MINNEAPOLIS—July 24, 2019—A new exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) is the first to present the work of documentary photographer Carolyn “Meadow” Muska (born 1952). Muska’s work celebrates everyday life within American lesbian communities in the 1970s and 1980s, a time of persistent legal and cultural prejudice against LGBTQ individuals in the United States. “Strong Women, Full of Love” is on view August 17 through December 15, 2019, and showcases 30 black and white photographs, along with historic feminist publications.
Muska’s photography was revolutionary for its time. In 1970s America, being identified as a lesbian could cause a woman to lose her job, children, and housing. Because Muska’s photographs could have exposed her subjects to these risks, she developed her own film in a basement darkroom for decades. The extraordinary photographic record she produced as a part of the “women’s land” movement in both Minnesota and Oregon, as well as her work as a labor and women’s rights activist, illuminates a new and vital chapter in American history.
Muska was born in St. Paul and raised in Roseville, Minnesota. She came out as a lesbian at age 20 and found support in feminist circles. After earning her BFA at Ohio University, she used photography to record her community of “beautiful, strong women, full of love and joy.” After losing her job as a photojournalist due to anti-LGBTQ employment practices, Muska retrained and became a master electrician. She later founded Minnesota Women in the Trades, a labor organization devoted to racial and gender equity. Now retired, Muska donated her archive to the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
The exhibition is curated by Casey Riley, PhD, curator and head of the Department of Photography and New Media at Mia.