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Mother Art records, 1973-2017, undated

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Mother Art records

Biographical / Historical

Formed in 1973 in the Los Angeles Woman's Building, Mother Art was a collective of women artists dedicated to creating sociopolitical art around issues such as the social invisibility of maternal labor and the impact of the lack of socially supported daycare on the professional practices of female artists.

The Mother Art collective was established by five artists from the Feminist Studio Workshop who lacked support from their instructors and fellow participants who did not have children and did not believe it feasible for parents to be serious artists. Jan Cook, Christine Kruse, Helen Million, Suzanne Siegel, and Laura Silagi began meeting weekly in 1973 to advocate for their needs as both mothers and artists. Mother Art's first project was to create a space at the Woman's Building for children, who had not previously been permitted onsite. In 1974, they used electrical cable spools from the Department of Water and Power to build Rainbow Playground in the Woman's Building parking lot. Their next major project, 1975's By Mothers, consisted of an exhibition at the Woman's Building in which ten artists reflected on their personal experience as mothers, with a month-long program series for mothers and children that included workshops, performances, and lectures on motherhood and feminism. A second, larger exhibition, By Mothers was curated by the collective in 1976, with work by women artists from all over the western United States.

Additional Mother Art projects include Laundry Works (1977), a performance series funded by a California Arts Council grant that took place in laundromats throughout Los Angeles; and two 1978 performances, Mother Art Cleans Up City Hall and Mother Art Cleans Up the Banks, with a related installation in 1979 at California State University, Los Angeles. In the 1980s, Mother Art performances and installations incorporated real women's narratives and focused on various social issues such as abortion (Pro-Choice, 1981), Central American refugees (Flowers for Four Women, 1984), and women's poverty (Homeless Women, 1984).

Mother Art ceased formal collaboration in 1986. Throughout its existence from 1973-1986, the collective consisted of eight women: the five founding members, Jan Cook (1973-1975), Christine Kruse (1973-1976), Helen Million (1973-1978), Suzanne Siegel (1973-1986), and Laura Silagi (1973-1986); and additional members, Gloria Hajduk (1975-1982), Velene Campbell (1977-1978), and Deborah Krall (1981-1986).

The (Re)Visiting Mother Art retrospective at the Shenere Velt Gallery in 2000 featured a new installation by members Siegel, Silagi, and Krall: Mid-Life, Running out of Time. The group has since participated in several exhibitions, including Doin' It in Public (2011) at the Otis Art Institute as part of the Getty's Pacific Standard Time initiative. In 2012, Mother Art created a documentary film of the collective's history: Mother Art Tells Her Story.

Sources consulted:

"About," Mother Art, accessed February 26, 2019,

Siegel, Suzanne, Laura Silagi, and Deborah Krall. Mother Art: A Collective of Women Artists. Los Angeles: Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, 2011.

Silagi, Laura. "Mother Art," undated.

Tain, John. Acquisition Approval Form for "Mother Art records, mainly 1973-1986," accession no. 2017.M.60, August 10, 2017.

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