By Maryanne Pollock
My first creations were small and elaborate villages that I made for ants. On the Scottish side of my family I come from a line of creatives, architects and engineers… practically minded people. My Irish grandparents came over during the potato famine and I believe that lineage framed my conviction to stand up for the underdog and helps explain why my current project is important to me.
The project is an intergenerational art installation initiated by the University of Maryland and The Barrie School with an elder care facility located near the school called Winter Growth. The Barrie students and the seniors of Winter Growth are working with me to envision what a refuge means, to transform those understandings into drawings, and to print large panels of fabric that will be assembled into a tent structure. Our hope is to build awareness of global refugee-ism due to war, famine, poverty, and climate change, and to bridge some gaps between the “us” of the developed world and “them” in the underdeveloped world. We are all vulnerable in the world today.
Specifically, we are constructing an 8 foot square multi-faceted, printed, and painted tent. The tent represents our common human need for shelter, privacy, protection, and safety, as well as beauty and remembrance. The project will culminate in a community picnic on Barrie’s grounds, and during the picnic attendees can face-time with refugee children (here and abroad), support student-driven fundraising, and enjoy hands-on printmaking demonstrations. Hopefully we will realize an aspect of many childhood dreams, where the tent is a place for the imagination to run free.
I first envisioned a series of illuminated tents almost twenty years ago. I went to Egypt shortly after the end of my professional training, and lived and worked there for six years. Egypt was a crossroads and hotbed for international cultures, and I found a generosity of spirit and lively intellectual discourse. While I was there I travelled in the white desert, 60 miles from Libya, with a group of Bedouins. I was drawn to their collaborative and nomadic lifestyle, and something about the quieted voices in the night after long hours of feasting, singing, and dancing awakened childhood memories. I had always wanted to live in a hut or a tent somewhere in Africa and there I was actually living my dream. With the current project I’m trying to bring that feeling to Barrie, and Winter Growth.
As a teenager I used to skip school and take the train by myself to University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and spend hours studying in the octagonal shaped library there. I later studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest art school in America and the Tyler School of Art. As a youngster, every time I went to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, I dreamed of being an Egyptologist.
I’ve travelled a lot my whole life and have always had the practice of making small works on paper to capture the light and narratives of my journeys. Some of these studies are inspirations for the panels for the illuminated tent series I’m working on now.
I’ve been a full time abstract painter, printmaker, textile artist and art educator for years. By necessity I’ve made a practice of leaping, and learning to trust that the net would appear — or in this case, the tent.
About the Author
Maryanne Pollock is a graduate of Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and Rome, Italy. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and continued her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Corcoran College of Art and Design, and through graduate studies in painting at the American University. Pollock is an international, full-time artist and art educator with many years of teaching experience, including The Phillips Collection, DC Public Libraries, and DC Public Schools. She is represented by the Ralls Collection in Washington, DC; Galerie Mourlot and SkotoGallery in NYC, and Genoma Contemporary in Venice, Italy. The artist has lived and worked in her studio in an historic building in Adams Morgan, Washington, DC for the more than a decade.
This article was produced and published on in the arts magazine Bourgeon with the support of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities within a partnership between Day Eight and the Washington Project for the Arts in conjunction with WPA's Hothouse: ImPRINT exhbition that will take place May 7 – June 20, 2015 at the Capitol Skyline Hotel.
April 29, 2015