The Medium is the Message: Mandy Greer and the Art of Community
Last night I attended the opening of 5280: Ten Exceptional Artists Living Within One Mile of the Gallery at Columbia City Gallery. Featured, among other objects, is the Slug Princess costume that artist Mandy Greer designed for Butoh performer Haruko Nishimura for The Silvering Path, their collaboration with filmmaker Ian Lucero (which was also on the cover of the April/May issue of Fiberarts Magazine).
I wrote a brief post about Mandy Greer’s work in March, after seeing her installation Dare alla Luce at the Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft, but I barely managed to scratch the surface. Greer is one of those artists who’s always working on a hundred things at once; florid ideas seem to cascade from her as quickly as the yarn that passes through her transformative fingertips. Once known primarily for her spellbinding installations—such as Dare alla Luce and 2006’s Small but Mighty Wandering Pearl (my introduction to her work), Greer is quickly building a reputation for her collaborations with performers. Her most recent work, the ongoing Mater Matrix Mother and Medium, is an interactive, community-based project that will culminate in a one-time performance with dancer/choreographer Zoe Scofield on July 16 at Camp Long in West Seattle (where Greer will be working as Artist in Residence).
Conceptually, Mater Matrix Mother and Medium is evocative of water: hundreds of feet of undulating blue handiwork snaking throughout the city’s green spaces. The project is being brought to fruition through the collaborative efforts of volunteers from the community, bringing the act of creation out of the studio and into the world. From the project’s website:
One of my strongest desires for this project is to bring its making out into the community, rather than solely behind studio doors. For the past several years creating my large installations has involved, in some part, asking for volunteer help from friends and acquaintances in my studio. The flow of conversation that always happens while people are working with their hands has always intrigued me; I’d like to open up that conversation on a larger scale with the people in all our communities in Seattle. This project is about opening up the process of creating of an artwork to Seattle citizens, rather than an object just showing up in a park one day. Throughout the spring and early summer, you can watch me and join in the building of a river of recycled fabrics and yarn. Small tiny gestures of the hands will transform mundane materials like old clothes into something fantastic, a glowing blue river literally woven into the trees.
This River, made up of thousands upon thousands of tiny moments and movements of individual citizens, integrated, linked together and interwoven into the natural environment, will itself embed Scofield in an exploration of how we ourselves are both literal and metaphoric manifestations of the living essence of water. Our experience of water is both one of ultimate intimacy and also of civic structure. This artwork…embodies the ancient human practice of acknowledging our own physicality rooted in the cycles of water and how this forms the very foundation of human community. Water, both mundane and miraculous, mirrors the everyday meeting of strangers and the tiny moments that begin to bond us together.
Mater Matrix Mother Medium is commissioned with Seattle Public Utilities 1% for Art Funds, and administered by the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs. To get involved, visit the project’s website, matermatrixmother.wordpress.com.