Meredith Grimsley is an artist, maker, performer, storyteller and educator. She describes her work as including, wearable art, installation, performance, two-dimensional and three dimensional forms. The aesthetic elegance found in the marks of her fiber work is also evident in her performances. Her work has been shown widely in both national and international exhibition. Contemporary Craft is so lucky to host Meredith as our February visiting artist.
Learn more about Meredith’s background and practice below. You can also check out her work in our current exhibition, Mindful: Exploring Mental Health through Art.
CC: Tell us a little bit about your path/background: education, training, mentors, etc.? How did you become you?
Meredith Grimsley (MG): I received my MFA in 2002 and my BFA in 1999 in Fabric Design from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA under the guidance of two of the most wonderful artists and humans – Glen Kaufman and Ed Lambert. I started in undergraduate school as a painting major and felt distinctly disappointed in the lack of technical instruction given by my professors. I was about to give up on art and decided to study abroad in Oxford England. When I returned I had few choices in terms of course availability and wound up in a Dye Class with Ed Lambert. When I walked into that fabric studio bells went off, angels sang and I never looked back.
My work, including wearable art, installation, performance, two-dimensional and three dimensional forms, has been shown in numerous national and international venues in solo and group exhibitions. I am professor of Fabric Design at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
How did I become me? That is still happening.
CC: Can you talk about your conceptual inquiries? What themes do you explore and how have these themes evolved over time?
MG: In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Where Watching God, she describes the altered state of a woman seeking resolution and solace in prayer:
“There is a basin in the mind where words float around a thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.”
Acknowledging a sense of loss and gratitude in daily life, I layer the surfaces of my pieces with patterns which suggest my choices, history and faith. Each object made reflects moments of meditation and a longing for grace. In pursuit of truth, my spiritual identity emerges. My soul’s yearning for a connection fuels my imagination. To my audience, I whisper about my search with the physical, indelible mark of the stitch.
Describe your practice as a maker and performance artist. How do these two modes of working inform each other?
I am fortunate to have a lot of ideas and teaching has led me to have a lot of different skills. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all that I want to accomplish. The feeling of being overwhelmed is exacerbated by the fact that I have two small children, a husband, a full time job, a dog and friends – all the wild and wonderful aspects of my life that I would never trade. But, my time to escape into my artist space is limited. So I make in between and have fortunate encounters with moments of vision – grace from the universe that tells me I still have things to say with my work. I fit things in when I can and have learned to make work in small increments, taking as much satisfaction from those stolen moments as possible.
In terms of the performance work, these always surprise me and yet, seem so familiar. Sometimes what I want to say cannot fit into a single work or even an installation. I want the space to be energized by the living breathing presence I create. It is a beautiful intimacy with my audience. I feed off of their energy and breath in a very powerful way. It feels like a sacrament.
CC: Can you talk about your current body of work Same Old Wounds?
MG: In Same Old Wounds I discuss pivotal experiences which permanently alter a person’s life and path. Through both unsettling and alluring imagery, I reveal the psychological impact of family dysfunction. Each generation within a family inherits not only genetics but, patterns of behavior. Whatever physiological, emotional, psychological, or spiritual residue is imbedded by both constructive and destructive family models, this work discusses a balance between beauty and distortion and the endurance of the human spirit.
I also want to reference this quote by Sherwin Nuland in his book, How We Die: Reflections on Life?s Final Chapter. I identify his words as my purpose in creating the work Same Old Wounds:
“The more personal you are willing to be and the more intimate you are willing to be about the details of your own life, the more universal you are.”
When you recognize that pain – and response to pain – is a universal thing, it helps explain so many things about others, just as it explains so much about yourself. It teaches you forbearance. It teaches you a moderation in your responses to other people’s behavior. It teaches you a sort of understanding. It essentially tells you what everybody needs. You know what everybody needs? You want to put it in a single word? Everybody needs to be understood. And out of that comes every form of love.
You can See Meredith’s performance at Contemporary Craft’s opening reception of Mindful: Exploring Mental Health through Art in the video below.
CC: What are your biggest challenges as an artist?
MG: Right now it is finding the time to make. I have so much work that is in a state of limbo. But, that is a good space to be in so, I am not really complaining.
CC: Why do you make art?
MG: Because I have to – not because I find it obligatory but because, I must to maintain my sanity. It is the best way for me to know myself and others.
Meredith will be teaching Painted Silk in our Studio on February 27th and 28th, 2016 from 10 AM – 5 PM. During this two-day workshop, student will utilize silk-screen printing, Serti, brushwork, and textured tool to design a one-of-a-kind scarf.