A Functioning System

Exhibit Dates: 
Jun 1, 2012 - Sep 16, 2012
E. Avery Draper Gallery


An important fact to know about Mary Giehl is that the artist was, for many years, a practicing nurse working with seriously ill and abused children in intensive care. This experience profoundly affected the direction of her art career. She has long examined the lives of abused and neglected children through her artwork. She has also worked with communities of young people as an artist-in-residence, both here in this country and abroad. Another important fact is that Giehl’s first art degree is in fibers and that she began her artistic life as a weaver. She later earned a graduate degree in sculpture and moved on to other media, but never left behind her sensitivity to materials, whether they are etched metal, cast rubber, or cast bronze. This installation is based on a series of small mixed-medium pieces that were inspired by looking at micro-organisms, specifically those that contaminate drinking water, causing children around the world who are most affected by water quality to die. However, even without knowing any of this, as is the case in many of her bodies of work, the installation is visually powerful and exciting at the same time that it is extremely beautiful. The seductiveness of the organic forms and crocheted and felted wool loops belies their deadly origins. Here Giehl returns to her early interest in textiles. Crocheted strings can be pulled apart very easily. The felting joins them together permanently. The idea that deadly organisms are both powerful and delicate acts as a metaphor for all of life, but especially for the lives of children whose presence is most energetic and yet at the same time most fragile.


- J. Susan Isaacs, PhD

Curator of Special Projects


View full artist bio in the exhibition PDF