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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Cyrilla Mozenter

New York,
United States

CYRILLA MOZENTER’s work is grounded in drawing. Her major work has ranged from large-scale charcoal drawings in the 1980’s, to installations made of peanuts, walnuts, beans, and stolen soap—frequently in combination with thread and (white) fabric—in the 90’s, to the current free-standing, cream-colored, hand-sewn, industrial wool felt sculptures. And always works-on/with-paper… Much of the work of the last eight years has been made in relation to Gertrude Stein’s writing; “Four Saints In Three Acts” has provided the basis for two recent projects. Mozenter’s solo exhibitions of drawings and sculptures include “More saints seen” at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 2005-06, “Cuts and Occasions” at Dieu Donne Papermill, New York, in 2002, “Very well saint” at The Drawing Center, New York, in 2000, “Secret Ears” at BAM’s Majestic Theater, Brooklyn, in 1996, and “Undercurrent” at Espaco Cultural Sergio Porto, Rio de Janeiro, in 1995. Group exhibitions include “Pins and Needles,” curated by Lena Vigna, at the Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 2003, “Endpapers: Drawings 1890-1900 and 1999-2000,” curated by Judy Collischan, at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York, in 2000, and “Simply Made in America,” curated by Barry Rosenberg, at the Aldrich Museum in 1993. She has been artist-in-residence at Dieu Donne Papermill, the Kohler Arts Center, and Instituto Municipal de Arte e Cultura-Rioarte, Rio de Janeiro. She has received two fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and two project grants from The Fifth Floor Foundation. The Coby Foundation sponsored her solo exhibition at the Aldrich Museum with its accompanying limited-edition artist’s book. Mozenter’s work was most recently reviewed in the July/August issue of Sculpture by Jonathan Goodman. Her work is in the collections of the Arkansas Arts Center, Birmingham Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Hood Museum of Art, New York Public Library Print Collection, University of Massachusetts- Amherst, Walker Art Center, and Yale University Art Gallery. She is a professor in the MFA program at Pratt Institute.

Feminist Artist Statement

It seems to me that social-political movements are primarily about power. Different people take different roles in order to achieve the same ends. Although having been raised in a politically active (even revolutionary) family, I find myself expressing this will to power through the actual content of my artwork. I use materials and processes that could be considered “feminine” and my work has been seen as having iconic power. (The mythic power of the feminine.) Over the last several years I have been involved in a collaboration with Gertrude Stein (she may know I’m doing this), who I consider to be one of the great revolutionaries of the feminist movement. Her fearlessness was to be herself, which is the primary aim of my own life, both as an artist and as a person. I try to convey these values through my teaching of graduate students, my artwork, and my relationships with other people. I consider Agnes Martin heroic.

<p>Deep</p>

Deep

Currently I am constructing elemental architectural forms from industrial wool felt hand-sewn together with silk thread. The sculptures are self-supporting, no additional materials or armatures have been introduced. Felt is a non-woven textile, made from the compression of a tangle of animal fur, and behaves unpredictably. To sew it into geometric forms is to go against its natural inclination to buckle, stretch, droop, and torque (which brings in an element of chance). I am pushing felt to do what it doesn’t want to do while maintaining its integrity as a material. The pieces in this series evoke archeological sites, referring as well both to Aztec ruins and minimalist sculpture.

Deep

Currently I am constructing elemental architectural forms from industrial wool felt hand-sewn together with silk thread. The sculptures are self-supporting, no additional materials or armatures have been introduced. Felt is a non-woven textile, made from the compression of a tangle of animal fur, and behaves unpredictably. To sew it into geometric forms is to go against its natural inclination to buckle, stretch, droop, and torque (which brings in an element of chance). I am pushing felt to do what it doesn’t want to do while maintaining its integrity as a material. The pieces in this series evoke archeological sites, referring as well both to Aztec ruins and minimalist sculpture.

More saints seen #16

This piece is one of the thirty hand-sewn, cream-colored vessel-form sculptures (along with thirty-one drawings) that comprise “More saints seen,” exhibited at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 2005-2006. The title is a phrase from Gertrude Stein’s libretto “Four Saints In Three Acts.” It provided the impetus for this body of work. The sculptures are vessel forms that evoke sacred ritual objects. They are made of seamed and stitched cream-colored industrial wool felt and include pencil drawing, toothpicks, pearls, pearl buttons, silver bugle beads, and wooden ice cream spoons found in the street. The pencil-drawn felt is stitched together by hand with pale grey silk thread, the ends of which are left to clump and dangle—exposed roots or nerve ends. While felt absorbs liquid, vessels by definition are able to contain it. These vessels cannot function as such, but instead have an absurd pale presence, that of ghosts or resurrected memories of these elemental and essential forms. Many of the vessels suggest (saintly) figures. Grouped, they seem characters in a play or dream, action momentarily suspended.

More saints seen #18

This piece is one of the thirty hand-sewn, cream-colored vessel-form sculptures (along with thirty-one drawings) that comprise “More saints seen,” exhibited at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 2005-2006. The title is a phrase from Gertrude Stein’s libretto “Four Saints In Three Acts.” It provided the impetus for this body of work. The sculptures are vessel forms that evoke sacred ritual objects. They are made of seamed and stitched cream-colored industrial wool felt and include pencil drawing, toothpicks, pearls, pearl buttons, silver bugle beads, and wooden ice cream spoons found in the street. The pencil-drawn felt is stitched together by hand with pale grey silk thread, the ends of which are left to clump and dangle—exposed roots or nerve ends. While felt absorbs liquid, vessels by definition are able to contain it. These vessels cannot function as such, but instead have an absurd pale presence, that of ghosts or resurrected memories of these elemental and essential forms. Many of the vessels suggest (saintly) figures. Grouped, they seem characters in a play or dream, action momentarily suspended.

More saints seen # 29

This piece is one of the thirty hand-sewn, cream-colored vessel-form sculptures (along with thirty-one drawings) that comprise “More saints seen,” exhibited at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 2005-2006. The title is a phrase from Gertrude Stein’s libretto “Four Saints In Three Acts.” It provided the impetus for this body of work. The sculptures are vessel forms that evoke sacred ritual objects. They are made of seamed and stitched cream-colored industrial wool felt and include pencil drawing, toothpicks, pearls, pearl buttons, silver bugle beads, and wooden ice cream spoons found in the street. The pencil-drawn felt is stitched together by hand with pale grey silk thread, the ends of which are left to clump and dangle—exposed roots or nerve ends. While felt absorbs liquid, vessels by definition are able to contain it. These vessels cannot function as such, but instead have an absurd pale presence, that of ghosts or resurrected memories of these elemental and essential forms. Many of the vessels suggest (saintly) figures. Grouped, they seem characters in a play or dream, action momentarily suspended.

Polar Bear Glove Song # 15

This piece is one of 28 hand-sewn industrial wool felt sculptures (along with a text) that comprise “Polar Bear Glove Song.” They hang on the wall from needles—notes on a musical score—and reference gloves, finger puppets, marionettes, and masks. # 15 hovers somewhere between pocketbook and loincloth. The felt is close to the color of polar bear fur and reminds me of snow, a bear’s natural habitat. Both insulate and make quiet. “Polar Bear Glove Song” was first exhibited in “Pins and Needles,” curated by Lena Vigna, at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in 2003.

Reservoir

Currently I am constructing elemental architectural forms from industrial wool felt hand-sewn together with silk thread. The sculptures are self-supporting, no additional materials or armatures have been introduced. Felt is a non-woven textile, made from the compression of a tangle of animal fur, and behaves unpredictably. To sew it into geometric forms is to go against its natural inclination to buckle, stretch, droop, and torque (which brings in an element of chance). I am pushing felt to do what it doesn’t want to do while maintaining its integrity as a material. The pieces in this series evoke archeological sites, referring as well both to Aztec ruins and minimalist sculpture.

Suspended Figure

“Suspended Figure” was pivotal—my first vessel-form felt piece. A figure, a sea-creature, an angel, a flower, it is hand-sewn with silk thread and incorporates two ice cream spoons. A wooden ice cream spoon may be seen both as a schematic configuration of a woman and an infinity symbol. I think of them as “the saints” and developed the habit of retrieving discarded examples on NYC streets.

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