‘It Takes a Great Deal of Energy’: Artist Luchita Hurtado on How Motherhood Made Her More Creative

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Luchita Hurtado: Here I Am." © Art21, Inc. 2019.

For the 98-year-old Venezuelan-born artist Luchita Hurtado, a few clichés ring true. First, good things come to those who wait. Second, it takes years to become an overnight success. This year, Hurtado was named one of TIME‘s 100 Most Influential People and is quickly rising in the ranks of the art world after toiling in relative obscurity for the first seven decades of her career.

Hurtado’s work blends elements of the short-lived Dynaton movement, which her second husband, Lee Mullican, helped to found; Surrealism; and her own interest in the relationship between the body and the natural environment in and around Los Angeles, where she lives. She made a star turn in the 2018 “Made in LA” show at the Hammer Museum and is currently enjoying a solo exhibition (her first in the UK) at London’s Serpentine Gallery. A major exhibition also closed in April at Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles.

In an exclusive interview with Art21, as part of the “Extended Play” series, Hurtado explains how she sought to find a balance between working and raising her two children with Mullican. “It takes a great deal of energy,” she told Art21, “having the life of a parent and having the life of an artist, working and trying to make ends meet.”

Luchita Hurtado's Untitled (1970). Photo: Cole Root. Courtesy the artist and Park View/Paul Soto, Los Angeles and Brussels.

Luchita Hurtado’s Untitled (1970). Photo: by Cole Root, courtesy of the artist and Park View/Paul Soto, Los Angeles and Brussels.

Despite the difficulty, she persevered—though she had to get creative. “My real painting, I could do at night, after everybody was asleep,” she said. Much of her work is also inspired by her experiences as a mother. Her large-scale paintings often reference enormity of creating life—”What you can do with a sky and a belly button…”—and the relationship between humans and the natural world. 

In the video, Hurtado travels to London for the opening of her Serpentine show, “I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn,” where her self-portraits from the 1960s and ’70s were especially well-received. “Those self portraits were a real surprise to me,” she tells Art21. “I am who I am because I’m doing what I want to do, not what I’m told to do.”


Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. “Luchita Hurtado: I Live I Die I Will Be Reborn” is on view at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery through October 20, 2019. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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