Susan Mogul (2015)

Susan Mogul

Mogul received a Tree of Life Individual Artist Grant for A Daughter’s Survival Index.


Susan Mogul is compelled to make art from her life, no matter how hard she fights the impulse. In 1973, she moved to Los Angeles, 3,000 miles from her home, to be part of the feminist art movement. Ever since, her art has confronted traditional female roles through any means necessary—video art, performance, photography, and personal documentaries.

With humor and pathos, she intertwines the past with the present, building layered stories about home, community and relationships. Driving Men (2008), a personal documentary, embraced the motivations of her work: sex, loss, family, and the twisted threads of identity, and was screened at film festivals in Japan, Italy, Portugal, India, Serbia, Poland and Taiwan. Her first video/film retrospective was presented at the Nyon International Film Festival in Switzerland in 2009. That same year, Jancar Gallery in Los Angeles, presented a solo exhibition of her 1970s collages.

Numerous grants include a Guggenheim Fellowship (2002) and a project grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation (2014). Museum exhibitions include the Getty Museum, the Centre Pompidou, and MOCA, Los Angeles., website, Mama's Girl Suite (Working Title), Selected Vignettes

Project Description

A Daughter’s Survival Index, a large-scale accordion book, will investigate female identity, creativity, and modernism through the mother/daughter bond. Rhoda Mogul, mother of six and housewife, was a lifelong amateur photographer and incessant interior decorator. Her creative drive—though confined to the home—had a major influence on my public career as an artist/filmmaker.

Mom printed her black and white photographs in the basement darkroom, her only private space, after everyone was asleep. Upstairs, was her public stage as housewife and mother, announced with modernist interiors, saturated primary colors, and bold geometric wallpaper patterns. When Mom sold her Long Island home in 2012, at the age of 88, it was a closure and a starting point. The move propelled me to “curate” Mom’s archive and mine, and to examine the non-traditional aspects of our relationship: our mutual engagement with the camera and the ways we’ve projected our sexual identity onto one another through photography and modernist interior décor.

The book draws upon materials from our combined archives including: plywood Eames chairs (1949), Mylar wall covering (1972), Heller purple plastic stacking plates (1968), photographic proof sheets—post World War II historical artifacts that resonate between mother and daughter. Over the last year I have produced patterns, diptychs, and collages based upon materials in our archives. Humorous and poignant, these new images connect and intertwine our creative output, and, highlight the domestic environment as a source and site of imagination. My text will underline the links between our private and public selves, and utilize three “voices,”  personal memoir, analysis, and domestic archaeology.

A Daughter’s Survival Index will function as both a book, and, as an object that can be opened up and displayed in a gallery setting.  It is also the point of departure for an inter-media installation (aka “home”) comprised of video vignettes, wallpaper, housedresses, and photographs. This project is a big shift in terms of the form, structure, and “storytelling” of my work. It pushes the boundaries of my artistic vocabulary with a narrative that is multi-layered, freely associative, and like Mom’s furniture choices, modular. Additionally, it unifies formats from my past: photography, “performance” and documentary; and, reconfigures them in ways I have never worked.