Our Mothers Ourselves

Opening Reception: April 15, 2-5pm
Exhibit Dates: April 15 – June 3, 2023

Our Mothers Ourselves

Legacies that shape us.
Curated by: Ellen Konar & Adrienne Defendi

First Artist Talk: May 2, 2023 @ 5 pm PT /8 pm ET zoom.
JP Terlizzi, Lianne Milton, Charlotte Niel, Kathleen McDonald, Jerry Takigawa
Moderated by Adrienne Defendi & Ellen Konar
Zoom link for registration

Upcoming artist conversation:
Tuesday, May 30, 2023 @ 7 pm
In-person at Harvey Milk Photo Center Exhibit room
Melissa Castro Keesor in conversation with Marsha Guggenheim, Federica Armstrong, Adrienne Defendi, Steve Goldband & Ellen Konar
Register here

Opening Reception: April 15, 2-5pm – Open to the public
Exhibit Dates: April 15 – June 3, 2023
Gallery Hours: T-Th 3-8:30 pm  Sa  11am-4:30pm

Present or absent, revered or denied, mothers and motherhood are central to families and communities, and a fascination in art throughout the ages.  In light of the current battle about who makes decisions about motherhood, a refocus on our own mothers and our maternal legacies is especially timely.

In the exhibit Our Mothers Ourselves: Legacies That Shape Us, ten artists explore maternal legacies, sharing perspectives through photo-based images, constructed objects, and audio narratives.  Each photographic series narrates a unique set of relationships and explores how certain individuals continue to shape the lives of those remaining.  

We invite you to reflect upon your own maternal legacy and the ways in which someone in a maternal line or role has influenced you, nudging you in one direction or another.  Finally, we invite you to consider the legacies you wish to pass on.

Click here for a virtual gallery tour.

The Dowry #1


The Dowry examines legacy, memory, and family connections in the wake of Federica’s mother’s passing. Archival family photographs are transferred to vintage textiles through cyanotype to create installations where memory blends with the materiality of fabric. Like a thread, the memory of her mother’s love weaves past to present, a cathartic process of mourning, remembrance, and consolation. 

Federica Armstrong is a visual artist born in Italy and based in Palo Alto, California. Her creative process explores themes of memory, belonging and place.  Federica’s use of analogue and alternative processes expresses her need for a more intimate and tactile photography, where images become objects grounded in memory. 




As the cadence falls 
I follow, longing embrace 
Absence is presence 

Let the cadence fall is a tribute to her mother’s admiration for the spoken word. Reciting poetry and writing haiku together shaped Adrienne’s language as an artist: she sees in triptychs and composes in visual narratives through which her mother’s legacy endures. 

Adrienne Defendi is an artist whose work explores the cyclical, the ephemeral, and the fragility of life.  Her lifelong interests in memory and myth, narrative and nostalgia inform her photographic expression and artistic process.  Employing different mediums, from analog to alternative processes and various printmaking techniques, her practice charts elements of loss and ritual, and the boundless possibilities within reiteration and experimentation. 




Marsha’s latest series, Without a Map, is very personal.  She was ten when her mother died.  The devastation of this loss was traumatic.  Using old family photos, creating new images from her memories and turning the camera on herself, she found the means to reinterpret and address unanswered questions born from early imprints that were buried long ago. 

Marsha Guggenheim is a San Francisco based fine art photographer who creates portraits of people, documenting their lives and telling their stories. Over the past five years, Marsha turned the camera on herself, creating the highly personal series entitled Without a Map. The series has been featured in a solo show at The Griffin Museum of Photography and in Black & White Magazine.


Side by Side


Courage is what others can’t see,  what is never affirmed.   It is made of what you have thrown away and then come back for.   

-Leonard Cohen

The artists’ project, By Her Hand, pays homage to Ellen’s immigrant mother. Having barely survived one of the most barbarous of the Nazi extermination centers and the loss of home and family, she began anew by crafting a blouse from charmeuse remnants of her lingerie seamstress past. The charmeuse reappears throughout the series marking her pathway to an oddly normal life and remarkable legacy of human resilience.  

Ellen and Steve are life partners and collaborators in fine art photography.  Much of their work explores landscapes in transformation.  They often print their images on luminous imperfection laden Japanese papers, and use encaustic wax to reflect both the strength and fragility inherent in delicately balanced and challenging interactions in their images.  


The Ghost Within


Thread My Mother Gave Me explores the dichotomies and complexity in the relationship between artist and mother, and pays homage to West Indian family tradition and culture. Intimate memories and intangible legacies are made tangible through poetry. This tapestry is what has come before, the longing to preserve heritage, and inevitable departure from tradition. 

Kathleen is a West Indian multidisciplinary artist who creates installations within the themes of identity and culture. McDonald uses aspects of the Caribbean including flora, mythology, and history in the investigation of one’s relationship to place and past. McDonald explores how perception and identity exist simultaneously in the past and present, transcending time through memory.  


Mom 2020


Mother / Nai 呀奶 is about my maternal family history and the Chinese diaspora. I weave vernacular pictures with contemporary photography to explore diasporic experiences and maternal legacies. I am interested in what is not said: the silence as a complex expression of lived experiences carried through the matriline. 

Lianne Milton is a documentary photographer and visual artist. Her practice-led research explores the complexities of the human condition, in particular, the maternal experience. It is concerned with intersectional themes of postcolonial history and human rights. Lianne’s approach to her work is informed by her experience as a journalist, documentary photographer, and mother. 


Outside the Lines


Before losing her eyesight and memory, Charlotte’s mom fancied herself as artistic. She loved crafting, embroidery and sewing. Charlotte honors those creative skills and identity in her project Unraveled, integrating vintage photographs, fabric and thread into images of her mother. The process is no doubt cathartic for Charlotte and helps her accept a looming legacy of forgotten memories and possible dementia.

Charlotte Niel is a self-taught photographer and visual artist whose work focuses on identity, memory and loss.  She has explored what it means to grow old in America and the importance of purpose, relationships and memories to remain vital.   Charlotte’s work has been shown nationally, published internationally and held in private collections.  


“This World” February 8,1942


In Balancing Cultures, Jerry confronts the history and repercussions of World War II Japanese American internment camps. Declaring that she would never have a child in the camps, his mother sought to protect her children from the shameful experiences surrounding WWII. Her legacy of “gaman”—perseverance and dignity through seemingly unbearable hardships—remains. 

Jerry Takigawa is a photographer, designer, and writer living in Carmel Valley, California. His work, which is in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (among others), has been exhibited internationally and has earned many honors and awards. 


My Mother’s Song


Family history is the literal thread that runs through the Descendants series by JP Terlizzi. Raised by a single mother, JP most identifies with his mother’s family who had a significant impact in shaping his identity. He incorporates vintage family photographs with thread and genetic material, in a quest to understand personal identity within one’s own lineage through the family archive. 

Terlizzi is a New York City photographer whose contemporary practice explores themes of memory, relationship, and identity. His images are rooted in the personal and heavily influenced around the notion of home, legacy, and family. He is curious how the past relates and intersects with the present and how the present enlivens the past, shaping one’s identity.