RAM Remembers Fiber Artist Mary Giles

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of fiber artist Mary Giles on April 11, 2018 at the age of 73, at her home near Stillwater, Minnesota. Giles was born in St. Paul but spent much of her adult life in St. Louis where she was employed as a schoolteacher. It was there that she began working in fibers and became particularly interested in basketry techniques. She knotted dyed linen thread to create vessel forms and sculptural works that responded to the functional history of baskets, while referencing the natural environment and the powerful connections all people have to it. Giles developed techniques for adding metal elements that she created to her sculptures, frequently suggesting the surface embellishments people have historically added to their baskets.

Her career as an artist took off when Giles retired from teaching school in the late 1990s and her work began to be included in national and international exhibitions devoted to the ways fiber artists were using traditional basketry techniques to make unconventional contemporary works. In 2006, she and her husband, architect Jim Harris, moved back to Minnesota. Giles’ work was featured in an important show of contemporary American basket artists at the Barbican Centre in London and she represented the US in the International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland. In 2013, she was named a Master of the Medium by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Her work is included in over 15 museums, including RAM, which owns eight of her pieces spanning 1987 through 2001.

Learn more about her career:
From Textile Art Center, Minneapolis

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune