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 Mary Merkel-Hess  (1949 - )

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Lived/Active: Iowa/Wisconsin      Known for: reed and paper baskets, fiber art

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Large brown basket
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Fiber artist Mary Merkel-Hess was born in 1949 and grew up in Evansdale and Gilbertville, Iowa. She has one younger sibling. She received her B.A. in philosophy (1971) from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and her B.F.A. (1976) from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She earned her M.F.A. in metalsmithing from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, in 1983. She is married and has two children.

Her sculptural basket-like forms, which she refers to as "landscape reports," are inspired by Iowa's natural surroundings, where the landscape is dominated by billowing fields of grass and corn. Using reeds and paper, her work conjures images of slender grasses and cultivated fields, shaped and tamed like Iowa's gridded landscape. Her continual use of the basket form is another symbolic reference to nature and life as it carries and stores the earth's bounty.

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

2003   
SHARED PASSION, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

2002   
BASKETS NOW: USA, Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR
BLURRING THE LINE: WHERE VESSEL AND SCULPTURE MEET, Craft Alliance, St.Louis, MO

2001   
THE ART OF CONTEMPORARY FIBER, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX
MARY MERKEL-HESS: NATURE'S BOUNTY, Philadelphia International Airport, PA
OUT OF THE FLOATING WAVES, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis, MN
THE ART OF ASIAN PAPER, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, IA

1999  
AMERICAN BASKETMAKING: TRADITION AND INNOVATION, Arrowmont, Gatlinburg, TN

1998   
THREADS;CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN BASKETRY, Barbican Centre, London, England
CRAFT IS A VERB, Mississippi Museum, Jackson, MS

1997   
CELEBRATING AMERICAN CRAFT, Kunstindustrie Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark.
RITUAL VESSEL; MASTERWORKS FROM LONGHOUSE COLLECTIONS, East Hampton, NY

1995  
IOWA ARTISTS, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA. Award

1994   
CERAMIC AND FIBER: A NEW GENERATION, Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine, WI

1993   
THE SPACE WITHIN: CONTEMPORARY BASKETRY IN THE MIDWEST, Curator, Waterloo Museum of Art, Waterloo, IA
WOMEN’S VOICES. Drake University, Des Moines, IA
NEW ACQUISITIONS, American Craft Museum, New York, NY
PATTERNS OF GROWTH (SOLO SHOW), Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN WOVEN VESSELS; CONTEMPORARY BASKETS, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NB

1991   
BASKETRY FROM ALL DIRECTIONS, Arrowmont School, Gatlinburg, TN BASKETRY SPECTRUM, Rome Art Center, Rome, NY
BASKETRY INVITATIONAL, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

1989   
SOMEWHERE I HAVE NEVER TRAVELLED GLADLY BEYOND, Appalachian Center for the Crafts, Smithville, TN

1988   
AVANT GARDE APPROACHES TO BASKETRY, Craft Allliance, St. Louis, MO

1986   
CONTEMPORARY BASKETRY, Textile Art Center, Chicago, IL

PUBLICATIONS

PAPERMAKING FOR BASKETRY, Lynn Stearns and Shereen La Plantz (Eds.), Press de la Plantz, Bayside, CA. Cover photo and photo essay, 1988.

THE BASKETMAKER’S ART, Rob Pulleyn (Ed.), Ninepress, Asheville, NC, 1987. The book profiles 24 contemporary American basketmakers.

AMERICAN CRAFT, " Mary Merkel-Hess: Constructing Form," Cover photo and article, June/July, Vol.58 No.3, 1999. FIBERARTS, "Mary Merkel-Hess: New Expressions of the Natural World," April, 1996.

LIFEWORK: PORTRAITS OF IOWA WOMEN ARTISTS, Robbie Steinbach, Lifework Arts Foundation, 1998.

COLLECTIONS
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
American Craft Museum, New York, NY
Long House Foundation, East Hampton, NY
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, IA
Wustum Museum of Art, Racine, WI
Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, IA

EDUCATION
1983 MFA, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. Metalsmithing, Sculpture, and Art History.
1981 MA, University of Iowa,Iowa City, Iowa. Metalsmithing and Fiber.
1976 BFA, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Metalsmithing, Fiber, and Drawing. Graduated with honors.
1971 BA, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Philosophy, Sociology, and Psychology.

Sources:
Iowa Women Artists Oral History Project
http://www.lucidplanet.com/iwa/ArtistPages/merkelhessm.htm
http://www.snyderman-works.com/artists/mary-merkel-hess

Biography from Larsen Gallery:
Fiber artist Mary Merkel-Hess was born and raised in Iowa where the landscape is dominated by fields of grass and corn.  Her sculptural vessels and wall pieces, which she refers to as "landscape reports" are inspired by these natural surroundings. Using paper, reeds and other materials, Merkel-Hess's work conjures images of slender grasses and cultivated fields, shaped and tamed like Iowa's landscape.

Works by Mary Merkel-Hess have appeared in many national and international exhibitions. Her pieces are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA; Racine Museum of Art, Racine, WI; and the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.

Artist Statement:
"I make art because I am fascinated with form and structure. I look for inspiration in the natural world, and then allow technique to mesh with these visual ideas to create something new. I enjoy all aspects of this process: the appreciation of the world around me that suggest ideas and the search for a method of construction that allows my ideas to take shape."


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