Evolving Interpretations of Family in ‘Family Matters’
“Like mother, like daughter.” I’m sure most of us have heard this saying before and even I tend to use it extensively to describe the profound impact that my mother has had on me. In looking around the Family Matters exhibition at the ASU Art Museum, on view now through Aug. 1, 2015, I see that I am not the only person who shares this sentiment. In many ways, the things that we learn from our parents leave a lasting impression on us and the things that we hold important in our lives. From being taught manners at the dinner table or inheriting a profound strength from a lost relative, the past struggles and lessons that prior generations leave behind surround the things that we value in our lives.
In the exhibition, in a work by artist June Mayer, Leaving 1907 (Plate 1, the Dorothy Series), the artist references her mother’s strength. After her mother, Dorothy Kline, passed away, Mayer produced a portfolio of prints entitled The Dorothy Series that told her mother’s life story. Mayer is a printer and founder of Tamarind Lithography Workshop that first opened in Los Angeles and is now based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The work featured in the exhibition shows a print of her mother and her family leaving their home country for America — a difficult feat. The artist breaks barriers on her own as a woman artist pioneering in her medium and with her business; much like her mother did in traveling to America.
Another standout work is a print by Miguel Palma, Untitled (Neil Armstrong), which touches on some different, but important family matters. The print features a photograph of Neil Armstrong and his family from an old magazine. The baby in the picture was cut away from the rest of the family and placed above, as a sort of tribute to the next generation of space explorers. The print was also designed in response to the jump by Felix Baumgartner in October 2012, as a tribute to human endurance. Outfitted in a specially designed space suit, Baumgartner jumped out of a space capsule at 24 miles above the earth, diving back down to earth at speeds up to 800 miles-per-hour, breaking the sound barrier. The print was created while Palma was an artist-in-residence with the ASU Art Museum, participating in a Desert Initiative project and creating work for his exhibition that was held at the museum in 2012. Palma was interested in “the history of Manifest Destiny and colonialism in populated places, strategies of adaptation and the role of technology in desert survival” as well as the “decreasing terrestrial exploration and increasing extraterrestrial exploration.” This print was one from a monoprint series through which Palma probed these concerns and celebrated the beginning of the space exploration.
While this may seem like it relates more to science than to family, this print touches on the idea of consecutive generations either equaling or surpassing their successor’s feats and accomplishments. Neil Armstrong was at the frontier of space exploration in his day when he took the first steps on the moon. While walking on the moon is still a huge step in extraterrestrial history, breaking the sound barrier while falling 24 miles back to earth definitely has its own place in the history of the exploration of space and human limitations. While the two men were not family, Palma decides to feature them in the same print to attest to the idea of them as two different generations of explorers with one building off the advances and accomplishments of the other.
The same theme is present in other works in the exhibition, as well. Like Father, Like Son by Patti Warashina is one example. In this case, what the new generation inherits is physical characteristics. The piece was created after the birth of the artist’s grandson and represents the discussions surrounding a child’s birth about which parent the child resembles, a discussion that many families today like to have. It also attests to those things we receive from our parents and grandparents that we may not necessarily have control over.
The exhibition Family Matters features work that seeks to bring to light the evolving interpretations of family and the things that matter to them. It has also brought to light where we receive these values from and why. This collection of works speaks to what type of impacts the past generations have upon us. Families can make all the difference in who we choose to become or what we choose to do, but chances are with the advancements and new things that time brings, it’s never exactly the same and cannot always be controlled. However, these effects are important in the present and will continue to be important in the future. Family truly does matter, even when they aren’t around anymore.
— Hannah Weston, Public Relations and Marketing Intern
Family Matters is on view through Aug. 1, 2015 in the lower level galleries at the ASU Art Museum. The exhibition is supported by the Evelyn Smith Exhibition Fund, members of the ASU Art Museum and the Stulgaitis Family Scholastic Award in honor of Helen Flecha Polina.
All photos by Hannah Weston.
Entry filed under: ASU Art Museum, Exhibition, Family Exhibition & Fun Day. Tags: Arizona State University, Arizona State University Art Museum, art, artists, ASU, ASU Art Museum, Ceramics, exhibition, family, june mayer, Miguel Palma, monoprint, museum, patti warashina.