Ellen McMahon teaches interdisciplinary seminar and critique courses in the Studio Graduate Program as well as the seminar, “Art, Design and Environment” and several illustration courses in the Illustration and Design Division. From 1990 to 2004 McMahon created a body of work based on her daily experience of mothering in relation to social expectations and cultural constructions of motherhood. Since 2005 she has developed a number of projects that fuel several individual creative endeavors, exploring the potential of interdisciplinary collaborations, providing practical experience for students, and creating significant bonds and long-term benefits to the community. McMahon’s interest in the power of all forms of representation to construct meaning and create culture fuels her sense of purpose and commitment to participate critically and creatively in working toward positive change and to educate and inspire her students to do the same.
McMahon’s artwork has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions and her artist books are in the collections of UCLA, Scripps, Occidental, Texas Tech, the Center for Creative Photography and The New York and Boston Public Libraries. Her writing is published in Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood, The Oldest We’ve Ever Been, and The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art. In 2007 she received a Fulbright Scholars Grant to contribute as a writer and graphic designer to an interdisciplinary conservation project in Mexico. In 2010 she received a grant from UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry for the project, "Parallel Play: Interdisciplinary Responses to a Dry River," to collaborate with faculty and students from Architecture, Creative Writing, Geography, and Ecology on a project addressing the fragile aqueous ecology of the region.This work is collected in the book Ground|Water: The Art, Design and Science of a Dry River, which she edited with colleagues Beth Weinsein and Ander Monson. Released in January of 2013, it has won national and international design awards.
McMahon is overseeing numerous student projects addressing climate change and social and enviromental justice issues and is currently collaborating with forest mortality scientists on several projects related to the decline of Southwestern forests.