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Representing two sides of an artist


Natalie Macellaio Lesli RobertsonThe idea began with a conversation between Lesli Roberton and Natalie Macellaio in 2012.

Robertson was a lecturer in fibers with a 2-year-old son, while Marcellaio was a sculpture professor who had 6-month-old twins. Both were discussing how to combine their drive for their art with their desire to be good mothers.

“We were really fascinated by what was happening between us,” Robertson said. “Other women were artists and mothers, but there wasn’t a lot of information out there. How much do you put into work and how do you have energy and drive to make art?”

The result is The Mother Load, a project that has drawn 100 artists from 10 counties that is used to create connections about their roles as mothers and artists. Their work has been exhibited at the Hannah Maclure Centre in Dundee, Scotland, this year and the Dallas Museum of Art in 2014 and 2015.

Macellaio, who earned a masters of fine arts in jewelry and metalsmithing at UNT in 2005 and is now sculpture professor at Brookhaven College in Dallas, said after talking to Robertson she wanted to bring in other artists into the discussion.

“We wanted to know how they did that,” Macellaio said. “From our conservations, we realized it was what a joy it was to have each other to talk to. We thought other people would like to experience this as well.”

Around that time, Robertson had a show in Prescott, Arizona, and she and Marcellaio decided to reach out to artists to participate in one of her wall installations.

They sent the artists a small copper fingerplate so the artists could imprint their own and their children’s fingerprints. The prints would later be oxidized and changed over time, reflecting the change that happens when they become mothers. On the back of the plate is a QR code, so viewers can look up the artist’s work on their smartphone.

“That was a wonderful way of representing two sides of the artist,” Robertson said.

Thirty artists participated in that installation. Soon, word spread about The Mother Load. Robertson would often mention the project during her conversations at conferences and other events.

“You never met this person,” Robertson said. “Yet in two or three minutes you’re talking about deep aspect of their life.”

Robertson also met Clare Brennan, curator for the Hannah Maclure Centre, who suggested they exhibit the copper plates in Scotland. They curated the project with Scottish-based artists, developed an exhibition and held a series of programs that would engage the local community, including a workshop in which they discussed motherhood and their work as artists with the Young Mums Unit at a local high school.

Mother Load Trestle DesignsRobertson and Macellaio are discussing future goals, including the possibility of an exhibition in Australia, where many of their participating artists live. And they keep other projects going, such as making jewelry to fund the project.

The jewelry – called “Trestle Designs” (right) – combines concrete pieces and delicate silver wire and chain to represent Robertson’s and Macellaio’s media and the contrasts in their lives as mothers and artists.

“We felt like that was very fitting for what we were doing — learning and experimenting with this little body of work,” Robertson said.

- Jessica DeLeón, University Relations, Communications and Marketing

Above, Natalie Macellaio and Leslie Robertson. Photo by Michael Clements/URCM.



Posted on: Tue 03 May 2016

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