About

Fiber artist Mary Merkel-Hess was born and raised in Iowa where the landscape is dominated by fields of grass and corn. Her sculptural vessels and wall pieces, which she refers to as “landscape reports” are inspired by these natural surroundings. Using paper, reeds and other materials, Merkel-Hess’ work conjures images of slender grasses and cultivated fields, shaped and tamed like Iowa’s landscape.

“I make art because I am fascinated with form and structure. I look for inspiration in the natural world, and then allow technique to mesh with these visual ideas to create something new. I enjoy all aspects of this process: the appreciation of the world around me that suggest ideas and the search for a method of construction that allows my ideas to take shape.”</em>

Works by Mary Merkel-Hess have appeared in numerous national and international exhibitions. Her pieces are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA; Racine Museum of Art, Racine, WI; and the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.

 

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

2016
TALL GRASS PRAIRIE: ARTISTS PICTURE BIODIVERSITY, Figge Museum, Davenport, IA
CUT, FOLD, AND FORM, Racine Museum of Art, Racine, WI
GREEN FROM THE GET GO: INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY BASKETMAKERS,
Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ
ARTBOOM; CELEBRATING ARTISTS MID-CENTURY, MID-CAREER, browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT
INTOXICATING TEXTILES: VIBRANT COLORS, BOLD PATTERNS, Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, MA

2015
ART ON PAPER, Pier 36, New York City, NY
40/40 EXHIBITION OF IOWA ARTISTS, Brunnier Gallery, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
PATTERNS OF GROWTH, Central College, Pella, IA

2014
LOCAL THREADS, Figge Museum of Art, Davenport, IA
PULP CULTURE:PAPER IS THE MEDIUM, Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ

2013
THE VESSEL REDEFINED, Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, MA

2012
CRAFT SPOKEN HERE, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
FIBER PHILADELPHIA – INSIDE/OUTSIDE THE BOX, Crane Center, Philadelphia, PA
CONTEMPORARY VISIONS OF SURFACE DESIGN:TEXTILE AS PAINTING/PAINTING AS
TEXTILE, Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, MA
PAPERWORKS: MATERIAL AS MEDIUM, Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT
NEW WORK, Olson Larsen Gallery, West Des Moines, IA

2011
STIMULUS: ART AND ITS CONCEPTION, browngrotta arts, Wilton, CT. Catalog.
THE VESSEL REDEFINED, Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, MA
GREEN FROM THE GET GO, Wayne Art Center, Wayne, PA

2010
LIGHT AND DARKNESS, New Melleray Abbey, Peosta, IA. First showing of illuminated sculptures.

2009
CUT THE EDGE/WEAVE THE LINE, Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, MA.
BOUND TOGETHER, LUX Center, Lincoln, NE.

2007
PULP FUNCTION, Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA

2006
MATERIAL DIFFERENCE, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL.
BASKET REVOLUTION, Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA
SHOEBOX SCULPTURE, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI

2005
DUAL VISION: THE CHAZEN COLLECTION, Museum of Art and Design, NY
FIBER: A NEW WORLD VIEW, National Gallery of Irish Craft, Kilkenny, Ireland.

2004
IN-FORMED BY NATURE, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, IA (Solo show)
CHALLENGING TRADITIONS; CONTEMPORARY TEXTILES, The Dahl Museum,Rapid City, SD

2003
SHARED PASSION, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

2002
BASKETS NOW: USA, Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR
BLURRING THE LINE: WHERE VESSEL AND SCULPTURE MEET, Craft Alliance, St. Louis, MO

2001
THE ART OF CONTEMPORARY FIBER, Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX
MARY MERKEL-HESS: NATURE’S BOUNTY, Philadelphia International Airport, PA
OUT OF THE FLOATING WAVES, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis, MN
THE ART OF ASIAN PAPER, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, IA

1999
AMERICAN BASKETMAKING: TRADITION AND INNOVATION, Arrowmont, Gatlinburg, TN

1998
THREADS;CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN BASKETRY, Barbican Centre, London, England
CRAFT IS A VERB, Mississippi Museum, Jackson, MS

1997
CELEBRATING AMERICAN CRAFT, Kunstindustrie Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark.
RITUAL VESSEL; MASTERWORKS FROM LONGHOUSE COLLECTIONS, East Hampton, NY

1995
IOWA ARTISTS 1995, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA. Award

1994
CERAMIC AND FIBER: A NEW GENERATION, Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine, WI
NEW ACQUISITIONS, American Craft Museum, New York, NY

PUBLICATIONS
DUAL VISION: THE CHAZEN COLLECTION, David Revere McFadden, Russell Panczenko, Ursula Ilse-Neuman, and Jennifer Scanlan, Museum of Arts and Design, 2005
500 BASKETS, Susan Mowery Keiffer, Lark Books, 2006
MATERIAL DIFFERENCE, Polly Ulrich, Friends of Fiber Art International, 2006
Mary Merkel-Hess: Constructing Form, AMERICAN CRAFT MAGAZINE, Cover photo and article, June/July 1999
LIFEWORK: PORTRAITS OF IOWA WOMEN ARTISTS, Robbie Steinbach, Lifework Arts Foundation, 1998
FIBERARTS, “Mary Merkel-Hess: New Expressions of the Natural World,” April, 1996
THE BASKETMAKER’S ART, Rob Pulleyn (Ed.), Ninepress, Asheville, NC, 1987. The book profiles 24 contemporary American basketmakers

COLLECTIONS
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Art and Design, New York, NY
Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA
LongHouse Foundation, East Hampton, NY
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Racine Museum of Art, Racine, WI
Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC