Gaulke explores motherhood, feminism in regional exhibitions

By Rachel Schwartz

An art exhibition at the Santa Monica Airport gallery called “Breaking in Two: Provocative Visions of Motherhood” features a dyptich that includes images of upper school Visual Arts department chair Cheri Gaulke’s daughters Xochi and Marka Maberry-Gaulke ’12.

One picture in the dyptich features her daughters posed like the William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s, mimicking a posed photo from when they were children.

“We have a portrait of Xochi and Marka as angels, and everyone adores it,” Gaulke said. “The truth is that the little darlings were absolutely miserable during the shoot and the photograph represents that one moment when they appeared to be happy. Sue [Maberry, Gaulke’s partner] and I decided to photograph them as angels again, but this time, give them the opportunity to pose any way they desired.”

In the other photo of the dyptich, Gaulke and Maberry are staged like the farmers in American Gothic by Grant Wood, using a camera instead of a pitchfork. The exhibit focuses on themes of motherhood in order to pose a contrast to the 1970s when female artists were discouraged from representing this part of their lives so as to seem somehow more legitimate, curator Bruria Finkel said. Gaulke was also recently featured in an exhibit called “Doin’ it in Public: Feminism and Art at the Women’s Building,” at the show at the Otis College of Art and Design in the Ben Maltz Gallery, which was on display until Feb. 26.

Gaulke moved to Los Angeles in 1975 to work with the innovative cultural art organization, the Women’s Building.

She founded two collaborative art groups there: “Feminist Art Workers,” in 1976, and “SOS,” or “Sisters of Survival” in 1980 which was an anti-nuclear art group.

“For me, art is a vehicle for social change,” said Gaulke. “But how do you do it without being dogmatic or didactic?”

Gaulke’s show “Peep Totter Fly” at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions featured video of performance art by some Harvard-Westlake students.

The exhibition closed Jan. 29, but not before some faculty members had a chance to attend.

“It was about looking at mobility and society,” Gaulke said. “High heels are an incredibly impractical shoe. If you were to tell someone to attach this spike to their heal and get up on their tippy toes and walk around like that all day it would be ridiculous … What I try to do in my work is take on something that I think we have a cultural blind spot about. I’ve realized that you have to put men in high heels.”

She said that the opportunity for men to try on this uniquely feminine style of footwear was eye-opening. All three exhibitions were a part of Pacific Standard Time, a five month series of art shows organized and sponsored by the Getty Foundation in order to celebrate the history of art and design in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACES, and the Getty Center are a few of the 60 institutions involved with Pacific Standard Time.