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.
Place of publication, production, or execution: Iowa
General Note: Originally recorded on 3 memory cards. Reformatted in 2010 as 5 digital wav files. Duration is 4 hr.,11 min.
Access Note / Rights: Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
Citation: Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Mary Merkel-Hess, 2010 August 24-25. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Additional Forms: Transcript available online.
Funding: Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
Biography Note: Mary Merkel-Hess (1949-) is fiber artist in Iowa City, Iowa. Mija Riedel (1958-) is an independent scholar and writer in San Francisco, California.
Provenance: 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.
Location Note: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
interviewee: Merkel-Hess, Mary, 1949-
interviewer: Riedel, Mija, 1958-
Subject: Barrett, Tim
Subject: Larsen, Jack Lenor
Subject: Eikerman, Alma
Subject: Grotta, Thomas
Subject: Seppä, Heikki
Subject: Choo, Chunghi
Subject: University of Wisconsin--Madison
Subject: Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Subject: Browngrotta Arts (Gallery)
Subject: Marquette University
Subject: Santa Fe Armory Show
Subject: SOFA West Santa Fe
Record number: (DSI-AAA_CollID)15895
Record number: (DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)296002
Record number: AAA_collcode_merkel10