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From the Executive Director: Finding Role Models in Artist Mothers

As a working mother who also guides the work of Art21, I love it when I find role models in artist mothers. I know my job is hard, but I’ve always thought the job of artists was harder. When you add to that workload being a mother, well in my opinion, that gig sits at the top of the pantheon.

We are saddened by the passing of artist and mother Luchita Hurtado at the end of last week. She was one of those artist role models. We were fortunate to film with her in her 98th year when she expressed to us: “It takes a great deal of energy having the life of a parent and having the life of an artist, working and trying to make ends meet.” Revisiting her motherhood years, she continues: “My real painting I could do at night after everybody was asleep.”

In times of COVID-19, the conflation of parenting and work erodes all boundaries. I feed my daughter on Zoom calls and I’m quick to mute when it doesn’t go well. I identify with the “real” work that Luchita found when her two boys were asleep. If I can stay awake long enough, I can usually eke out a good 90 minutes and catch up from the day.

After hearing the news of her passing, I watched our film with Luchita again in between feeding sessions with my daughter. In it, I’m reminded of her recent exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery entitled I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn. Anticipating this last point, she speaks with great candidness: “In my dreams, I’m once again with Lee [Mullican], who is long gone and my children are small again…and I’m reliving the past.” It’s a beautiful moment of an artist telescoping on a long career with recognition withheld until the very end. This moment makes me cry everytime, but these are not tears of sadness.

Lee Mullican, also an artist, was Luchita Hurtado’s husband. May they both rest in peace, together forever. What a beautiful life.

Tina Kukielski
Executive Director and Chief Curator
August 19, 2020

Deepen your connection to Art21

Celebrating Luchita Hurtado (1920–2020)

In this 2019 film from our Extended Play series, Luchita Hurtado reflected on her eight-decade-long career—tracing her emigration from Venezuela to the United States at age eight, to her first-ever exhibition at a public institution ninety years later.

While painting en plein air in a Los Angeles park, Hurtado elucidates on the tenuous relationship between humans and nature. “We’re all on this planet together and we’re all related,” said the artist. “To be in this park, with these trees, it’s just the joy of life.”

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Luchita Hurtado

Recommendations from Art21

Read: A Picture of Change for a World in Constant Motion by Jason Farago

New York Times art critic Jason Farago crafted a thrilling deep dive on Ejiri in Suruga Province, a woodblock print from Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Photographer Jeff Wall paid tribute to this image with his own work, A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai), which he referenced in his Art21 segment.

Scrolling through Farago’s piece had me thinking about some of the same sensibilities that we have at Art21: the crazy beautiful spirit of craft and commitment, the how-deep-a-dive-are-they-really-going-to-do-on-this-artwork sense of suspense, and the straight up discovery and joy all that can potentially bring to the unsuspecting viewer. These are goals that our films aspire to, and this NYT interactive feature hits dead on. Honestly, this is my new favorite art documentary.

Shared by Nick Ravich, Director of Video Programming and Production; Read now at the New York Times

Watch: Rad

After a notable absence from any home video format beyond the VHS/LaserDisc era, the Hal Needham-directed BMX drama Rad is finally available to watch in a modern format thanks to a brand new 4K restoration. With a cast that features a not-yet-famous Lori Loughlin and a very famous Talia Shire, along with a quintessentially 1980s soundtrack, one more detail separates this film from other BMX-centered films from the period: cinema’s finest BMX boogie scene.

Shared by Jonathan Munar, Director of Digital; Available to rent or download on most streaming platforms

Thank you for supporting our work

More than ever, online access to the lives and stories of artists is crucial, and Art21 is proud to share them with welcome an ever-growing number of visitors including students, teachers, parents, and art enthusiasts alike from around the globe. If you are able at this time, please consider supporting the work of Art21. Every dollar makes a difference.