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Craft in America


Working with wood, glass and fiber as well as new materials, the artists profiled in NATURE challenge viewers to reassess their relationship to the natural world. Throughout history, the colors, textures, shapes, as well as scents and tastes of the physical world have inspired artists to produce works of astonishing dimension and power.

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Patrick Dougherty sculptor, whirling, architectural “stickworks” Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, Nature
Patrick Dougherty sculptor


Combining carpentry skills with his love of nature, Patrick Dougherty began to learn about primitive techniques of building and to experiment with tree saplings as construction material. From there, his work evolved into monumental scale environmental works which required saplings by the truckloads. Over the last thirty years, he has built over 250 of these works.


Michelle Holzapfel, Wood, nature episode

Michelle Holzapfel uses the materials, tools and techniques of woodworking to render images from daily life: textile, plant, animal and human forms. This vocabulary emphasizes the tactile possibilities of wood: from smoothly pleated forms and carved basketweave motifs to corduroy-textured surfaces.


Fiber artist Mary Merkel-Hess was born and raised in Iowa where the landscape is dominated by fields of grass and corn. Her sculptural vessels and wall pieces, which she refers to as “landscape reports” are inspired by these natural surroundings. Using paper, reeds and other materials, Merkel-Hess’ work conjures images of slender grasses and cultivated fields, shaped and tamed like Iowa’s landscape.


Preston Singletary glassblowing

Preston Singletary’s glass work incorporates many layering and etching techniques he invented, creating stunning glass forms embellished with Tlingit imagery. His practice and work continue to evolve, connecting his personal cultural perspective to modern art movements.


Catherine Alice Michaelis launched May Day Press on May 1st, 1992. Michaelis researches and collects plants to write stories for her artist books. By bringing image and text together through needle and thread, she highlights sewing in much of her work.