• Li An Li

Looking at Mierle Laderman

Here are a few thoughts from

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, detail of “Dress to Go Out/Undressing to Go In” (1973)

I found her story interesting because I feel that I can relate to being a female artist at the very same 'feminist crossroads', the place where the artist ends and motherhood begins. A place where the person is split to being an artist part time and mother part-time. Laderman has been able to articulate what I have been grappling with; the pure individual creation vs the private sphere ; the domestic. She described one as being the new, the development, and the other as the preserving and sustaining progress.

My work fits in the sustaining section for sure. I grapple with motherhood and continuing my art practice and attempting to maintain it without necessarily doing the new, although I must add that the pressure to do the new is there. However, Laderman makes me feel justified in switching my practice to the photography since it is a way to maintain and preserve the work. What I feel Laderman is missing out on is truly combining the two. Did she take her kids on her 8 or 16 hour trips with the sanmen ( short for sanitation men, or rubbish men as us Brits would say) Where does motherhood fit into it? It seems that the roll she is torn between is one of a housewife rather than a mother.

Laderman appeals to me even more since she engages with and interview members of the public, a direction my own practice is leaning towards. She evidently had a desired to plan and document thoroughly. This is another trait I would want to borrow from Laderman.

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