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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Monica P.  Mayer

Col. del Valle,
Mexico

Mónica Mayer (Mexico City, 1954), studied visual arts at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Mexico City and in 1980 obtained a masters degree in sociology of art at Goddard College while participating at the Feminist Studio Workshop in Los Angeles, California.

Her work has been exhibited in over 100 group exhibitions in Mexico, the U.S. and Europe and has had solo exhibitions among others at: Casa del Lago (1977), en el Museo Carrillo Gil (1987), Lourdes Chumacero gallery (1990), Pino Suárez subway station (1990), Auditorio subway station (1993), The National Gallery in Kingston, Jamaica (1996), Centro Cultural Candido Mendes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1997), El Colegio de Arquitectos in Pichinche, Ecuador (1997), the artists run gallery Pinto mi Raya (1989, 1992), the Trotsky Museum (1999), the Centro Cultural San Angel (1999) in México D.F., La Masmédula Galería (1999), Jardín de las Esculturas, Xalapa, Ver (1993).

A major area of Mayer’s work has been performance art.

In 1983 she formed Polvo de Gallina Negra, the first

feminist art group in Mexico with Maris Bustamante. The group presented performances in the media and

different social interventions. Mayer also formed the group Tlacuilas y Retrateras, another feminist art group integrated by the participants in a two year workshop she gave to artists and art historians. Mayer has also performed on her own or with Victor Lerma in different festivals in Mexico and Japan, as well as presenting her work in museums. However, most of her performance pieces are social interventions designed specifically for each place and situation. Since 1989 she has participated in Pinto mi Raya with Victor Lerma, which is an on-going piece on the Mexican art system.

Mayer has published articles in different art magazines and e-zines, including Poliester, Comunicación Visual, Mundo Celular, Tentación, Tierra Adentro, Generación, Curare, Réplica 21, Artte.com, La Pala (all in Mexico), n.paradoxa, Performance Research (in Britain) and Artecontexto (Spain), and since 1988 she has had a weekly column on art in El Universal, one of the most important newspapers in Mexico. In 2004, she published four books: Rosa chillante: mujeres y performance en México (AVJediciones, CONACULTA), Pinto mi Raya (co-authored with Victor Lerma, Editorial Santillana) and Las mujeres que no se fueron (with a photo-essay by Juan Carlos Reyes García, Instituto de la Mujer Oaxaqueña Ediciones) and Escandalario: los artistas y la distribución del Arte (AVJ ediciones).

Feminist Artist Statement

I became interested in feminism as an art student, when after a lecture on women artists, my fellow-male students said that women were less creative than men because we gave birth. Considering these were artists from a very liberal, politicized, generation, I realized unless I did something about it, no matter how good my work ever was, it would never be seen on equal terms. After that, a group of women friends from school started meeting and integrating these ideas to our work.

In 1975 I read about The Woman’s Building in Los Angeles in a magazine and decided to study there. I finally joined the Feminist Art Program in 1978. In the meantime, I participated in the feminist movement in Mexico, in the group Movimiento Feminista and in the Colectivo de Cine Feminista, which was a feminist film collective. At the WB I also did my masters degree at Goddard College and wrote a thesis called “Feminist Art: An effective political tool.” Suzanne Lacy was my advisor.

In 1983, back in Mexico, I formed two feminist art groups. One of them was Polvo de Gallina Negra, with Maris Bustamante. Humor was the basis or our work. She is a truly admirable artist. The group lasted ten years. I also began teaching a course on feminist art from which the group Tlacuilas and Retrateras began. We all did an event that was very outrageous at the time called La Fiesta de Quince Años” on that long traditional party women in Mexico enjoy or suffer when they are 15.

I think the most important thing feminist art has given me is the understanding that an artist’s work is more than producing art works. Doing research on women’s art, writing about them in my newspaper column in El Universal or publishing books about us, teaching, protesting and supporting other women artists is part of my work.

As time went by, the loud, obnoxious, radical feminist art movement I so much enjoyed became more institutional. I suppose it’s part of the process, and what allows archives such as this one to exist. Today, what we did is history. However, I also know that, at least in Mexico, there is a very strong new generation of women artists who will fight their own battles with as much enthusiasm as we did and hopefully, they will have as much fun.

<p>Quiero hacer el amor</p>

Quiero hacer el amor

These were a serie of postcards presented in 1978 in a feminist art exhibition in Mexico City called “Lo Normal (Normal).”

They are like the kind of tests one finds in women’s magazines. My face shows different reactions and there are instructions in the bottom for people to fill it in according to how they feel about a phrase that changes in each postcard answering the statement: I want to make love with:... Each postcard had different answers such as: with my father, in a packed theater, with myself, and get paid, etc.

It’s cute to see they were actually quite shocking at the time.

Quiero hacer el amor

These were a serie of postcards presented in 1978 in a feminist art exhibition in Mexico City called “Lo Normal (Normal).”

They are like the kind of tests one finds in women’s magazines. My face shows different reactions and there are instructions in the bottom for people to fill it in according to how they feel about a phrase that changes in each postcard answering the statement: I want to make love with:... Each postcard had different answers such as: with my father, in a packed theater, with myself, and get paid, etc.

It’s cute to see they were actually quite shocking at the time.

EL TENDEDERO

I asked 800 women to fill in the small pink pieces of paper answering the phrase: As a woman what I dislike the most in the city, is:

A large majority talked about how they felt threatened. That they did not like men harassing them in the street. The piece was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City and while it was on, many women took the liberty of adding their own answers in the back of the existing answers.

¡MADRES! Madre por un día

In 1983 Maris Bustamante and I formed “Polvo de Gallina Negra,” the first feminist art group in Mexico. Our name is a remedy against the evil eye, which we felt we needed being women, women artists, and even worse, feminist artists.

One of our first projects was ¡MADRES!, a long term social intervention on motherhood. The first thing we did was to get pregnant, with the help of our husbands who were artists and understood well our artistic endeavour. Obviously, we had daughters and they were born three months apart.

We enjoyed motherhood so much, that as part of the project, we decided to name 10 important men in our community Mother for a Day, because we felt they were being discriminated.

One of them was Guillermo Ochoa, a very famous anchorman. We did a performance in his program, which was seen all over Latin America, in which we disguised him as a pregnant woman and talked about motherhood and the female archetype.

In the photograph you can see Maris on the left and I am holding a doll I took with me dressed as the very evil mother in a soap opera airing at the time, in order to say that little girls should also practice being bad mothers. We are both wearing the lovely aprons with tummies the anchorman also wore.

¡MADRES! Madre por un día en el Carrillo Gil

This is another performance of the ¡MADRES! project of the feminist art group “Polvo de Gallina Negra,” integrated only by Maris Bustamante and I. Actually, the only way anyone else could join the group was if we had given them birth.

In this performance we are naming designer Luis Soto and performance artist César Martínez as Mother for a Day.

During that performance we also signed a contract that when Maris dies, if I’m still alive, I will spread her ashes at peak hour in the most visited underground station in Mexico City. If I die before, she will spread mine at the Famous persons Monument (Rotonda de las personas Ilustres). At the time it was still the Famous Men Monument, and included very few women.

¡MADRES! La venus de Sombrerete y la Venus de Turín

Again, another performance of the project ¡MADRES!. We named this type of work a visual project. It included media performances, a round table on women’s poetry on motherhood, a competition on letters addressed to your mother with everything you ever wanted to tell her but didn’t dare, performances during demonstrations and before an audience.

Our last performance in this piece was the day before Neus, the second daughter of Maris in our project was born.

LA SILLA

I did this performance with my daughter Yuruen, several performance artists and the audience. I read a text on aging, menopause and other similar issues while Yuruen played around with the chair. The audience was asked to tie their legs to the legs of the chairs, while the performance artists went to them, told them nice things, kissed them and caressed them.

Virtual Duality

The personal is political. I met Victor Lerma in 1973 when we were both art students. We’ve been together since 1975.

When we got married in 1980, we took some time off the party with our closest friends and did a performance that was the birth of Mrs. Lerma, a character I have often used.

In 1989 we did a performance called “Boda Falsa (Fake Wedding)” where we remarried in order to take pictures because we had none from our original wedding.

To celebrate 30 years of marriage we did a piece that included doing each other’s graphic works on transparent acetate and creating an installation. We also did a performance at the Nipon International Performance Festival in Japan where we ended up exchanging clothes. This is a picture of it.

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González de Cossio 17
Col. del Valle,
Mexico

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