Date of Degree

2-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor(s)

Anna Indych-López

Committee Members

Katherine Manthorne

Rafael de la Dehesa

Karen Cordero Reiman

Subject Categories

Art and Design | Interdisciplinary Arts and Media | Painting | Printmaking | Race and Ethnicity | Women's Studies

Keywords

Mónica Mayer, Mexican Art, Feminist Art, Feminist Activism, Translocality, Contemporary Art

Abstract

This dissertation focuses on Mónica Mayer (b. Mexico City, 1954), analyzing her work to understand the role played by the artistic and activist exchanges between feminists from Mexico City and Los Angeles in the development of feminist art in Mexico from the 1970s to the present. While scholars and curators are increasingly drawing attention to Mayer’s large body of work, which includes prints, drawings, installations, and public art interventions, the available literature emphasizes her connections to other artists working in her home country, positioning her artistic production within narratives of contemporary Mexican art.[1] In contrast, this dissertation foregrounds Mayer’s position within different artistic circuits, examining how the artist strategically adapted the model of feminist art developed by the Feminist Studio Workshop (FSW) in the 1970s to the specific conditions of Mexico City’s art world. This study employs the concept of translocal translation to interpret her work as a deliberate artistic and political strategy that shaped the scope and direction of feminist art in her home country and abroad. Through her artistic negotiations, Mayer explored the role of gender in the visual arts of Mexico, thereby challenging the social structures that shaped women’s experiences in her home country. Her work expanded the repertoire of feminist artistic production, and recognizing her contributions challenges existing narratives of a universal feminist art movement based in the United States and Europe. This study thus develops an understanding of feminist art in Mexico within a larger translocal arena that remains absent in the available literature, highlighting Mayer’s role as a mediator of different artistic and activist models circulating in Mexico City and Los Angeles.

My examination also emphasizes the ways in which Mayer challenged representations of femininity and maternity in the Mexican artistic canon. Through her artistic projects, the artist developed a sustained critique of the representational systems that aided in the construction of women’s social roles. Mayer’s projects challenged the idealized visions of mujeres abnegadas, or passive selfless women, that emerged in post-revolutionary visual culture but continued to shape understandings of gender in Mexican society during the late twentieth century. This dissertation analyzes the numerous collaborative artistic projects developed by Mayer, including her work in feminist art collectives such as Tlacuilas y Retrateras (Women Scribes and Portraitists) and Polvo de Gallina Negra (Black Hen Powder), as well as the archival project of Pinto mi Raya (I Draw My Line). These art collectives further allowed Mayer to adapt the FSW model of artistic practice, developing a form of feminist art that questioned that questioned the hierarchical structures of Mexican society. Her artistic production, or translocal translations, shaped the scope and trajectory of feminist art in her home country, serving as a powerful model that would inspire subsequent generations of women artists, activists, and scholars.

[1] See Edward J. McCaughan, “Navigating the Labyrinth of Silence: Feminist Artists in Mexico,” Social Justice 34, no. 1 (107) (2007): 44–62; Deborah Cullen, ed., Arte No Es Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000 (New York: El Museo del Barrio, 2008); Ekaterina Álvarez Romero, ed., When in Doubt... Ask: A Retrocollective Exhibit of Mónica Mayer (Mexico City: Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2016).

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