MOTHER WATER, dedicated to the memory of Mary Beth Edelson (1933-2021)

Works by Andrea Chung, Nancy Cohen, Meredith Drum, Mary Beth Edelson, Merritt Johnson, Mikayla Patton, Sandra Ramos, Alicia Smith & Jane Swavely

June 7, 2021 - June 7, 2022
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Almost two-thirds of the surface of the earth is covered by water. Our bodies are half water; half again that of a woman carrying a child. We know that water is life-sustaining for all living beings yet humans largely refuse to care for this resource. For the women artists in this exhibition, bodies of water also exist as social spaces, painterly expanses, geographical delineations, political borders and even as family. In the work that inspired Mother Water, a video titled Hueatoyatzintli, Alicia Smith addresses the Rio Grande in Nahuatl, singing to her as a witness to those who have made the crossing and to those who do not survive: “tehwatzin in titēchchīxtika kēmen titonān / You who watches like you are our mother.”

We are honored to dedicate this exhibition to Mary Beth Edelson (1933-2021), the celebrated American artist, activist, and an originator of the Feminist Art movement. Included in this exhibit are works from Edelson’s Lifesaver Series/Black Spring, which address the effects of oil spills and her iconic Woman Rising Series, based on private performance rituals often enacted at the water’s edge. Writing in the 1970’s Edelson described the later series as: “a profoundly political act against the patriarchy and for spiritual liberation—the ramifications of which are still unfolding.”

Turning to her own words, Edelson’s career which spanned more than five decades has been, in itself, a profoundly political act. With her broad sphere of influence as an organizer of the first conference on women artists (Conference of Women in the Visual Arts, Washington D.C. 1972); an early artist at A.I.R. Gallery, the first all-women’s gallery; her involvement with WAC (Women’s Action Coalition) and art against domestic violence in the 1990’s; and her life-long archiving of Feminist Art activities (archive located at the Fales Library and Special Collections, NYU) we know that the ramifications of Mary Beth Edelson’s work are still unfolding. She will be missed.