July 13 through September 7, 2003
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is pleased to present an exhibition of handmade quilts that tackle profound questions of identity and spirituality. MATRIX 207: Anna Von Mertens Suggested North Points is the first solo museum exhibition for California College of Arts and Crafts graduate Anna Von Mertens, and is the latest exhibition in BAM/PFA's acclaimed MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art. Suggested North Points, which features five quilts and a floor drawing, was curated by Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson. The exhibition opens on July 13 and will remain on view through September 7, 2003.
Anna Von Mertens's non-traditional quilts fuse science with landscape while questioning the relationship between the individual and the collective. Although in recent years quilts and quilting have been the subject of art historical debates over the distinction between "art" and "craft," Von Mertens uses the form because of its association with the bedroom, which she considers to be the symbolic hearth of the twenty-first century home. Von Mertens's quilts use hand-dyed fabrics which she sews by hand. Her belief is that this painstaking and labor-intensive process lends her work "an intimacy … that could not be obtained any other way." The quilts are displayed in the gallery draped over frames that have the same dimensions as a standard double bed.
Von Mertens's quilts grapple with the existential. Her work questions our place in the universe, and the ways in which our understanding of God and his existence is impacted by scientific discovery. Aspects of Von Mertens's work reference the sublime, a theory that originated in eighteenth-century Europe and which came to the fore in American landscape painting during the nineteenth century. Inspired in part by important discoveries in the natural sciences following the Enlightenment, the theory of the sublime emphasized humankind as simply one of many constituent parts of God's vast universe. Using a wide variety of sources, including physics, chemistry, and cartography, Von Mertens similarly examines the relationship of the individual to the collective whole. In Suggested North Points Von Mertens uses references to space and time to explore intersections between the personal and the empirical.
Four of the quilts in this exhibition take as their theme a point of the compass, using it as both the subject and point of departure for Von Mertens's personalized interpretations. Each quilt combines a carefully selected color palette with specialized scientific data to create evocative juxtapositions of the intimate and infinite. In West, Von Mertens uses bands of color that suggest a stylized west coast sunset, over which is hand-stitched a linear representation of the Big Bang, representing extroversion. In East, Von Mertens uses colors that suggest a New England sunrise, onto which she has stitched a precisely rendered representation of a black hole, representing introversion. Similarly, North and South combine carefully selected color schemes with intricately sewn patterns, in this instance representing the metabolic pathways of a cell. Here again the work explores the idea of interconnectedness, where each of the processes Von Mertens represents is itself determined by other series of interactions and processes.
An MFA graduate from the California College of Arts and Crafts, Anna Von Mertens has had solo exhibitions at the Southern Exposure Gallery in San Francisco and Works Gallery in San Jose.
Sunday, July 13, 3 p.m.
Anna Von Mertens will introduce her exhibition. A reception will follow the discussion.