Massilon, Reed, paper, acrylic paint, 25" x 30" x 6"

Fiber artist May Merkel-Hess was born and raised in Iowa where the landscape is dominated by billowing fields of grass and corn.  Her sculptural basket-like forms, which she refers to as "landscape reports" are inspired by these natural surroundings.  Using reeds and paper, Merkel-Hess's work conjures images of slender grasses and cultivated fields, shaped and tamed like Iowa's gridded landscape.  Her continual use of the basket form is another symbolic reference to nature and life as it carries and stores the earth's bounty.

Merkel-Hess makes baskets using a technique that she developed, a combination of three-dimensional collage and paper mache.  The vessels are made over molds. Small pieces of paper are applied with glue to the mold and allowed to dry, thus creating a paper form that is removed from its mold and further manipulated.  Over the years, Merkel-Hess has discovered many variations of this technique.  She has used thin and thick papers, varied the shapes, and included paper cord, reed, or fiber in the body of the vessels.  Merkel-Hess has made interior forms for the baskets and then covered them with a "skin" of transparent paper. She makes vessels because she is fascinated with from and structure.  She looks for inspiration in the natural world, and then allows technique to mesh with these visual ideas to create something new. Merkel-Hess enjoys all aspects of this process: the appreciation of the world around her that suggests ideas and the search for a method of construction that allows her ideas to take shape.

text and image from The Chait Galleries Downtown

This page was first displayed
on February 01, 2008

Find us on Facebook