Recently, my father began organizing his vast collection of old family pix, many of which were stored away in slide form, and he made a wonderful document for our family of some of these shots, most of which I'd never seen before.
Among the photos is a section on my mother, Nancy McCauley, and some shots of her artwork. This being mother's day, I wanted to post this in honor of her.
These large "heads" were from a show at the Berkeley Gallery, which my folks helped to start, shown right around the time she was pregnant with me (1965). The weird thing for me is that I have never seen these actual pieces, which are large plywood cut-outs painted in enamels. Even weirder for me is that, after Mom passed away in the early 90s, having never seen any images of these works, I began making some similar sculptures. Does visual thinking transfer genetically?
Below is a piece from some stuff she did with straight b/w silhouettes, I think it was really quite big but I'm not sure. This makes me think of Ensor, who I know she researched a lot when she was younger.
Mom was about the coolest, most loving and supportive mother a kid could hope for. When I look back on what she and my father did, I am dumbfounded and in awe. Raising three kids on artist / teacher's salaries can't be a cakewalk, but they did it with grace and style and joy and I feel extremely lucky.
By the time I came around, Mom was focused on getting her librarian degree, and had become an art history professor and slide librarian at Reed College in Portland, Stevens College in Missouri and later Stanford University. Her later art work focused less on painting and more on fabrics; she was very interested in her theory about the differences in the human gender's art making.
Her specialty was ancient art history, and she had a lot of thoughts on the early origins and inspirations for humans to make things. The main gist of her theory from what I could put together was that men's art making came out of ritualistic rites, such as cave painting, where the artwork had a purpose in the culture as a sort of "incantation" and "worship" of and from the crazy nature that ancient humans faced on a daily basis. She chipped away at her book, "Herstory," but alas never quite finished it.
According to her theory, the sheer survival needs in the brutal ancient world played seminal roles in the evolution of the "creative" roles of the genders. The ancient male artist worked generally in opaque media on hard, permanent surfaces, and created images that worked as icons for the preparation of the hunt and symbols for the mystical rites involved in the tribe's position and survival in nature. Women's art came out of the pragmatic roles of child-rearing, keeping camp, cooking, etc. Women in essence created the crafts - weaving, smelting, crafting tools, etc. Women's art was less about the icon and more about the applicable and social use.
These following are photos of another show of her stuff, called "The Portland Rainforest."
At left is a young Manuel Neri and Anita Mosely helping her set it up. It looks like it was a crazy bit of hanging!
I have no idea what Mom would say now about how her later theories would fit in with this earlier artwork of hers - painting. I suppose it has a more "female" approach in that it works with pattern and environment.
My father has some of the remaining "rain drops" up in his home, I just love them. I also like this shot of some gallery-goers. It's nice for me to imagine the thoughts they're having that are making them smile as they tour the show. I sure wish I could've been there. I guess I kind of was there.
Mom was one of my best friends, wise and passionate and full of fire. I do miss her so. Thanks Ma!