Mary Hark, papermaking artist and assistant professor of design studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, had a good turnout for the opening of her exhibit on September 6.
Outside-In, Inside-Out features the works of Hark along with fellow textile artist, Nnenna Okore. Originally from Nsukka, Nigeria, Okore is currently an associate professor and chair of the art department at North Park University in Chicago.
The exhibit will be open to the public through Oct. 4 at theVisual Arts Center Gallery.
Mary Hark (center) took a moment after her lecture to take a photo with MSU faculty.
Mary Hark drove 13 hours to Starkville, her first time to Mississippi, and she spent 12 of those hours listening to this year’s Maroon Edition book, Unbowed: A Memoir by late Nobel Peace Prize recipient Wangari Maathai.
Hark, who is at MSU through Saturday for several events associated with the Maroon Edition, began her first event, a lecture about her walk through life as an artist, by telling the audience how she found the author, Maathai, to be inspirational.
The artist also made sure to mention another inspiration – her friend, colleague and “very important teacher,” Tim Barrett, who received the MacArthur Award in 2009, or as she said, “the genius award.” Read the article from the New York Times Magazine about Barrett and the process of papermaking.
Hark quickly moved into explaining the papermaking process.
“I love the mess; I love the water,” she said.
Next, Hark showed some of the work done in her studio and explained how her approach is similar to that of a quilter but is also tied to contemporary painting.
“I have an idea for starting … an attitude,” she said. “But usually it’s not a narrative.”
She said she loves that she gets to create “a world that I don’t have to explain, and I understand in a deeply personal way.” See some of her work on her blog.
With her passion growing for this type of art, Hark decided she wanted to go to a place where textiles were fully understood and integrated into the culture. In 2006, she got that chance when she was awarded a Fulbright Senior Research Grant in Sub Sahara Africa.
Hark spent a lot of her time observing textile work in the largest open-air market in West Africa, as well as participating in a formal apprenticeship in an Adinkra clothmaking workshop.
She set up a studio and made work in response to what she saw; however, she felt like she was surrounded by such beautiful textile works of art that she couldn’t compare.
“I felt like a really sad wannabe,” she said, so she had a local wood worker provide boxes for her, and she painted and collaged onto the surfaces.
Also while in Ghana, Hark had the opportunity to work with third-year printmaking students at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The goal of the 6-week workshop was to try to find local material to create paper that had enough integrity to be printed on.
Through the process, Hark and her students discovered Ghanaian Pulp Mulberry, which had been transported from China years earlier.
“It’s kind of like your kudzu – growing out of control,” she said.
“This is the very plant that has yielded some of the most beautiful papers in the history of the world,” and she said she is still excited about the potential that can come from that discovery.
With that excitement still fresh, Hark and two friends, Dr. Atta Kwami and Pamela Clarkson, decided to found Take Time Press. They have already printed one fine press-limited edition artist book and are working on the second in their trilogy. Check out the Smithsonian blog about Mary Hark’s book!
Their first book features Koo Nimo, a local Palmwine music legend. Fifty books were printed on Hark’s handmade paper that included a cd by Nimo’s band, images of the recording and a series of pamphlets. Click here for information about purchasing the cd affiliated with the book.
Hark spent the past summer in Ghana hard at work on her next book, which will be about the natural environment and feature the Tola Garden outside of Kumasi.
She said a third book is also planned for next summer that will feature textiles.
Opening Reception and Exhibit
Tonight (Sept. 6) there will be an opening reception for Inside-Out/Outside-In: African-Inspired Fiber Arts of Mary Hark and Nnenna Okore from 5:30-7:30.
The exhibit features the works of Mary Hark and fellow textile artist Nnenna Okore.
Hark’s works are in response to her time spent in Ghana, “celebration of surface,” she explained.
Okore’s works consider the detritus of everyday life, transforming throwaway material into compelling objects that carry specific cultural references. Her sculptures and environments are seductively beautiful, recalling powerful traditions of West African textiles, as well as suggesting a universal consideration of our place in the material world.
Okore was raised in Nsukka, Nigeria, but now lives and works in Chicago as an associate professor and chair of the art department at North Park University, Chicago.
Hark will end her trip by teaching a papermaking workshop open to Department of Art students. The workshop is tomorrow (Sept. 6) in Briscoe 104, and there are still a few spots available.
Click here for more information.
For information about purchasing Mary’s Harks handmade paper, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nnenna Okore, Akuko Iro, 2011
Mary Hark, Margin Notes, Kumasi, #2, 2009
The Department of Art is hosting two art exhibits this fall in association with Mississippi State Maroon Edition events.
The book selection for the 2012–2013 academic year is Unbowed: A Memoir by the late Nobel Peace Prize recipient Wangari Maathai. In her book, Maathai tells the story of environmental destruction in Kenya and how it intensifies poverty and social conflict.
Inside-Out, Outside-In, August 31–October 3, 2012, is an exhibit of fiber arts by Mary Hark and Nnenna Okore, two contemporary artists with strong connections to cultures in West Africa. The title for the exhibit expresses the artistic relationship each has with their environment.
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