3 Questions Digital Series

Marilyn Henrion

An interview from Art in Embassies 3 Questions Digital Series with Marilyn Henrion, who speaks about her creative process and artwork at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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Full Transcript

I’m Marilyn Henrion, I’m an artist who does work in fiber.

I was born in New York city and have lived here all my life, I travel and my inspiration comes both from my New York urban environment and my travels to other cities and parts of the world.

Architecture and man made structures interest me more than anything because they are what artist leave behind when they are no longer here and I like to document that and I like to be in the presence of that, and I like to highlight even the most mundane images like a door step or a subway entrance, as well as iconic buildings like the Woolworth building or Grant’s tomb, but also the very plain things that you’d pass by on the street and never notice, there is beauty in all of that and I really deeply love my city, I love New York and when I go elsewhere I always wanting to be in urban environments.

I work in fiber and I hand quilt my works and working with the hand is very important to me as it’s a statement of the imperfection of the human hand that machines can never capture. My grandfather who emigrated as a 12 year old, I think he ran away from home in Eastern Europe, he came to New York, he taught my mother to sew and my mother sewed everything, she taught me to sew, and the interesting thing about that is that my mother had to leave school at the end of 8th grade to work in a garment factory to help support the family, she came from a large family on the lower east side, and she was working at the very young age doing piece work, and now piecework is paid by time, so for her, speed was very important so when she taught me to sew, she didn’t understand how slow, was not good, and fast was always the object and I hated to sew when I was a kid because of that, because I am not a fast person, I am a slow meditative person and so I never liked to sew until I started doing my own work and then I realized the meditative quality of sewing, of handwork like that and that’s part of the joy of creating these things, is the actual making of them and the slowness of them is like being suspended in time, so, yeah, sewing I learned from her but it was not the kind of sewing that I wanted to learn.

It starts with my camera when I am walking around, and take pictures right I come home and I look at them, in the computer, some of them have possibilities and some of them don’t. I have to choose from among the pictures that I have, which ones I am gonna work with and then I start manipulating the image once I start and even there, at some point during the manipulation I may give up and say this doesn’t have the potential I thought it had. So those are rejected, so then what do I manipulate, how do I manipulate do I want to change the colors do I want to change the scale, do I want to change the perspective you know all of those decisions go into that part of creating image. And then the next thing is printing the image. I have these images printed on fabric and I would say out of about every ten images that I have printed, I will reject maybe seven. You know the work that will go into it is not worth doing unless I’m really, you know, think that image has the potential. When I see them to scale, and I see the printing, the colors everything, sometimes it just doesn’t work and sometimes it does. You know, there’s a lot of points in the process that take time, then of course once I this I am going to make into a quilt work, then comes the basting, I would say takes me maybe an hour or two and then the ah quilting part. I would say probably for a piece that is maybe 18×24 might be two weeks. of full time work, full time, and I really mean full time I am in my studio non stop all day, sometimes till 3 in the morning! However, at age 89 I am still very very productive and you know, it seems to accelerate the older I get. I am addicted, so that’s the danger.