Labor: Motherhood & Art in 2020

Labor: Motherhood & Art in 2020, the inaugural exhibition of the new University Art Museum (UAM) at New Mexico State University (NMSU), will open on February 28, 2020 and remain on view until December 6, 2020. This exhibition, co-curated by museum director Marisa Sage and artist Laurel Nakadate, aims to expand and enrich the compelling conversations regarding motherhood in today’s socio-political climate. Through video, painting, installation, sculpture, film and photographic works, a diverse group of artists explore themes of empowerment, empathy, intimacy, selflessness, vulnerability, failure, anxiety, and choice. Situated in the Borderplex region of Southern New Mexico, Labor confronts and challenges historic and contemporary ways mothers and mothering have been represented in both art and popular culture. This exhibition strives to create a space of inclusivity and support that offers opportunities not only for internationally-celebrated artists, but also for the regional community, through local programming and the exhibition of work by New Mexico-based artists that speak to their own experiences relating to motherhood.  

Labor: Motherhood & Art in 2020 features the work of artists Tracey Baran, María Berrío, Patty Chang, Lenka Clayton, Amy Cutler, Joey Fauerso, Tierney Gearon, Kate Gilmore, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Las Hermanas Iglesias, Mary Kelly, Justine Kurland, Marilyn Minter, Laurel Nakadate, Hương Ngô & Hồng- Ân Trương, Yoko Ono, Catherine Opie, Laurie Simmons, Wendy Red Star, and Mickalene Thomas. Labor builds off MOTHER, a fall 2018 exhibition of photography and video co-curated by Laurel Nakadate and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects in New York. Many of the artists in Labor openly address the choice of becoming mothers, in particular pausing over the emphasis on childlessness in the arts, while looking back at their own mothers’ lives for insight into the mercurial experience of mothering. Many of the works reframe motherhood within the context of artistic practice, finding this recalibration necessary, urgent, and inspirational. “There has always been an abundance of artists making work about mothers and motherhood,” says Nakadate, “but until recently, many galleries and institutions have not created a space for that work. Our hope is that providing a platform for this work can create a forum for conversations to take place, and for artists ruminating within this realm to find one another.”

Works on display include a participatory art installation by Yoko Ono, entitled “My Mommy Is Beautiful,” in which audience members are invited to write memories of their mothers; Laurie Simmons’s powerful portrait of her child Cyrus Grace Dunham; and Justine Kurland’s expansive landscapes of mothers’ bodies in the American west. Also included is Hương Ngô & Hồng- Ân Trương’s recontextualized vernacular snapshots of their mothers participating in everyday American activities; Tierney Gearon’s arresting photographic portraits of her mother and children; and Joey Fauerso’s mixed media installation, You Destroy Every Special Thing I Make, which incorporates her sons into her practice of building and dismantling assemblages and sculptural forms in humorous and poignant ways.

During the course of the exhibition, the museum will debut a published book and installation by Lenka Clayton inspired by her 2012–2014 project “Mother’s Day,” in which the artist assembled one hundred written accounts of a day in the life of one hundred mothers around the world. For Labor, Clayton will reprise the work, requesting one hundred descriptive reports from one hundred mothers who have taken part in An Artist Residency in Motherhood (ARiM), a self-directed, open-sourced artist residency created by Clayton. Copies of the completed book will be distributed on Mother’s Day, 2020. In addition to Clayton’s book, two NMSU MFA student-mothers, Katrina Chandler and Maggie Day, will take part in ARiM during Fall 2019. Artwork produced during their residency will be on display concurrent with Labor in the new UAM Bridge Gallery.  

In addition to the main exhibition taking place in the new Contemporary Gallery, the theme of Motherhood will be further explored during Labor through the lens of the NMSU Permanent Art Collection. These curated exhibitions will be displayed in the two new galleries: the Bunny Conlon Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery and the Margie and Bobby Rankin Retablo Gallery. In further support of the exhibitions, a comprehensive series of programming will be available to the public, including an educational program series entitled “Mama Create-ups” targeting regional moms. This is intended to provide time, an inclusive safe environment, and resources for both local and student mothers. These events will provide one hour of informational talks by local specialists on themes such as, lactation, community student parenting, and the rights and resources for local mothers. Two hours of consecutive arts-based children’s workshops encourage mothers to participate in UAM programming and utilize the time and space for their own personal and creative pursuits. The UAM is also excited to announce two film nights planned in collaboration with NMSU Gender & Sexuality Studies and Feminist Border Arts Film Festival (FBAFF) which will include the screening of “Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project,” Mickalene Thomas’s short film, “Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman: A Portrait of My Mother”, and KCET’s Emmy-nominated documentary “Artist and Mother.”

This exhibition has been graciously supported by: The Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico–Devasthali Family Foundation Fund; The Southwest Border Cultures Institute (SBCI); The NMSU Department of Art’s Lilian Steinman Visiting Artists & Scholars Lecture Series; The Friends of the University Art Museum; Catharine Clark Gallery; The George & Lucy Gray Endowed Art Fund; and several private donors. 

Press Image: María BerríoVirgin & Child I, mixed media on canvas, 60 x 40, 2014. Image Courtesy of Anna Getty and Scott Oster

Please read the full curatorial statement here.

View each gallery below: 

CLICK HERE FOR VIEWING Bunny Conlon Modern & Contemporary Gallery
CLICK HERE FOR VIEWING Margie & Bobby Rankin Retablo Gallery
CLICK HERE FOR VIEWING Mullennix Bridge Gallery