See More Mimi Art

December 26, 2008


Left: Quilt for the Death of One I Love(d)  (Compost Quilt)  (60” x 34”) copyright Mimi Holmes. This quilt was created for the artist's Grandmother, Sophia Antoinette Mayer Trastour, born in 1902 on the Isle of Cuba plantation in Louisiana. Mimi made this quilt to help prepare herself for her grandmother’s eventual passing.  Click to seen an enlargement of the image. Read on to learn more about this quilt and other art from Mimi Holmes.

Mimi Holmes is a mixed-media artist working in beads and fabric and found materials. The expression of her art takes what is at hand and transforms it.

A new show of a sampling of Mimi’s art from the the last 25 years will be on view at: Marcie Soderman-Olson's studio,  January 10 – 31, 2009

The opening reception for "See More Mimi Art" is
Saturday, January 10, 4-6 p.m.

The studio is located at Art at 2402, #519 C & E Building, 2402 University Avenue, St. Paul (near intersection of Raymond and University Avenues). Hours:  Weekday and Saturday afternoons by appointment. Please call 651-428-8809 or 612-379-8318 for an appointment.

I first met Mimi through mail art. I was introduced by a mutual friend. But I also know Mimi as an art history lecturer who provides her students with a wide range of information about artists, artistic styles, and the making of art; and as a popular and tireless mentor through the WARM Mentor Program (Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota; Mimi has recently stepped down from coordinating the mentor program). I was also privileged to work with Mimi for 6 years when we were both members of Project Art for Nature (PAN). I left PAN at the end of the second cycle in 2007, but Mimi continues to create art reflective of the land she is studying, again, using materials at hand to make plant prints, sculptures, and fabric creations.

Right: An early phase of one of the portraits Mimi is working on with fellow artist Catherine Reed. Click the image to see an enlargement. (Image © Mimi Holmes and Catherine Reed.)

Recently Mimi has been working on collaborative fabric pieces with California artist Catherine Reed. They work on portraits of each other. Catherine started the face, neck and background fabrics of the image shown here and then sent it to Mimi who sewed down the elements and added facial features and clothing. The exchange continued for several rounds, until Mimi added the borders and finishing.

“It's an interesting process because when you get it back, the other artist has done something you didn't expect!” says Mimi. Several of these pieces will be included in the show.


Left: additional development on this collaborative piece can be seen. Click on the image for an enlargement. (©Mimi Holmes and Catherine Reed)

The quilt featured at the opening of this post has an interesting story. It served as a creative vehicle for Mimi to process her fears of loosing her grandmother as her health failed. The quilt is “a covering of warm blessings and remembrances” for them both. Composed of 9 strips made from the cloth used to stiffen obis (Japanese sashes) the quilt, which Mimi dyed, overdyed, and then spray painted is covered with sewn on motifs in leather, copper foil, and undyed obi stiffener cloth. Mimi soaked the strips in a tea bath overnight.

The quilt is just one example of how Mimi does not shy away from unusual materials for her art creation. Mimi explains, "Pockets on the quilt were made and stuffed variously with egg shell, coffee grounds, orange and grapefruit rinds, tea leaves, banana skins, vermiculite, dryer lint (from my mother and grandmother’s home), and fake horsehair upholstery stuffing. A layer of black netting was placed over the strips to soften the color and add a funereal quality. The strips were then joined with separating zippers, and small triangular pieces of wood stitched around the parameter of the quilt."

Mimi continues the explanation of her method and symbols: “The hand motif refers to the fact that my grandmother’s hands are always busy: making candy, crocheting, knitting, china painting, embroidering, typing, caressing, playing bridge, working puzzles, et cetera. The triangles are a form I use to symbolize a feminine trinity, here indicating the closeness of my grandmother (crone), mother, and me (daughter). The crescents reflect our ties to the moon as well as reiterating the feminine connectedness. The squares are symbols of our lives on this earth (people needing to order and grid the natural world) and are pockets to hold notes to my grandmother of my memories of her and our shared experiences. The quilt is composed of 9 strips to represent her 90 years in ten year increments.  The strips are joined by zippers to reinforce a sense of the accumulation of experience, and symbolize the irregularities of one’s progress, as well as punning on the need of the living to separate from the dead.”

At the time she created this quilt Mimi didn’t consider herself a quilt maker. The majority of her work was beaded sculptures and hangings. To create this quilt Mimi used materials on hand and other materials which she “composted.” Her process evolved as she worked, new materials presenting new challenges and adaptations.

Sometimes I think that making a quilt like this is what art should really be about. Heart-felt and connected to others, purposeful. Not worried about whether it fits into the current Art World scene, whether I can place it in a gallery, sell it, etc. I think it is really difficult to make art from the heart and keep one’s work from being diluted or commercialized. I guess. Maybe I shouldn’t have even entered this quilt in Quilt San Diego. But I’m proud of this quilt and think it special. Let’s just hope we don’t see in another year or two: “Death Quilts! Buy them now for your loved ones so they’ll know you truly care”,etc.  I know, I just don’t see opportunity when it knocks.  Still riding the line between naive and sophisticated cynic. It’ll be interesting to see which one wins out….

Mimi brings her humor and intellect in equal parts of to her work. It makes viewing her work a visual delight, an entertaining event, and an opportunity to look at the world and deeper issues of life and death and art making that we often try to avoid. I recommend that you make a point to get to Mimi’s show and see what she has been up to. Visit during the reception and you’ll be rewarded with conversation with an irrepressibly creative soul.

    • aimee
    • December 26, 2008

    these are fantastic!! how i wish i could see mimi’s show. i’m drawn to art quilts like these not only for their intricate beauty but also because of the stories behind them.

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