Artist’s Statement

by Jane Lieber Mays

As I was developing my career as a portrait painter, I found myself faced with the complications of a woman’s life. How can a woman balance the engaging responsibilities of marriage and motherhood with her passion for and a career in art? Out of curiosity, I began to research the women artists missing from my formal education. I found companionship with strong women who made art within the demands of traditional roles.

I identified with Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun’s conflict between her professional deadlines and the eminent birth of her child. I found courage in Frida Kahlo’s perseverance as an artist despite lifelong physical pain and the emotional distress of her marital relationship. I recognized the value of personal art and my own heritage through Anna Mendieta’s earth-body sculptures that kept her close to her roots. These women offered me an artistic ancestry of experience, companionship, and wisdom.

One spring day in 2007, I was remembering how comforting it was to have these women’s stories surround me during my life challenges. I wanted to bring them together in one room somehow, and thank them. With that, Our Foremothers was born.