Materials and context are vital to the conceptual and fiber-based practice of Milwaukee based artist Maggie Sasso. “Every material has a push back point. As a maker you have to work with the material and empathize with it. It’s less about conquering the material and really more about empathizing with it,” according to Sasso.
The former wood worker turned fiber artist says she learned this insight by working across mediums. “ I enjoy problem solving in the moment and THAT’S the opportunity for the piece to create meaning. I start a piece I don’t know why, it’s kind of intuition and sometimes I think I know what the piece is about then something else will happen in my life and I’ll have an epiphany and then it’s like ‘oh,’ that’s what it’s about.”
Sasso graduated with a MFA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2010 with an emphasis in woodworking but two years out she decided to switch to fiber art. “ I was meant to be a weaver,” says Sasso. “I think I like curves in forms. In woodworking there are a lot of extra steps to do that which I didn’t enjoy. In textiles it’s easier to pattern and there’s no sanding.”
Sasso grew up making in the tradition of craft as the daughter of artists. Even as a child, Sasso made drawings similar to a weaving chart. Now, her fiber practice is focused on blurring line between sculpture and craft. “ If you learn one material, you can translate it to other materials with relative ease,” says Sasso.
Her work is centered in the domestic sphere, “Where the loom becomes the space I need to feel,” says Sasso. Her work is conceptual, often humorous and highly influenced by the environment around Sasso and her loved ones. “ It’s really not premeditated. It feels serendipitous. It’s a voice. It’s like a way for me to reveal meaning in my life back to me. It’s a mirror.”
Sasso’s most recent body of work, “Survey” is compiled of woven tapestries inspired by a vintage surveyor her husband brought home from work. “I prefer objects that are a little strange and out of the ordinary. I get very inspired by the history of these objects and putting it together with a new material and in a new context,” says Sasso. This was evident in her 2016 piece called, “Too much sea for amateurs.” Sasso created a lighthouse structure out of fabric, which was first, placed in a gallery and then outside with the outdoor sculpture exhibition called “ Sculpture Milwaukee”. Sasso says, “ It’s about collaborating with the environment out of the gallery space and something in the real world.”
Sasso has an insatiable curiosity about all sorts of different materials and once she decides on which material she is going to use, she lets her hands do the rest. “ It’s a lot about the mind and body connection. I can be a part of a heritage and lineage and let my fingers just take over and do some of the heavy lifting without really heavy lifting.”
The process has led Sasso to increasing recognition regionally and nationally with multiple solo exhibitions in Wisconsin and Kentucky and group exhibitions nationwide. In 2015 Sasso was awarded the coveted Mary Nohl fellowship award in the emerging artist category. Sasso says her work performs best when its presented in different contexts and the problem has always been to find locations for her work outside of the gallery cube. Sasso says that’s why in the future she’ll steer her practice towards public art commissions, which will provide new and different contexts to exhibit work to help blur the line between craft and sculpture even more.
Visit maggiesasso.com to see more more work
Connect with Maggie on Instagram at @maggiesasso
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