Paper and Process


My art work is a personal exploration of motherhood and the domestic work involved in this role. The lack of value placed by society on mothers, in their roles as both caretakers and domestic workers, insidiously chips away at the idealistic expectations of motherhood and identity. Tangentially, the lack of a feminist theory on motherhood exacerbates the tension between this devaluation of motherhood and the mothers’ expectations. The social construct of the happy-mother-with-another-one-on-the way breaks down one load of laundry at a time, one dirty diaper at a time, one child after another, and one year after the next. My process of art making, as a mother, is an attempt to reconcile the sense of displacement and disconnection from society and oneself by creating a pause - to reflect, reclaim and rebirth the fragmented parts of one’s identity. The intersectionality of the third wave of feminism focused on integrating different races, genders and classes from various geographies and socio-economic backgrounds into a common conversation while still maintaining their own strong and dynamic platforms. Mothers, however, were left out of the conversation. “It has been said that motherhood is the unfinished business of feminism” states, Andrea O’Reilly, a professor at York University, in a keynote speech, at the Museum of Motherhood in NYC, 2014. O’Reilly has spent her career as a professor and mother, pushing for a maternal feminist theory which she coined “matricentric feminism.” Both, O’Reilly and Samira Kawash, a professor in the Rutgers University PhD program of Women’s Studies, ask the same question: Why haven’t women’s studies’ programs embraced a feminism for the specific needs and concerns of mothers? While the feminist academic world has not embraced the concerns of mothers, within the art world, the work of mothers has been visible. Mothers and their art have added voices to various phases of feminism. Mierle Laderman Ukeles is an artist, activist, mother and feminist working since the late 1960’s. She elevated the maintenance chores of mothers and service workers to that of art, thereby creating a community of mothers and workers that felt validated in their jobs. Her art has been a powerful tool in strengthening the agenda and agency of mothers. My art installations explore women’s traditional work. The process of making handmade paper mimics the often tedious, mundane, and oppressive aspects of domestic chores like doing laundry or dishes. The soaking, beating, rinsing, and pressing of fiber into sheets of paper is labor intensive. The paper with its imperfections is used to create simple objects of domesticity like an apron or laundry basket or large panels of color that focus on process. This work has helped me to reconcile with the past twenty-five years as a mother. Art making creates a foundation from which to understand and reclaim oneself.



Papermaking, Maternal Art, Maternal Feminism