When artist moms team up with their artist kids, playful ideas are born


Collaborating involves giving up control. Imagine doing it with your parent or adult child. The shared story can make the process all the richer – or all the more cumbersome.

“Offshoot Collaborations”, a playful and ironic exhibition at Gallery Kayafas, features the work of two parent-child teams who do not usually collaborate professionally – quilt artist Clara Wainwright and his son, Mazescenographer and sculptor Mags Harries and her daughter, children’s book author and illustrator Thyra Heder.

“How do you make art with your mother? Heder asks in a joint artists statement with Harries. “When your mother is the artist you have admired the most throughout your life?”

The artists used a surreal game called Exquisite Corpse. One person draws a picture and folds the page to conceal it before passing it to the next. Blind to the above, this person adds to the drawing, folds it again and passes it on. So it goes, it comes and goes. It’s a fun game that produces absurd drawings. Gallery visitors can create their own and contribute to the “Exquisite Corpse Invitational”, also on view.

For “Metaphysical Elder Luge,” Dedalus Wainwright designed a winding maze of a gold and blue toboggan run, and Clara Wainwright placed a fierce dragon with coiled teeth in the center.©Clara & Dedalus Wainwright

The artists’ exquisite corpses are delightful, like a jointed, green-headed palm reader in the Wainwrights’ “Fortune Teller (Fur Sweater).” Working on theirs, Heder and Harries said in their statement, they discovered unexpected confluences of lines and styles. But the exquisite corpses turned out to be goofy, low-stakes warm-ups to more ambitious collaborations.

Harries and Heder designs clothes and furniture and photographs himself using them. Clothing is an image of partnership. “Akin Garment” consists of two shirts joined at the sleeves. In the photo, “Akin-Remove”, the two artists help each other put on or take off the shirts. Their struggle for care is a metaphor for the entangled relationship between parent and child.

The Wainwrights designed versions of a fantastical “Elder Luge”, an amusement park ride for elders to “go out in style”, they write in their artist statement, culminating in a fiery cremation. For “Metaphysical Elder Luge,” Dedalus designed a winding maze of a gold and blue toboggan run, and Clara placed a fierce dragon with coiled teeth in the center, ready to breathe fire.

Collaborations reflect the relationship between collaborators. This show takes this mirror as its subject, testifying to an ineffable bond.

“I think through our various experimentations,” Heder says in the statement, “we both felt that our connection might exist deeper than understanding.”


At Gallery Kayafas, 450 Harrison Ave., through March 5. 617-482-0411, www.gallerykayafas.com

Cate McQuaid can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.


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