Portland Women in Art Lecture Series Honors First International Guest: Mónica Mayer
Mónica Mayer was this year’s first international guest of the Portland Women in Art Lecture Series (PWALS). PWALS was founded in 2010 with the desire to bring feminist artists, curators, and scholars to Portland for public lectures, for student art critiques, and for faculty development with a committee made of of art faculty and students from all campuses of PCC and the art faculty of Portland State University.
Mónica Mayer is a Mexican feminist, a conceptual artist, activist, art critic/theorist, and was a columnist for Mexican newspaper, El Universal, for twenty years. The first iteration of El Tendedero (The Clothesline Project) was in 1978 and renditions of the project are still being done. You can find renditions of El Tendedero of pictures of shirts or notes hung on a clothesline that stretch across a courtyard or fill up an office room that have been done across campuses and offices world wide as well as here at PCC during the Spring Term. She knew that in order to be recognized in Mexico, she had to be recognized here in the U.S . She got a masters degree in sociology of art at Goddard College while participating at the Feminist Studio Workshop at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles, CA, a non-profit arts and education center with a focus on feminist art that has served as a venue for the women’s movement from 1973 to 1991.
When asked by a student how she got her inspiration for El Tendedero, Mayer said she had never done a conceptual piece but felt an attraction to something made up of small parts which would make up a huge work of art. She explains, “The work is not about the clothesline, but the part where I go out on the street and speak to these women and ask things like:
Hey, have you ever been harassed?
Has anybody ever touched your ass in the metro?
Did you like it?
Well, write it down then!
So, it was about making it visible — even for these women — that they were being harassed. I’ve always said that it wasn’t a sociological study but an art piece. It doesn’t have to do with truth. My act was to influence their thinking.”
Mayer isn’t too concerned about getting recognition for her work; she’s most happy when the project is repeated for education and activism “to keep the stories alive”. She hopes that we can have a dialogue about the roots of the harassment. When asked by a student what changes she’s seen in the forty years since the creation of El Tendedero, she describes narratives about sexual harassment shifting to “trying to change oppression between men and women by making them see the discrimination in their lives.”
You can walk through the gallery at Translocal Translation from November 8th to December 15th (Wednesday-Friday 12 pm – 7 pm and Saturday 12 pm – 5 pm).
For more PWALS infomation go to https://www.pcc.edu/about/events/women-in-art/about.html