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Abstract

This article analyzes the artistic production of Polvo de Gallina Negra (Black Hen Powder, PGN), a feminist art collective established by Mexican artists Maris Bustamante (b. 1949) and Mónica Mayer (b. 1954) in 1983. Even though scholars have examined the ways in which PGN contributed to the development of feminist art in Mexico, the existing studies have not emphasized how the collective explored political violence. To highlight this aspect of PGN’s artistic practice, this article focuses on a mail art missive produced by Bustamante and Mayer as part of the extensive ¡MADRES! (Mothers!) (1983-1987) project. Mothers! served as a complex series of artistic interventions that focused on the personal and social significance of motherhood. As part of Mothers!, PGN developed humorous artistic performances they presented in public venues and national television. The collective also produced Egalité, Liberté, Maternité (Equality, Liberty, Motherhood) (1987), a series of six mail art missives that were distributed to journalists, feminist activists, and members of the art world. While Mothers! has received considerable attention from scholars in Mexico and abroad, most of the available literature focuses on PGN’s artistic performances. In contrast, this article focuses on Más allá de la vanguadia: La transmaternidad (Beyond the Avant-Garde: Transmaternity) (1987), a mail art missive that explored the significance of motherhood after the massacre of Tlatelolco (1968) and the disappearances of political activists. Specifically, I employ the analytical framework developed by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, revealing how the activist and political context of Mexico affected PGN’s mail art missive. Furthermore, I argue that PGN developed a form of feminist art that highlighted the specific challenges faced by Mexican women in the post-1968 era, even as the mail art missive also resonated with the efforts of feminist artists working in the United States. Through this analysis, I position PGN’s mail art missive as a unique contribution to feminist art in a larger transnational field.

Note on the Author

Alberto McKelligan Hernández is Assistant Professor of Art History at Portland State University. He completed his Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY); his research received the Carolyn G. Heilbrun Award from CUNY’s Center for the Study of Women and Society. He also curated “Mónica Mayer: Translocal Translations, 1978-2018” for Paragon Gallery in Portland, Oregon, and his research on feminist art in Mexico has been published in Nierika: Revista de Estudios de Arte.

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