Mariah Anne Johnson How to Fold A Fitted Sheet

March 17, 2006 – April 29, 2006

Artist Statement

“My work with sheets grew out of my thinking about my mother’s efforts at maintaining aesthetic order in her home—even if the rest of the house is a wreck, she wants her linen closet to be beautiful when she opens the door. With my mother’s habits in mind, I began a couple of years ago to construct sculptural arrangements from bed linens, particularly sheets and pillowcases that I purchase from second-hand stores. I fold and pile these sheets on simple shelves or chairs, as well as on and around the significant or quirky architectural features of a space. I think of these folding and stacking activities as akin to creating paintings with brush and canvas. The interactions among color combinations, printed patterns, and folding systems become visually engrossing and reference abstractor minimalist paintings.

Because I am using these non-traditional materials that are so intimately connected with human bodies, the works are also infused with the memories and habits of their previous owners. But since these previous owners are strangers, there is no great-aunt or grandmother to tell me the story associated with the object. These histories are lost, so the sheets become material for pieced together, re-imagined histories, including the narrative of my own processes of folding, stacking, and layering. In the case of the particular pieces in this show at Lawndale, I have tucked my own memories of Houston in between the folds, linking my work to its current site.

Whether piled in the awkward corners of a room or layered on a shelf, the sheets are reminders of a variety of human activities: sleeping, dreaming, housekeeping, lovemaking, birthing, dying, etc. They offer us a glimpse into the linen closets of other people and other times and perhaps allow us to recall our own past experiences in the comforting confines of bed.”