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Martina Mullaney graduated form the RCA in 2004 with an MA in photography, she is in the final stages of her Ph.D by practice at the University of Reading. She won the Red Mansion Art Prize in 2003, and has exhibited with Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Gallery of Photography, Dublin and Ffotogallery, Cardiff. After the birth of her daughter she initiated the project Enemies of Good Art in 2009 a multi-disciplinary research project interrogating motherhood as experience and the art world. The project was executed through a series of public meetings, performances, lectures and live radio discussions. Events took place at; Tate Modern, the ICA, Southbank Centre and Chisenhale Gallery. Tranzit Display Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic and Galerija Nova, Zagreb in 2015. Enemies of God Art also broadcast on Resonance 104.4FM.

Usually she is disappointed.

This exhibition Usually she is disappointed comes out of Martina’s Ph.D including a thesis entitled The Missing Mother and a body of work Usually she is disappointed.  The thesis identifies the mother as missing from the canon that is feminism and art history, traced through the anthologies, conferences, and group exhibitions dedicated to feminism and art. Where maternity is included, Mary Kelly and Post Partum Document dominate. Due to the exclusion of maternal art not only from what is considered to be the art and feminist canon, art and writing on maternity operates in spaces and initiatives dedicated to the subject, a form of feminist separatism by default. This is further compounded by Matricentric feminism, critiquing academic feminism for neglecting the mother and calls for a feminism on and of maternity that marked the mother its central focus. In the contemporary art world of exhibitions, writing, critique, in commercial and publicly-funded art contexts maternal art must seek its own opportunities, as maternity rarely features in mainstream contemporary galleries. Martina asks how art on and of maternity might transcend its own audience, formed in the spaces dedicated to maternity only. She explores the absence of the mother from feminism and art history, asking how contemporary art on maternity, and maternal experiences might integrate with other genres to gain entry to the conventional spaces of art practice and writing. Considering the social, psychic and symbolic order of the mother, the works of Usually she is disappointed  challenge established forms of art on maternity. The works move beyond body-centric essentially determinate art where the maternal experience is explicit in the work, to adopt activist, social, and political manifestations. The works make reference to the patriarchal nature of language to refigure the mother as a political and social experience, one suppressed by a neoliberalism that isolates mothers socially, creatively, and intellectually. Writing and practice experiment with language, formed into angry rants. The art works employ styles derived from the former communist revolutionary aesthetics of the Soviet Union to feminist posters of the 1970s. The colour red is prominent and vital, where anger is explored as a visual and intellectual tool.

Usually she is disappointed is showing at Pineapple Black in Middlesbrough

Text by Desperate Artwives, 31 Jan 2020

Feature images courtesy of Desperate Artwives (left) and Martina Mullaney (right)

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