MADAMI'MADAM. 2000-02

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MADAMI’MADAM is a group of sixteen hand-embroidered samplers referring to Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is a common subject in art history and in the less well-known tradition of pictorial samplers. I borrowed images from both sources: artists including Dürer, Michelangelo, Paul Gauguin, René Magritte, Barnett Newman, and Robert Smithson and mostly anonymous embroiderers from across the centuries. For texts I quoted from a wide range of writers and works—the Bible, but also the works of Milton, Mary Shelley, Charles Darwin, Ray Bradbury, David Cronenberg, and so on.

The project addresses creation in the most literal sense, but it also explores reproduction, replication, and the persistence and transformation of our ideas about creative genesis as technology and artistic methods change. For one work, Sampler (A Blurred Region), 2001, I digitally scanned a photograph of Michelangelo’s famous fresco of God creating Adam, then used computer software to convert the digital information into an embroidery pattern. Composed of carefully combined points of color rather than mixed pigments, embroidery is closer to the pixel method of constructing images than to traditional painting; yet, like painting, it is a method of the hand, and it inherits a tradition that can compete with painting for longevity. The Bible is full of “begats,” of chains of lineage stemming from the original Creation; MADAMI’MADAM explores some of the chains of creation and reproduction in art.

I did much of the research for MADAMI’MADAM as artist-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, in February 2001. During my stay I visited the collection almost daily, and it deeply influenced and informed the project. In 2002-03 I took these works back to the museum. The provisions of the Gardner Trust stipulate that the galleries constitute a permanent exhibit, with nothing removed from place except for purposes of maintenance or loan. I responded to this caveat by creating a virtual exhibition: working in close collaboration with the museum’s conservators on a series of Mondays, when the galleries are closed to the public, I installed my work temporarily on easels and tables and in empty frames or spaces within the galleries. They were filmed, photographed, and then removed. A record of a show that never took place, these images are an exhibition on the Gardner’s website and a CD-ROM. Visit MADAMI’MADAM online at http://www.gardnermuseum.org/2003_exhibitions/madamimadam_ex.asp.