21st-Century Maker

By Julia Einstein
Assistant Director of Family and Studio Learning

This month’s Artist Intervention was designed by 2013 Portland Museum of Art Biennial: Piece Work artist Crystal Cawley. On Friday, July 12 she will transform a museum space into an artist’s studio. Cawley’s work is about her love for material as she collects then manipulates books, postcards, buttons, maps, and fabric into three-dimensional sculpture. You may have seen her summer exhibit at the Center for Contemporary Art (CMCA) (on view through July 16!) as part of the exhibition, Dress Shop or in the May issue of Maine Home + Design. Here is a behind the scenes interview on her upcoming Artist Intervention.

Tell us about your Artist Intervention.
The things I make involve laborious—some would say tedious—processes like hand sewing, spinning thread, or some other method of putting things together that requires repetitive action. I will sew on a few pieces at the dining room table of the McLellan House, like my grandmother worked at the old dining table in her basement, where she made beautiful braided rugs out of outgrown worn wool clothing

What is your inspiration?
I start with something tangible. I enjoy responding to what’s already there, something with its own visual history that becomes an important part of what I make of it.

Why did you chosen the McLellan House as the location for your Artist Intervention?
When I visited the galleries to think about what I might do for this program, I wandered around noticing which spaces I felt most comfortable in and where I would enjoy being and working for a few hours. These included a few of the third floor galleries with Contemporary and Modern Art (there were some superb minimalist works to see there) and some of the rooms in the McLellan House (where I would be contentedly surrounded by sumptuous colors and opulent patterns). I decided on the house because the rooms there are more contained and quieter—I get a little worn out and distracted when there’s constant ambient sound as there is in large galleries made of stone and wood.

The Artist Interventions series is about interaction between visitors and art. What are your expectations for the evening?
I am curious about what might happen when visitors come into the dining room and see me embroidering something. Will anyone sit down and start a conversation or ask a question? I am open to talking with anyone who comes in, but I’ll keep sewing as we speak.

Artist Interventions: Crystal Cawley is on Friday, July 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. during PMA’s Free Friday evening.

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