Penny Mateer has long been drawn to creating artwork with socio-political commentary, originating from her background as a social worker during the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and expressed through her varied mediums of collage, quilt-making, needlework, and fiber arts. Having grown up in a household that encouraged an active interest in women’s liberation, infuriated by the current attack on women’s reproductive rights as exemplified in Texas’ SB8 anti-abortion ban, and currently witnessing the people at anti-abortion, anti-science rallies who seek to undo the accomplishments of the 1960s and 70s women’s movement, have all served to spur a shift in Mateer’s work. Rather than focusing on art which acts to chronicle current events, as she explored with her previous four-year project, she is driven by a new sense of urgency to create work that challenges the viewer directly.
Her series, “It’s All Part Of The Plan”, is a result of digging deeper into the messaging of “family values”, which the religious right uses to indoctrinate their base to uphold a specific ideology. This ideology is based on an underlying nostalgic desire for what they often refer to as “a more idyllic time”, a time that was controlled by a white, patriarchal society which discouraged any deviance from their tyrannical version of the nuclear family. Mateer seeks to use this nostalgia against itself, developing her own symbolism and language, to challenge those in the pro-life movement to question the foundations of the dogma that lies beneath their rhetoric.
“In this project…I’m exploring the tension between misogyny and feminism and how that plays out in today’s politics. I’m introducing vintage imagery combined with text as I consider the ways nostalgia is used in the religious right’s messaging…By collaging together published phrases with minimal images and integrating body fragments into the composition, I challenge sex stereotypes and entice the viewer to consider what the images represent in relation to the words.”