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Mother's Day

The Secret to Creating Art While Raising a Family? Make Your Kids Part of It.

Parenting expertise and artistic expression combine under the roof of Hillerbrand+Magsamen.

by Diana Shi
May 14 2017, 11:35am

Higher Ground, HD Video, 2016. All images courtesy the artists © Hillerbrand+Magsamen

Considering the dark cloud of meeting financial demands while chasing a quality life and industry success, forming a family can be an exceptionally daunting prospect. But husband and wife team Hillerbrand+Magsamen—Mary Magsamen and Stephan Hillerbrand—do it with aplomb. With the same seriousness characteristic of any professional artist, the mother and father team works across sculpture, performance, and audiovisual mediums—with one distinction: while Hillerbrand+Magsamen put family first, they're not afraid to incorporate their kids into their work.

Whole, HD Video, 2014

The majority of Hillerbrand+Magsamen's artmaking, in fact, takes place within the space of their suburban home in Houston, Texas, a structure they frequently deconstruct to make a point. In one particular video piece, Whole, the team drills a series of gaping holes into their house, creating a structure akin to a circuitous hamster cage, in this case, one made for human use.

"Many of our works take place in and literally take apart our home," the duo tells Creators. "Often including our two children [...] in our work, we critique and playfully scrutinize consumerism and family life with an experimental approach." Threading through the themes of Hillbrand+Magsamen's work is a subtle, even playful takedown of consumerism, addressing the tendency for middle-class families to hoard piles upon piles of mass-produced belongings.

"Our life as a family is one big art project," they explain. "One part documentary, one part constructed narrative, and one part experimentation."

Mythology, from the series House/Hold. 20" x 50," pigment print, 2013

Pull, from the series, Covered. 50" x 50," pigment print, 2015

Hold, from the series, Covered. 50" x 50," pigment print, 2015

The kids are both a significant part of the artistic process and willing bystanders in the general amusement of living in an house-turned-art-studio. "Making art in our home is always happening," the artists confess. "If you walk into our house on any given day it looks like we are living on a film production set. There are lights, cameras and tripods all around the house. Our kids think it's crazy sometimes because they don't know where the line is between art and home is."

"From that moment on we started to make art out of what happened inside our home," they continue. "It didn't matter what the subject was. [...] We wanted to show the beauty in the everyday struggle. to make our ordinary life bigger than life, cinematic!"

Check out more work from Hillerbrand+Magsamen below:

Family portrait in garage with dogs and chicken, 2014

Pandora, from the series, House/Hold. 20" x 50," pigment print, 2013

Whether, HD Video, 2010

Rocket, from the work of Higher Ground. 40" x 40," pigment print, 2016

Son, from the work 'Higher Ground.' 40" x 80" pigment print, 2016

Explore more work from Hillerbrand+Magsamen on their website, here, and their Instagram, here.

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