Christa Donner

Chicago, IL, USA

To be an artist and a parent is to actively participate in shaping the future . . . an opportunity not only to rethink but to initiate things that once seemed impossible . . .

With an abiding interest in the body and its internalizing and externalizing entanglements, Donner’s more recent work has come to consider the collective body—of communities as well as collaborations between parent and child, plant and animal, and other kinds of literal and metaphorical affinity. In Grass Ritual, Donner poses with our daughter, Donner-Yang, in a gesture of generational recognition and ecological kinship in the fields of the familial farm. Our New System also conjures cross-species relations, fantastically visualizing  the vital, maternal work of nurturing the next generation by hybridizing the collectivity of bees and human women as a form of solidarity in care. Meanwhile, Donner’s work Creative Kinship Diagram maps out conceptual and constitutive connection between ideas, beings, and stories to form a network of kin, making visible processes and possibilities that she cultivates through her artist-parent project Cultural Reproducers. — AY

Making Kin Categories

Grass Ritual
2012, photograph of wearable, site-specific drawings

Photographic documentation from a series of site-specific drawings (here worn on the head, on location) exploring ritual, the supernatural, and the revision of man-made structures by other organisms. Created for the landscape and interior spaces of an aging family farmhouse in rural Massachusetts. — CD

Grass Ritual, 2012
Our New System
2014, pigmented ink and acrylic on cut paper

Our New System is part of a larger body of work in which drawing is used to visualize alternate systems for human society, referencing ideas proposed through feminist speculative fiction, activist communities, and the biologies of other organisms. In this image women look to the collective matrilineal cultures of bees, ants, and other social insects, within a vehicle redesigned to support their activities. — CD


Creative Kinship Diagram
2016, graphite and gouache on paper

Creative Kinship Diagram is part mind-map and part family tree, tracing connections between the speculative worlding of my studio practice and the living, alternative models for community caregiving presented by both human and non human beings. To be an artist and a parent is to actively participate in shaping the future. This creative balancing act is by necessity based in collaboration, improvisation, and pragmatic problem-solving. It is an opportunity not only to rethink, but to initiate things that once seemed impossible. — CD

About Christa Donner

Christa Donner investigates the body as a site for conflict and adaptation, from the internal activities of the microbiome to the creative potentials of care work and community. Working across a range of media including large-scale drawing, audio performance, and small-press publications, she creates multi-layered projects that are both intimate and community-centered. In 2012, one year into parenthood, Donner launched the collaborative platform Cultural ReProducers. The project continues to evolve, providing skillsharing, critical dialogue, participatory events, and an international community supporting the dual work of artists raising children. Donner teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Donner’s work is exhibited widely, including projects for the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore; the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin, Germany); BankArt NYK (Yokohama, Japan); Chiaki Kamikawa Contemporary Art (Paphos, Cyprus); the Museum Bellerive (Zurich, Switzerland); and throughout the United States.

Kindred Artists