8. Lernert & Sander, “How to Explain It To My Parents” Series
Lernert & Sander asked nine contemporary artists to explain their work to their parents. I wouldn’t define this series as collaborative, since the work is decidedly tailored to the artist’s perspective and the Sesame Street intro music feels a little condescending. (Artists can be brats). The videos are most interesting when the parents hold their own, though, like Martin de Waal’s. For an artist whose work has involved self-expression through plastic surgery, you can tell it’s a little tense.
“It’s nice of you to be here in this rather awkward situation,” de Waal tells his parents.
“Didn’t you expect us to take part?” his mom asks.
And they do, and from there, it’s a pretty two-sided conversation.
7. Art Spiegelman, Maus
Maus is a story about Auschwitz, but it’s also a story about a father-son relationship. Based on thirteen years of interviews with his father, Art Spiegelman draws a picture of his parents’ imprisonment at Auschwitz and how it continued to plague their family for years to come. You can hear some of their interviews now at Spiegelman’s retrospective at the Jewish Museum.
6. Bryan Zanisnik, Meadowlands Picaresque
Last month, Bryan Zanisnik transformed Smack Mellon into a marshy dreamscape with childhood memorabilia and thousands of photos and objects from a swamp in Northern New Jersey. The centerpiece were his parents, who occupied the installation with him over the course of the show. Viewers often saw them bickering over minutia, creating a familial atmosphere playfully at odds with its art home.
5. Faith Ringgold’s quilts
Faith Ringgold’s engagement with her family can be read as a defiantly pro-black and pro-feminist statement; white contemporary male artists often appear in her images, through the lens of African American storytelling quilts. Her mother was an early collaborator, making fabric borders for paintings and helping her create a quilt of portraits of Harlem residents.
4. Bob Mizer’s photographs
Beefcake photographer Bob Mizer owed a lot to his mother, who often sewed the loincloths for his models, and those loincloths helped his work skyrocket to the high art status it enjoys today. What a cool mom.
3. Alison Bechdel, Fun Home and Are You My Mother?
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home told the story of her relationship with her father, and the events leading up to her father’s suicide. Her following book Are You My Mother? completed the story with a book examining her mother’s life. Mostly, it’s an examination of parents as people, just as imperfect as their kids.
2. Jaimie Warren, Self-Portrait as Nun With Some of my Mother’s Favorite Famous People
Jaimie Warren’s adamant about acknowledging her collaborators, and those seem to include every and anyone on hand. She’s paying them back in her latest 5-panel piece Self-Portrait as Nun With Some of my Mother’s Favorite Famous People, based on a Fra Angelico painting “San Marco Altarpiece.” Warren describes it as a tribute to her community in Kansas City– especially, her mom.
1. Dash Shaw, Bottomless Belly Button and New School
Dash Shaw claims that his 720-page opus Bottomless Belly Button isn’t autobiographical, and it’s not collaborative, but it’s hard to believe that the story isn’t drawn from actual families, given how great he is at capturing distanced family dynamics. Like his recent book New School it’s beautiful, light, sad, and makes you feel nostalgic for home the whole time. Don’t give it to your parents for Christmas, but please read this.