM

60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC  //  KASSEL  //  040
Sofia Frank de Morais Barreira


Sofia Frank de Morais Barreira

The art of children has long been prized among the avant-garde for its supposedly radical freedom and beautiful naiveté, because children are believed to be unfettered by the tradition of representational accuracy, by the fact that an apple must be round and red, that a face must have two eyes, two ears, one mouth and one nose, and all in the right space. This is hogwash. Consider the artwork of Sofia Frank de Morais Barreira, the four-year-old daughter of a conceptual performance artist. In one vibrant crayon sketch, palm trees sway in the breeze, an orange hut in their shade, a lush hilly landscape in the background. In another, a bright yellow fish swims in the wet blue sea. An odd composition of horizontal black lines and a little red house turns out to be a reproduction of a taxi receipt. A stunning pencil sketch gathers together a mass of dark scribbles that change direction and intensity to form a bird and cloud. One of Sofia’s most abstract pictures, of wavy red and blue stripes, is the result of a firm task given to her mother, to fill in the lines with precise coloring. None of these pieces are the product of wild imagination unbound by the reality of the world. They are the result of a young person continuously figuring out the world as she encounters it, tries it on and tests it out. With, admittedly, great color sense, sweet composition and a very willing maternal collaborator.

—Lori Waxman 6/18/12 5:40 PM