An interview of Mary Merkel-Hess conducted 2010 August 24 and 25, by Mija Riedel, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Merkel-Hess' home, in Iowa City, Iowa.
Mary Merkel-Hess speaks of growing up in the rural Midwest; deciding pursue an artistic career; studying philosophy at Marquette University and earning an MFA the University of Wisconsin-Madison; becoming part of the art community in Iowa City; beginning her artistic career in metalsmithing and later transitioning into fiber mediums; using basketry and papermaking methods along with a variety of materials to devise original techniques; the role of light, balance, juxtaposition in her fiber sculptures; working from both natural and human impacted landscapes; traveling extensively through Europe and Japan; attending the Armory Show and SOFA Santa Fe; interacting with galleries such as Browngrotta Art Gallery and Olson-Larsen Galleries; completing public and residential commissions; supporting herself through the sale of her work. Mary Merkel-Hess also recalls Chungi Choo, Heikki Seppä, Tim Barrett, Alma Eikerman, Shereen LaPlantz, Jack Lenor Larsen, Tom Grotta, Marlene Olson, Wendy Haas, Katie Gingrass and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Mary Merkel-Hess (1949-) is fiber artist in Iowa City, Iowa. Mija Riedel (1958-) is an independent scholar and writer in San Francisco, California.
Originally recorded on 3 memory cards. Reformatted in 2010 as 5 digital wav files. Duration is 4 hr.,11 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.