Maureen Cummins discusses feminist art during Herstory chapel

Myriam Pedercini
Student Writer

In celebration of Woman’s History Month the Intercultural Office held an Alternate Chapel entitled Uncovering Herstory: The Feminist Investigations of Maureen Cummins. The event was sponsored by Gender Concerns, 6th Day Sexuality, and the Friends of Murray Library.

A native New Yorker, Maureen Cummins is an artist who works particularly with original documents and photographs to create disturbingly beautiful pieces uncovering social injustices towards woman and even men. She meshed her art with social justice work to uncover these hidden dark histories, specifically of women wrongly admitted into psychiatric wards during the Victorian era under the accusation that “woman went crazy because they were woman”.

Cummins was first inspired to work with original documents at the age of thirty when she inherited the diary of her mother, who was admitted into a psychiatric ward with schizophrenia. Soon after, Cummins’s mother committed suicide. This changed Cummins’s mentality and her life. It offered her a whole different perspective of her family and history.  She constructed a book that was modeled as a folded up quilt with excerpts from woman in the Victorian woman documenting their time in psychiatric wards. Included in the patchwork is an expert from her mother’s diary.

Cummins attributes that start of her career to the powerful response to her book. “With the rage of what happened to my mother, I developed this new questioning of official documents and wanted to do something about it,” Cummins explained. She roamed the flea market often finding antique letters and documents that would inspire her work.

Her project “Cherished, Beloved and Most Wanted” is a collection of antique men’s mug shots in a photo album she fabricated with floral boarders to play with this masculine image of violence with the feminine and sensual qualities of the decorative presentation.

Cummins expressed that a feminist “can’t be a feminist without talking about what happens to men. Any culture that oppresses one group oppresses everyone.”



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