Above: Maureen Pelta, PhD, (left) and Julia Pelta Feldman, PhD.
Two little girls romp in a yard as their father records them on a video camera.
"What are we having a party for today?" he asks them. "For Mommy, for her graduation," they answer. Alan Feldman tells them, "June 18, 1989, and my wife Maureen is a PhD after only 15 years."
This is the opening of 30 Years in 30 Days: Julia Pelta Feldman, a film made by Pelta Feldman for the 30th anniversary edition of Texte zur Kunst, a German contemporary art magazine. (Scroll down to watch the video.) Maureen Pelta is a longtime professor of art history and curatorial studies at Moore.
Pelta Feldman, an alum of Moore's Young Artists Workshop who graduated in 2020 with a PhD in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, was one of 30 contributors invited to produce a brief video about some sort of cultural object—artwork, song, film—that addressed the theme of their November issue, "feminism."
"Really, interviewing my mother was my first and only idea, even though it meant bending the rules a bit," Pelta Feldman said. "I wanted to understand more about what her life was like while she was teaching, working on her PhD, and raising two little kids.
"Like many women, she has accomplished amazing feats under the guise of normal life. I got a peek of that last year when my father digitized some old home videos, including one of the party celebrating my mother's graduation from Bryn Mawr College, when I was 3 and my sister Erica was 6. She's so patient with me in the video, even when I'm demanding or angry. And at one point, she makes a little joke, calling me 'the future Dr. Pelta Feldman.' I rediscovered this just after my dissertation defense, so it was very poignant for me. It made me wonder about differences in my and my mother's experiences of academia, and what it means to her that I did end up following in her footsteps.
"I wasn't surprised that she was so thoughtful and eloquent in the video, but I was impressed that she was so candid," Pelta Feldman said. "I think her experiences resonate with many women of different generations."
Indeed, in the nearly 10-minute-long film, as Maureen Pelta talks about her long road to her PhD, she discusses the difficulties of being a professional woman and keeping a marriage and family intact. She talks about studying in Rome when she was pregnant with her first child, then taking some time off before pursuing her PhD. She reminds her daughter about the College Art Association conference they attended together in New York in 2015, where afterward she noticed a group of women art historians at a table at a bar.
"No one at that table had a child," she says in the film. "And actually a couple of them I know were divorced from that same generation, and I thought, I have this great kid. And we have these common interests. I was incredibly proud. And, you know, I thought it was a good choice."