Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

The summer before I headed back to school, I found a copy of Eadweard Muybridge's book The Human Figure in Motion in a used book store in Bath, Maine. I had never seen Muybridge's photographs before and was completely taken by them. I bought the book thinking that it might come in handy sometime. During my freshman semester at MECA I made reems of photocopies of the photos of women from Muybridge's book - women walking, women climbing ladders, women dancing, women crawling. I used these images as reference material for my monoprints and I used the photocopies as collage material in several drawings, including the self-portrait posted here. I made this self-portrait at the same time that I made Mummy of an Adult Female/Self. Muybridge's Woman Crawling and Woman Climbing Ladder are collaged into the woods behind me, into my clothing, the furniture, and my face. They seemed appropriate images to describe where I was in my journey - coming out of years of intense child care into my return to school and to my art. At the end of the semester at my final review, English professor Claude Caswell told me that my self-portrait reminded him of The Yellow Wallpaper, written by the American feminist writer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I had read Gilman's novel Herland years before, but had never read this short story, so I went directly to the library and found it. It is a powerful piece of writing - semi-autobiographical - that Gilman wrote after a difficult post-partum. I have posted a link below where you can read The Yellow Wallpaper. (There are also two other links where you can read about Gilman and about Muybridge).
I think that Mother's Day is a great time to pause and give thanks to all the courageous, pioneering women like Gilman who worked (and continue to work!) to raise the world's consciousness about women's issues and women's rights.

Martha Miller
Self, February, 2003
charcoal, white pastel and collage on paper, 22" x 30". For Sale.

Eadweard Muybridge
Woman Descending Stairs

Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Don Gray said...

We have some amazing parallels in interests. I have a fascination with Muybridge too, and did a group of works beginning in the mid-80's dealing with his motion studies. There is something so evocative about those people, caught in those frozen moments of time. They evoke the journey of life, somehow.

Martha Miller said...

ooh, do you have those works on-line? i'd love to see them!

i know - muybridge's photos are extremely compelling. they are so iconic, yet so ordinary.

Don Gray said...

I guess I don't have any of that work online. I'll try to track some of the photos/slides down and maybe post some.