Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Helen Redman

Nicole On My Lap

Nicole On My Lap

Helen Redman. Nicole On My Lap, 1964.

My angle of vision is that of a mother as I both hold and draw my new baby. Historically, male artists defined their Madonna and child images by observing from the outside. I drew Nicole from within the cocoon we shared working rapidly and directly. A squiggly baby and a scribbly oil crayon demand immediacy; yet countless hours of life drawing classes underlie the spontaneity.

As a mother you constantly read a sign language of need -- keenly aware of the way a baby plops its body, moves its lips, gestures its hands. After the loss of my first daughter, I could not take my eyes off of Nicole and my watchful maternal eye kept on recording her. Through infancy, childhood, adolescence, and even her own motherhood, I kept observing, exploring and affirming her life in my art.

The right to choose the subject of my own art and to weave it into my life as a mother in the heyday of abstract art was a pre-feminist choice. To be taken seriously at that time most women artists avoided traditional gendered roles and subjects. "Modern art" had no congruence with women exploring their roles as nurturers. My personal experience of bearing and raising children formed the core of my art and my life, no matter how many other subjects I depicted over the years.


drawing, portrait, baby, motherhood, gaze, family

Pregnant Artist Self-PortraitNicole On My LapNicoleNicole EnceinteHot FlashingWilting BloomsOn Our Path

Helen Redman Pioneer of Feminist Art

San Diego, CA


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