Martha Clippinger statement for Vibrating Boundaries exhibition at Warren Wilson College, 2021
The observation of color relationships engages and stimulates me throughout all of my art-making processes. Josef Albers and his “Interaction of Color” heightened my awareness of the relativity of color, and his proposed exercises continue to influence my process and inspire me to create works that encourage contemplation of color.
The intersection of fine art and craft has long been an interest of mine, and in recent years, the textile traditions of weavings and quilts have provided fertile ground for me to consider color relationships and geometric abstraction.
In 2014, I began an ongoing collaboration with master weavers Licha González Ruiz and Agustín Contreras Lopez of Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico to create tapetes (Spanish for “rugs”). The Zapotec architecture of Oaxaca inspires my designs, while the environs of the region inform the intense hues of the woolen yarns, hand dyed by Licha and Agustín.
I use gouache and watercolor studies as a jumping-off point for the tapetes. I often select the rug’s colors in person, based on the dyed wool that Licha and Agustín have available in their workshop. This adaptive process often leads to shifts in color from the original design, but as with the piecing of my quilts or constructing paintings from scraps of wood, I look forward to the surprises that result from a flexible and intuitive approach to making.
I embrace the inherent imperfections of my reclaimed materials, to create works that have a ‘rough around the edges’ quality and an improvisational aesthetic. My painted constructions, composed of off-kilter geometries and irregular symmetries, are modest in scale but occupy a space beyond their physical dimensions. I’m interested in how I can engage and play with architecture through their placement.
In my work, ceramics, textiles, prints, and painted constructions exist on equal ground. Many of my works may serve as both functional objects and as works of art, and that creates an open-endedness that I love, for it blurs the borders and flattens the hierarchies between art and craft.
Born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, Martha Clippinger received a BA from Fordham University and an MFA from Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a 2017 Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artists Grant from the Durham Arts Council, a 2014 American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Award, and a 2013 Fulbright-Garcia Robles research grant completed in Oaxaca, Mexico. She has been a fellow at Kohler Arts & Industry, the Sam and Adele Golden Art Foundation, Artspace, MacDowell Colony, Edward F. Albee Foundation, and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation. Her work has been featured in The Brooklyn Rail, Burnaway, and Hyperallergic, and is in public collections such as The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art and The Columbus Museum. Clippinger is represented by Elizabeth Harris Gallery in New York and Hodges Taylor in Charlotte, NC. She lives and works in Durham, North Carolina.
All images courtesy of Elizabeth Harris Gallery.