Mary Giles
Center Fracture, 2011
Waxed and dyed linen, fine copper wire, and brass wire
3 1/2 x 13 2/4 x 12 1/4 inches
Racine Art Museum, Promised Gift of Jim Harris
Photography: Petronella J. Ytsma

Collection Focus: Mary Giles

October 21, 2020 – January 23, 2021

With a cabinetmaker father and a mother who knitted, quilted, and did Scandinavian decorative painting known as rosemaling, Mary Giles (1944–2018) seemed destined to work creatively with her hands. Revered for her willingness to push the boundaries of form and concept, Giles made objects throughout her career that reflected her interest in materials and traditional basketmaking techniques. An affinity for the natural world cultivated during her youth fueled the artist’s investigations of various media including waxed linen, porcupine quills, and a number of metals like copper and iron.

Favoring the technique of coiling—a process associated with Native American basket traditions—Giles moved between three and two dimensions throughout her career as a fiber sculptor. She created wall pieces, in addition to sculpture, that suggests aspects of the environment, human figures, and vessels. One of the artist’s most distinctive additions to her works were thin metal strips—some shaped as human figures—that she layered over a surface or core. In addition to creating texture contrasts and adding color, shine, and form, the choice of metal further underscored her interest in the human condition. She stated, “Over time, some of these metals are going to change, and that’s fine…That’s part of all of our processes—nature’s process, the aging process.”

In its current makeup, RAM’s fiber collection is anchored by artists interested in baskets and basketmaking techniques. Mary Giles, with 19 pieces now at RAM and others promised, is one of the most well-represented fiber artists with works spanning over three decades. RAM has been acquiring Giles’ work since the early 2000s through gifts from donors, but these pieces have never been brought together in a single gallery space until now.

In continuation of RAM’s commitment to contemporary craft and to further scholarship in the field, the museum produced a 16-page exhibition catalogue, with essays on the significance of Mary Giles’ work along with representative images from the museum’s permanent collection. This full-color publication is available for purchase on-site in the RAM Museum Store and online at racineartmuseumstore.org.

MORE ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Exhibition Catalogue, available to view online and to purchase on the Online Museum Store
Exhibition Notes

Collection Focus: Mary Giles

October 21, 2020 – January 23, 2021
Mary Giles
Center Fracture, 2011
Waxed and dyed linen, fine copper wire, and brass wire
3 1/2 x 13 2/4 x 12 1/4 inches
Racine Art Museum, Promised Gift of Jim Harris
Photography: Petronella J. Ytsma

With a cabinetmaker father and a mother who knitted, quilted, and did Scandinavian decorative painting known as rosemaling, Mary Giles (1944–2018) seemed destined to work creatively with her hands. Revered for her willingness to push the boundaries of form and concept, Giles made objects throughout her career that reflected her interest in materials and traditional basketmaking techniques. An affinity for the natural world cultivated during her youth fueled the artist’s investigations of various media including waxed linen, porcupine quills, and a number of metals like copper and iron.

Favoring the technique of coiling—a process associated with Native American basket traditions—Giles moved between three and two dimensions throughout her career as a fiber sculptor. She created wall pieces, in addition to sculpture, that suggests aspects of the environment, human figures, and vessels. One of the artist’s most distinctive additions to her works were thin metal strips—some shaped as human figures—that she layered over a surface or core. In addition to creating texture contrasts and adding color, shine, and form, the choice of metal further underscored her interest in the human condition. She stated, “Over time, some of these metals are going to change, and that’s fine…That’s part of all of our processes—nature’s process, the aging process.”

In its current makeup, RAM’s fiber collection is anchored by artists interested in baskets and basketmaking techniques. Mary Giles, with 19 pieces now at RAM and others promised, is one of the most well-represented fiber artists with works spanning over three decades. RAM has been acquiring Giles’ work since the early 2000s through gifts from donors, but these pieces have never been brought together in a single gallery space until now.

In continuation of RAM’s commitment to contemporary craft and to further scholarship in the field, the museum produced a 16-page exhibition catalogue, with essays on the significance of Mary Giles’ work along with representative images from the museum’s permanent collection. This full-color publication is available for purchase on-site in the RAM Museum Store and online at racineartmuseumstore.org.

MORE ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Exhibition Catalogue, available to view online and to purchase on the Online Museum Store
Exhibition Notes

Gallery of Work

Exhibitions at RAM are made possible by:

Platinum Sponsors
Anonymous
Nicholas and Nancy Kurten
Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation
Windgate Foundation
Wisconsin Department of Administration

Diamond Sponsors
National Endowment for the Arts
Ruffo Family Foundation

Gold Sponsors
Anonymous
David Charak
Tom and Irene Creecy
David Flegel
Silver Sponsors
A. C. Buhler Family
Andis Foundation
Lucy G. Feller
Dorothy MacVicar
Bronze Sponsors
Andis Company
Tom and Jane Devine
David and Ellen Easley
Educators Credit Union
Ben and Dawn Flegel
Fredrick and Deborah Ganaway
William A. Guenther
Tom and Sharon Harty
Andrea and Tony Hauser
Angela Jacobi
Bill Keland
Knight Barry Title Group
Eric Koopmeiners and Lena Vigna

Media Sponsors

Wisconsin Public Radio

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