With the series entitled “Traveling Landscapes”, vignettes of nature are encapsulated within steamer trunks and train cases aged through travel. Displaced elements indicative of natural landscapes are presented in partially opened cases, as to not fully expose the delicateness of what is contained within. Streams and rivers activate the scenes as they course through the landscapes contained within the cases. The illusion of life and growth, illuminated within, reflects the desire to capture a part of nature untouched by humans. Used as a mediation device between the lush pastoral scenes contained within and the harsh actuality of their physical surroundings, the trunks and cases elicit visions of travel, preciousness and possession.
“Traveling Landscapes” by Kathleen Vance
Mary Merkel-Hess grew up in the farmlands of Iowa, where she still lives and works. Studying both metalsmithing and fiber for her undergraduate degrees, Merkel-Hess received an MFA in metalsmithing from the University of Iowa under the tutelage of Professor Chunghi Choo.
Merkel-Hess creates what she calls “landscape reports.” Working with reeds, paper cords, and a mixture similar to papier-mâché, Merkel-Hess creates sculptural basket-like forms inspired by the natural surroundings in Iowa.
– Craft In America, Nature
As part of the background to her process, Karle took 3D scan data of bones from the California Academy of Science’s collection and then rendered the data and applied generative algorithms to create sculptures. She also created sculptures growing crystals on 3D printed lattices. This work led her to pursue growing designs in actual bone with actual stem cells.
Regenerative Reliquary is a 3D printed scaffold made of biodegradable hydrogel that disintegrates over time, with the aim that stem cells seeded onto the design will grow tissue and mineralize into bone along the scaffold. To create this work, Karle collaborated with bio/nano and materials scientists at Autodesk. The project is still under development and Karle is seeking scientific and biomedical partners to collaborate on cell culture and establish repeatable successful results for stem cell grown into bone in this or a similar method. She is also seeking sponsors and museums to show this work.
Regenerative Reliquary: Bringing Bones To Life, Materia
I love coral reefs for being exotic, amazingly diverse and often venomous. Maybe it’s because I’m small and I respect small creatures that can build big beautiful things, but I feel like I relate to corals – arguably one of the least relatable animals – on a very deep level. That’s partly why I care so much about their demise. Corals are so sensitive that the slightest change to the temperature or chemistry of the seawater that surrounds them can cause total devastation through coral bleaching, death and reef erosion. Without our help to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and over-fishing, scientists agree that reefs may cease to function as ecological cradles for marine life by the end of this century. Are coral reefs doomed to fade into oblivion or will we allow them to recover and regain their vibrancy?
I hope that the idea of one small person creating such huge, intricately detailed ceramic sculptural installations causes viewers to realize just how important reefs are to me, and to become curious enough to learn more about how the ocean is important to them. I also secretly enjoy feeling like a coral, patiently and methodically constructing large, delicate, stony structures that can change an ecosystem. I use simple tools like chopsticks and paint brushes to sculpt and texture each piece by hand – often poking thousands of holes to mimic the repetitive growth of coral colonies. Individual coral polyps precipitate calcium carbonate from seawater to form stony skeletons that, over time, grow atop one another to compose the vast, complex structures we know as reefs. It therefore feels essential that the medium of my work be ceramic, as calcium carbonate also happens to be a common ingredient in clay and glaze materials. Not only does the chemical structure of my work parallel that of a natural reef, but brittle ceramic anemone tentacles and coral branches break easily if improperly handled, similar to the delicate bodies of living reef organisms.
– Courtney Mattison, Artists Statement
“I feel that being trained initially as a stonemason rather than as a sculptor gave me a very direct connection to the material I am working in and a strong sense of discipline, while studying history of art has given me a more profound understanding of the buildings I am inspired by than if I had trained as an artist.”