Re-Viewing Feminist Influences in Transnational Art: A Multimodal, Fugal Analysis of Mary Kelly’s Texts of Maternal Desire

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The 1970s women’s art movement is a foundational influence in transnational contemporary art. The research paper uses an innovative, multimodal, fugal methodology to discuss the formative influence of the work of American conceptual feminist artist Mary Kelly, in articulating and representing ‘the intricacies of maternal desire’ in her work based on her own experience of parturition. The paper includes the presentation of photographic images of Mary Kelly and her work, drawing on interviews the author – an art writer, critic and photographer – conducted with Mary Kelly and her son Kelly Barry, also an artist, at the 2008 Sydney Biennale. Critical discussion focuses on Kelly’s Antepartum and Post-Partum Document(1973-78) – and a collaborative video work made by Kelly and Barrie. The paper argues that not only are Kelly’s works highly significant in their own right – radically bringing together conceptual art and feminist self based narrative art – as constitutive, canonical, texts of the 1970s women art movement, they initiated new multimodal forms of contemporary art and modes of dialogic textual communication that have formatively influenced the development of art and its social and cultural communication, inter-generationally and transnationally.


Keywords: Feminist Conceptual Art, Psychoanalytic Theory, Multimodality, Fugue
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Re-viewing Feminist Influences in Transnational Art


Dr. Ruth Skilbeck

Lecturer, Department of Communication
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology

Sydney, NSW, Australia

Ruth Skilbeck, PhD, is an arts critic, writer and researcher. She has a BA Hons in Philosophy from the University of London, an MA in Writing and a PhD on the Writer’s Fugue (critical and cultural theory) from the University of Technology, Sydney. For the past five years she has researched and lectured in creative practice and social inquiry at UTS. Current research interests include multimodality, feminist psychoanalytic theory and creative practice.

Ref: A09P0810