"Somos madres ¿y qué más?": Feminism, maternal subjectivity, and artistic practice in Mexico City, 1971-91
On Mother’s Day in 1971, a group of fifteen women gathered in front of the Mother’s Monument in Mexico City in the first protest against the “myth of the mother” in Mexican culture and society. These activists, later forming the group Mujeres en Acción Solidaria, set out to examine the impact of this mythology on women’s lived social and psychological experience. Participants invited public dialogue by distributing pamphlets marked with the question, somos madres ¿y qué más?—"we are mothers and what else?” Rather than reject “the mother,” its roles and associations, a significant number of Mexican women worked to interrogate its performative construction and open it to collective transformations. This dissertation focuses on artists Maris Bustamante, Guadalupe García, Ana Victoria Jiménez, Magali Lara, and Mónica Mayer whose works emerged within the intersection of the contemporary art scene, the women’s movement, and contested meanings of the maternal in Mexico City during the 1970s and 80s. Ideologies forged over centuries in Mexico established the role of mother as categorically distinct from that of artist and thus devalued and effaced women’s creativity in the art world. Mexico City was, at the same time, home to a vocal women’s movement that sought to interrupt and transform patriarchal formations of gender and a vibrant artistic community in the midst of redefining the very possibilities of art. I argue that, within this moment of feminist and creative potentialities, these artists reconfigured their maternal subjectivity as a foundation from which to articulate innovative practices as democratic critique. Their works form a set of artistic practices that fundamentally transvalued the maternal in Mexican visual culture and society from non-prescriptive feminist and artistic perspectives. My analysis traces their strategic artistic interventions into key spaces where the role of mother has been relentlessly produced and performed, within visual culture, social rituals, and labor in domestic, public, and educational spheres. Their archive asserts the maternal as central to the invention of new forms of artistic practice in Mexico. Its analysis here performs a rupture within existing art historical discourses that allows space for the role of artist/mother to be possible.