Last Friday evening, fiber and mixed media artist Melissa Maddonni Haims invited me to the opening of her new installation and performance piece at Old City Philadelphia’s 3rd Street Gallery. I was so honored to meet Ms. Haims in-person and freely discuss her creative process, which was first introduced on artdoesmatter last April, during Philadelphia’s city-wide FiberPhiladelphia biennial.
Offering is a site specific performance and installation piece that was conceived by Haims last summer of 2012, after the tragic passing of her childhood friend of twenty-six years, who was killed instantly by a drunk driver at only age thirty-nine. Haims was extremely forthcoming and moving as she recounted her experiences during this past year as she retraced the steps of her friend’s life, revisiting and photographing the places where her friend lived and worked. Haims has woven a montage of “stones” from crocheted yarn, meticulously created in memory of her friend; each piece is representational of how various cultures use stones as a marking tool to remember deceased loved ones, or as an actual marker of territory to find one’s way home from a journey.
To the direct right of the crocheted stones hangs a photo installation of twenty symmetrical images taken by Haims throughout the Philadelphia metro area as she retraced her friend’s steps and life adventures. As the artist explained to me that night, we see the home where the deceased grew up, the neighborhoods where she would run by day/night, the school where Haims and she met and tragically, the street sign that marks the road where her friend was tragically killed. The filters that naturally occur as part of the Instagram photography app seem to oddly compliment and add to the haunting quality of each individual photo, as the artist has further manipulated some images beyond the built-in filters to communicate her understandably distraught feelings with her viewers.
One of the topics that arose during my conversation with the artist revolved around this section of the gallery installation. Haims very openly and candidly admitted to feeling she should have possibly considered seeking out grief counseling to cope with her friend’s loss, but instead found herself in the midst of using the study of creative writing to sublimate her feelings of loss and sadness. I pointed out in our discussion that evening that her previous work used embroidered text – noticeably embroidered across her cascading fiber sculptures in various-colored thread; however, in this exhibition, Haims chose to silk-screen poetically – and even more noticeably – across the side wall of the gallery in stark black-and-white sans-serif typeface. Was this due to Haims subconsciously deciding that these poetic words were NOT to be glossed-over, as I discussed in my earlier post of her work that used a more passive form of Victorian-styled aggression in her embroidered texts. Haims may have chosen to more starkly silk-screen her poetic remembrances across the white gallery wall instead to openly show her own offering to celebrate and honor the memory of her beloved and close friend.
Melissa Maddonni Haims is one of two artists exhibiting this month along with fiber artist Carol Wisker at 3rd Street Gallery through June 2nd, located at 58 N. 2nd Street in downtown Philadelphia, PA.
(Images appear courtesy of the artist and 3rd Street Gallery, Philadelphia, PA.)