VIA, installation at Southern Exposure, San Francisco, California, 2001
At first glance Anna Von Mertens‘ work looks spare and minimal. She has said that her medium is more the bed than it is quilts. Her installations extend beyond the carefully arranged quilts onto the floor and walls of the space. All these factors add up to high art, which left me a little cold, but the revelation for me was reading the descriptions of her work and making the connection with what our very own Weeks Ringle calls “big ideas.” That is, starting the quilting process with an overarching idea that guides the selection of colors, the piecing, through to the quilting and the finishing. You just might call Von Mertens’ ideas huge, and they’re ideas that aren’t completed after the binding is put on.
Meet and Separate (detail), 1999
Von Mertens dyes and quilts by hand. Her color choices and piecing are systematic, based on ideas like the heights of her and her brother growing up, friends’ and family members’ descriptions of the afternoon sky, video games, and Martha Stewart paint chips. Her painstakingly detailed hand stitching is the most impressive layer of meaning: bird migration patterns, circuit boards, topographical maps of land and even her own body, cell structures, star rotation patterns, nuclear explosions, and many other kinds of charts and maps. Her groupings of the individual quilts and the extension of the patterns onto the walls and floors of the room provide still another layer, just one that is transient.
Black and White (Black) (detail), 2004
See Von Mertens at work in this video segment from U.S. public television station KQED’s program called Spark.
MATRIX 207/Suggested North Points, installation at the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, California, 2003
(all images from Anna Von Mertens’ website)
Many thanks to Gina for the link!