Sculpture Magazine | Artist mary Mattingly - marymattinglystudio

Sculpture Magazine | Artist mary Mattingly

Mary Mattingly by Jan Garden Castro

Sculpture Magazine

"For artist Mary Mattingly, art is about life and survival. Her interlinked earth-, water-, food-, and community-centered projects attune us to the planet’s basic rhythms and needs (as well as our own), helping us to understand the complex ecosystems that sustain us. In addition to photography, performance, wearable art, and portable architecture focused on behavioral and adaptive strategies in the face of climate change, she creates self-sufficient sculptural systems that poetically interpret and functionally re-create natural ecosystems.
“Ebb of a Spring Tide,” Mattingly’s recent exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York, featured one such system—a living Water Clock rising from the “ruins” of a leaking, overgrown building. Through the flow of saltwater around and through its maze-like infrastructure, this alternative clock marked time in natural cycles while nourishing a foraging garden of edible plants.
With the support of a 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship, Mattingly is currently working on the latest “proposal” in her series of large-scale, nomadic, collaborative ecosystems, which began with Waterpod (2009), a self-sufficient “eco-habitat” and experiment in urban sustainability. The new work, Shoal, will be an expanded version of Swale, a floating public commons and edible landscape on a reclaimed barge that first appeared in New York City’s public waterways in 2016. Shoal is planned as a “permanent and accessible food forest” that will begin serving Brooklyn and Queens in the summer of 2024.


Jan Garden Castro: How did you learn to do what you do?
Artist Mary Mattingly: I’ve always considered water, food, and home to be my crucial investigations. I grew up outside of New York City and had a mixed relationship with water—between caution/concern and appreciation. The water there was contaminated with agricultural runoff, which made me aware of the negative impact that farming practices could have on drinking water and human health.
Water was my first subject, and having an ecological focus that responded to a place and encompassed home wasn’t a choice, but probably more of a fundamental part of how I perceive living in the world. So, I developed a particular methodology—I began making sculptures that were wearable and cleaned water, and I would bring them to the desert near where I lived in Oregon and test them as habitats. They got better over time. I photographed the sculptures and then started to combine them with performance. Following that, the sculptures became larger. Sometimes I prioritize interaction between people, and the sculpture becomes a platform for interaction, but it always begins with materials specific to the place and the materials’ past life...." download the full interview. Click here to download a PDF
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