CONTEMPORARY FIBER ARTIST: EYE OF THE NEEDLE: SHANNON LEE MOLTER
Shannon Lee Molter has a deep connection to nature and the environment. From sumptuous repurposed leather sculptures and flora and fauna inspired conceptual garments, to her large-scale, forest-like installations, Molter beckons the viewer to take a deeper look at the earth and the wildlife on it. “ The story is so much more complicated than what we experience on a daily basis.” according to Molter. “There are many things we can’t know because we are tied to our human senses. But if we were to take the time; and it requires all manner of imagination and inference and assumption, but to spend time in places that are foreign to us, natural places and be in relationship to animals and non human things, we can learn a lot about ourselves. And we can have a different understanding of our place in the world.”
Molter grew up on 40 acres in rural Wisconsin. “Home feels like to me when I’m in the Midwest and I can name the specific plants in a forest. It feels like I know the ecology “. She says the experience grounded her and influences the art she does today even down to the materials she selects. Molter is interested in issues of labor and consumption. She often uses second hand garments including fur and leather in many of her artworks. According to Molter, “ All of these histories, they still exist with that material and if I can wield that alongside my specific intention, I feel my work becomes much richer and can speak to many people on lots of different levels.”
Intuition guides Molter when she experiments in her studio when using her expert self-taught leather and furrier skills. Molter says, “ I often find myself letting the material lead so if I’m interested in working with a material, the process and outcome it all flows pretty naturally from that.” Molter then funnels the result through her own environmental, social or political views.
Molter’s holds a BFA from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Peck School of Arts in both Fiber Art and Art Education and an honor’s college certificate in Philosophy. The multi-disciplinary artist has exhibited regionally and nationally, lectured extensively and awarded multiple art residencies. In addition,
Molter is also the Wisconsin representative for the Surface Design Association and a passionate art educator for kids. “If we can teach them to think creatively, problem solve and use their hands, not just their minds, then those young people will be better prepared for what the world will throw their way.” Molter says she will continue to create things “ that need to come into the world.” Molter’s ultimate goal is to improve our understanding of our environment and our place in it.
“ If there’s anything I can do with my work it is to help people remember that we belong to all of those non-humans as much as they belong to us; creating that different kind of relationship could be meaningful in the future.”
CONTEMPORARY FIBER ARTIST: EYE OF THE NEEDLE: MINDY SUE WITTOCK
One glance at Mindy Sue Wittock’s sculptures will take you back to childhood. The Cedarburg-based artist utilizes gently used toys and fabric, to create colorful, tactile sculptures and textiles. According to Wittock, “A part of my physical studio practice is bringing back in that exploration and idea of play and making things without worrying about how it’s gonna end up.” It’s an idea Wittock hopes her 7year-old daughter won’t forget. Wittock wonders, “Why do we lose that freedom, that exploration as we grow up?”
Born in the 80’s, Wittock finds inspiration in childhood memories and nostalgia. Her work is reminicient of a combination of both Shelia Hicks and Jeff Koons. “I’ve always been attracted to color. I’ve always loved the dissonance of colors that are put together that aren’t suppose to be together,” according to Wittock. It’s also part of returning to her youth. “I go back to the idea of being a kid again and try to bring that magic back into my adult life by using materials and pop culture items from my childhood.” Wittock also draws on a time in her childhood when her parents divorced, and uses it as a source of inspiration, “All I can remember from those times is, those toys were there for me. It was the one thing in my life that wouldn’t change. It was linear, the New Kids On The Block were not going to leave me. It was a way of connecting with something that couldn’t dissipate or make me feel uneasy.”
Many of Wittock’s works require a laborious process of sewing and stitching over and over the same area. The inherent slowness or rhythm in the making attaches Wittock or imbues her to each piece. “I think making this work has been really healing for me and it’s also been a really great way for me to connect with all of the things that make me happy.”
Her love of sculpture and textiles began in high school after taking a home economics class where instead of making a gym bag she created a sculpture. “They were giant lime green feet and I considered it a work of art and not functional,” Wittock recalls. She went on to study sculpture and textiles at Arizona State University where she got her MFA. Since then she says, she never goes anywhere without a needle and thread, “I still use that idea now, that it can attach anything. It’s a sweet way of thinking that it’s a way of keeping things together so they don’t come apart again, kind of mending my past and mending it to my present.”
And Wittock’s present is looking bright with her art in exhibitions regionally and nationally. Wittock is humble about the attention, instead focusing on her artwork’s message, “ It’s the magic of feeling younger or having those memories of childhood play or the fact that you are making a connection that makes you feel happy.”
About contributing writer: Linda Marcus
Linda b. Marcus is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Drawing on her long history as a TV News journalist and fashion designer, Marcus’s work in fiber and sculpture touch on issues of memory, identity and materiality.
Marcus is a self-taught artist. She graduated in 2004 with a Master’s degree in journalism and philosophy from Marquette University and in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley.
Marcus has won numerous journalism awards and her fashion designs were featured nationally when she was a contestant on season 16 of Project Runway.
Marcus was recently awarded an art residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber arts as well as the Charles Allis Museum and numerous galleries across the country and art publications. Currently, Marcus is the creative director and co-curator for the Saint Kate Arts hotel in Milwaukee.