Tracey Moffatt at ArtPace: Mothers, artists and lovers
Emotions roil and crest like crashing waves in Australian-born artist Tracey Moffatt’s “Handmade,” seven cinematic mashups made from 1999 to 2010 on view through Sept. 11 at Artpace. Her movie montages are made up of nearly 1,000 TV and film clips linked by common themes, ranging from the various permutations of motherhood in “Mother” to Hollywood clichés about the lives of artists in “Artist.” Working with her collaborator and editor Gary Hillberg, Moffatt has compiled these clips in fast-moving sequences that play on the emotions like a musical score.
Her films and photographs often deal with how women and people of color are portrayed in popular culture. During her residency at Artpace in 1995, she created a photographic homage to the female stars of roller derby made popular on TV in the 1970s. Moffatt is known for her professionally produced short films such as “Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy,” which screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989, and she has worked in television and made music videos. “Night Cries” reflects her childhood experiences as an Aborigine orphan adopted by a white foster mother.
“I know mothers because I had two of them,” she said at her Artpace lecture. “While I was working on ‘Mother,’ the emotions were just too powerful and I would break down crying. These montages were not put together as an academic exercise. I could play with the images; it gave me more freedom.”
“Mother” is the most powerful collection of moving images, highlighting mothers at their best and worst, from Woody Allen’s giant, hectoring Jewish mother in the sky to Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda bonding glowingly as mother and daughter in “On Golden Pond.” Moffatt’s technique in these montages is to assemble similar scenes within the larger theme, so “Mother” has sections devoted to loving mothers, yelling mothers, spanking mothers and martyred mothers.
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