Don’t Break the Glass | 1974–2015

Rome, Italy

Rules and violence 

As a child I wanted to break the glass every time I saw a sign saying break the glass on a fire extinguisher. In this piece, I drove a nail through glass and hammered it to the wall. I redid these works again as a fundraiser for ‘Community against Violence’.

Containment Field | Providence RI | 2000

In RI I noticed that correction houses for young offenders had a very specific fence. One you could not climb. These fences were only made for those locations and for that purpose. In my opinion our penal system is so detrimental to young people—not enough programs or education for them, no respect or honor shown them (as in Norway where adult offenders actually live in houses doing their own cooking, having their own rooms and just two guards (Michael Moore’s film ‘Where to Invade Next’)

I used this fence to enclose many plants and trees to show that life will out. That no matter how one tries to kill the human spirit it will try to be free.

Dead End | Providence RI | 1999

Providence Park Department

Customs and Habits

I noticed that people covered up death and dying in American even when actually burying their dead. (In Austria we spend lots of time in the grave yards, at Christmas the town will turn out for mid-night mass and a walk among the graves to honor their dead and to greet living friends, it’s very festive.

In the States the graves are often all covered in cloth and no one actual sees the coffin being lowered into the ground. It’s so antiseptic. I wanted to dig a real grave—exactly six feet down–and dug by a real grave digger. At the edge of the woods I put up a real road sign saying ‘Dead End’. I thought people might notice the absurdity of that sign, as there are no dead end in the woods. Then along the path they would see an actual 6 foot down grave.

After the exhibition was over my children and I went to fill in the grave. We were having lots of fun shoveling in the dirt and climbing and sliding all around. A very old man walked by alone and ask us what we were doing. I suddenly felt very bad thinking he had just lost his life’s partner. My children immediately answered ‘Oh this is a grave my Mom dug and we’re filling it up now’. The girls were giggling and laughing and the old man who at first looked stricken started laughing with them.

Point of View | New York NY | 1994

Craft Museum
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Critic and MAD museum curator John Perreault, invited me to be in the –show. There were five men and myself. John said, ‘I know you want the biggest space Mary’. True, I did. We all arrived to install. The men brought big crates, workers, and machinery. I arrived with a portable folding luggage cart and a small box. The ceiling had small square trellised dropped wooden lattice. I ran fiber optic lines along the square grid pattern. Hanging down from the celling grid were fiber optic lines. I scraped the edges so that the lines would emit light. In the center of the room I placed clear glass tubes in a circular pattern, within that circle I placed a smaller circle so that a person could fit under it. Below the tubes were ‘puddles’ of glass as if the center structure was melting.

Along the walls I drew lines mimicking the flowing lines of the hanging fiber optics. I wanted the viewer to experience two things. The first to feel as though they were walking into a living drawing, the second to imagine themselves in the center circle. Just as children find little secret hiding places in the woods, under furniture, in bushes, I wanted the viewer to imagine themselves in the center circle and to look at the magic of the room pulsating with light as the fiber optic lines appeared then disappeared in random order. It was all white light. The room felt magical.

Light Wall | Palm Beach FL | 1994

Lannon Museum

light-wall-a-web-copy-1Walking into a living painting 

I had fiber optics from Point of View and the glass tubes. I wanted to use that material in a different way. In the larger room I asked my daughter Maiya, who is a really good painter, to paint flowers on the wall in day-glow paints.  On these flowers I stapled fiber optic that would glow and change color rapidly. In the narrow back room the glass tubes were placed in an undulating pattern and to the ceiling were the fiber optic stapled in an undulating pattern. The light would course through the fiber optic on the ceiling in a fast frenetic way then light up the tubes. There was a small display area cut into the wall. In this space I places very fine fiber optics. When you looked into the square display area you were transported into space. You could really imagine yourself floating among the stars.

Ode to Fiddler | College Park MD | 1987

Fine Arts Gallery, University of Maryland

Family Violence

 A high up Government official in DC was found to be a wife and child beater. It was a big scandal, He was so proper and ‘upright’. No one found out for a long time because there was no noise, no screaming and crying or shouting. Family violence is often very quiet and secret.

I stood several 12 foot steel pipes upright, they were about 12 inches wide. Into the top part I cut openings. There was light within the columns and jutting out from the openings or ‘mouths’ were ½” thick glass wedges. There were sharp points at the ends, about 4-5feet long with the wider part of the triangle pushed into the ‘mouth’. I put glass shards on the ground.

My daughter Saarin and I made the sound track. I wanted the sound of someone being hit, a thud sound, and the sound the person that’s being hit makes when trying to be quite, an involuntary expulsion of forced breath. So my daughter, who loves baseball, took her bat and hit a pillow hard, as she hit the pillow I would make the sound of involuntary breath. The pillow broke and feathers started flying around. We would giggle and start laughing hard, it took a while to make the sound loop.

The piece was deemed dangerous, because it looked dangerous and the university cordoned it off. I wanted people to be able to walk among the columns and feel the fear and the dread.

The piece was deemed dangerous, because it looked dangerous and the university cordoned it off. I wanted people to be able to walk among the columns and feel the fear and the dread.

Just the Two of Us | Kingston RI | 1979

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University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 1979

Duality and loneliness 

 ‘Just the Two of Us’ is experienced by walking into a building, down a hall, then into a large gallery room. In the middle of the room is a cube where a slightly smaller than average door is brightly lit. Beside the door is the text ‘if open enter alone and shut door’. As soon as you walk into the cube (inside a room inside a building) you feel as if you’ve stepped into the middle of the forest. You are in a golden brown canvass tent, there are shadows of tree branches moving above you, the tent is rippling as if in a slight breeze, it smells like the forest and the floor of the tent is on an uneven dirt ground, which you also smell.

There is one sleeping bag on the floor and a small radio with a soulful song playing “Just the two of us as happy as can be, just the two of us the way it ought to be, just the two of us, just the two of us…..” then it repeats.

On the walls of the swaying tent are identical post card size images taped side by side. I noticed after my marriage was over that when I looked at two stones flanking a drive way or two mail boxes side by side that it made me feel left out. I started collecting these images of things that were two by two, haystacks, entrances to school, street lamps, my daughters pony tails, a car’s headlights among others. These images were taped to the inside of the tent.

In the middle of the tent was a single tent pole. You felt very alone but safe, far from other people. You come to understand that duality is the logic of our world. We have two arms and feet, our cars are made in our body image with two headlights. We have up and down, hot and cold. This is our understanding of the world and our place in it is to mate with the other.  Our survival as a species demands that. The center pole helps you center and feel OK.

 

Spilled Milk | Any Art Warren RI 1977

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Spilled Milk

AnyArt Gallery, Warren RI 1977

The separation of pain and beauty--crocodile tears and soap opera of the mind

In this exhibition you entered alone and shut the door behind you. There was a black marked outline on the floor of where you could walk, and a small circle at the end of the path where you could sit down. (I was told later by Berry Kirschenbaum, an art historian at RISD that he meditated there.)

The sound track was of a woman crying, loud, angry, and hurt. There was broken glass shard sticking straight up all over the floor, so close that you could not leave the path without hurting yourself. Bright lights skimmed along the floor hitting the glass and creating incredibly beautiful reflections on the walls.

It was impossible to hear the crying without feeling hurt yourself. In order to deal with it, you started ‘living’ in your eyes. Or that the visual beauty superseded your sorrow. I say this is how artists cope with hardships, they start living in their eyes—beauty washes away pain. How many movies have you watched when the antagonist experiences a painful moment then they start looking at –the sky, clouds, the ocean, waving wheat-in order to ‘move on’. The title refers to ‘Don’t cry over spilled milk’—which is also telling you to move on. Pain passes in the beauty of life and of our natural world.

Perfect Pedestal for a Car | Murray, KY 1977

Perfect Pedestal for a Car

Perfect Pedestal for a Car

A comment on traditional sculptural ideas

I was teaching sculpture at the University of RI although it was a studio class, I also talked about the development of sculptural ideas. When I was explaining Rodin’s Burghers of Calais and how Rodin decided to go against tradition and put the figures directly on the ground, not on plinths or sculpture stands. I started thinking about cars, how they are the sculptures of our time. They are an amazing composite of more than a 1,000 different carefully crafted pieces

Combined into one machine. I decided the perfect pedestal would be a water puddle. At Murray State
University I organized a performance. We dug a hole, filled it with water and put a car in it. Students volunteered to be the performer, or driver. It was a surprise to them how aggressive and angry the passersby were. I wasn’t surprised because when Chris Burden talked about his performance work “Five Day Locker Piece,” he said the students were combative and scary in his helpless, vulnerable position locked in a school locker.

Bottoms Up for Provincetown | Provincetown MA 1976

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Bottoms Up for Provencetown

Bottoms Up for Provincetown

Provincetown Fine Arts Center, Provincetown MA 1976

Celebration of Gay men

Providence town was so delightfully gay when I was there for the summers of 1976 and 1977. It’s also such a party drinking town as well as an amazing artist’s Mecca.  I decided to celebrate with the spirit of the place by making Bottoms Up. I made 5 plaster bottoms, neither male nor female but an idealize butt. I took these into bars placing them on the bar stools and on the sand dunes then took picture. In one bar a rather distinguished man said he could have me murdered if I took his picture—but most of the men took the butts in a spirit of fun.

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In Memory Of | 1977

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In Memory Of 

Fine Arts Gallery Murrey State University, Murrey KY 1977

I was invited to do a show at Murray State’s Fine Arts Gallery. I was on the phone asking about the size of the room and where the electrical outlets were. When I was told every 10 feet apart in a grid pattern, I immediately had a vision of the show in every last detail, the poster, the title and the way it would look.

I put small goose neck--college dorm type lamps—at every outlet. I realized that it would look like a graveyard as well as an airport landing field. I wanted to put mementos of the dead in small plastic sleeves under each lamp. I asked friend if they had someone they wanted to remember. I was surprised by the stories and how differently people honored their dead.

Mike Fink, an art historian at RISD came by my house with his baby in his arms.  I asked him if he had someone to remember and he pulled a pair of glasses from his shirt pocket. These are my mothers, she died several years ago. I asked my friend Ed Koren the cartoonist. He said yes and I followed him to his drafting table. With his pencils and pens he pulled out some dental tools. I said, ‘oh, do you use these in your work?’ He said no, that his father had been a dentist and he liked to keep his tools and memory close at hand.  A wonderful black singer, Beryl Fears, had her sister to remember, she had been dosed in gasoline and lit on fire. I asked my mother if she had any one to remember and she said, ‘No, I don’t have any dead’. My father gave me pictures of his parent’s graves, as they were southerners, I put my black friends far away from them—placing the memories felt like organizing a dinner party.

For this installation I didn’t have any sound. The room was dark, large, and hushed. The lamps shown on the little plastic sleeves. People came in quietly knelt by the lamps and took out the mementos from the pouches and read them.

I moved back into my house in Providence as my husband was headed back to Rome to direct the European Honors Program for RISD. As he was sleeping with three of the students going with him, I had no interest in joining him. Dale Chihuley drove him into the airport as Hardu was getting into the car he yelled why don’t you come with me?  Dale later would say to me, but he invited you, I heard it!

In order to afford the mortgage I rented out rooms. I had a guest room and an unheated attic. I understood that the right mix would be two women and one man and that three people would be ideal as two could interact when the third wanted to be quiet or alone. A young woman from a good Vermont family moved into the guest room bringing flowered curtains, bedspread, a soft arm chair, and TV. In the attic I always had a Jewish male student who would first secure a job in a RISD kitchen.

That first year we three adults were pretty quiet and concentrated, they on their studies, me on my work. In the Spring I asked them if they had anyone for my ‘In Memory Of’ show. __ said yes, then she told me about a man she had loved and had been engaged to. How he broke the engagement and moved away. She later found out that he had an incurable disease and didn’t want to cause her pain. Of course she was in huge pain and had been mourning that year. ----said he wanted to remember his father. His father had killed himself that year leaving four children and his wife. After his father died letters he had written to his business parted started being returned. The first letters were enthusiastic and hopeful, to paraphrase—“How are you doing? I’m so happy to be in business with you, what a great adventure we’re going to have. I know I haven’t heard from you because your busy setting up our venture” Then the last letters were desperate. “I’ve invested all my money in this project, my family’s security, all my friends and family have invested as well. I need to hear from you”. P. was devastated saying we as a family would have figured it out and forgiven him.

In the spring the three of us gave a party together. We were surprised to learn that we were all extroverted, that the past year had been one of mourning for each of us.

 

Garbage for your Eye | Greenfield MA 1976

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Garbage for your Eye

Greenfield Community College Greenfield MA 1976

Activity and the beauty found in chance gestures 

Hardu Keck my former husband and a terrific teacher, although not a teacher of mine, used to say –look at the byproduct of what you are doing, the activities you are engaged in. So I started collecting the visual results of activities of mine. Many of these I brought with me to the exhibition space.

There were students there ready to help so I would say –cut this board into three parts. When they were done, I would say perfect, that’s what I want—so I would include the results of their activity into the show.

Within this show was a tribute or memorial to a friend who had just died in his studio because he drilled into an electrical line. His wife said he has just gotten an artist’s grant and was fixing up his studio

Keep Off Sidewalk | Kingston, RI 1976

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Keep Off Sidewalk

Rules and habits 

Where I grew up everyone walked, in the country, towns, and cities. When I moved to the States to go to RISD I was surprised that no one used the sidewalks. Also I saw so many signs saying ‘Keep off the Grass’ these were a surprise to me as well. It was logical then for me to put a sidewalk—looking old, cracked and uneven, as they were in Providence—in the middle of grass and ask people to keep off it.

Point in Time | Rome 1975

Locating an exact time 

This piece was published in Italy. I started wondering if one could locate and share with a future people an exactly place in space. I decided that one would have to find a group of stars or planets that would point to a place in space by their alignment. Since space is moving outward the alignment of the stars would also notate an exact time.

Fire-Laundry

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OK Harris NYC 1974

Providence, RI 1974

Rome 1973

Is about the power of opposites

I believed that every point in time was equal to every other and that opposites are similar.

In Rome the construction sites used a green plastic mesh to cover the facades of buildings while work was being done. It was thought to be non-flammable so I decided to burn it up using electronic heating elements, the kind used in electric stoves. I found straight ones that would glow red hot.  Because I was using high voltage the structure of the heating elements had to be done in three phase. 3 phase means that each electric ‘leg’ had to be in balance, or using as much electricity as each of the other two ‘legs’. So it becomes a balanced structure.

“Fire-Laundry” was exhibited at OK Harris in NYC with the electrical structure and a faked electrical box on the wall. I also had a tape recording of the sounds of the non-flammable material burning—it sounded like electronic music.