Artist Moira Bateman: Sustainable Silk Artworks

In two January shows, Bateman exhibits her abstract assemblages made from silk soaked in Minnesota’s waterways

Photos provided

By Way of Water (left), 84 by 60 inches and Watershed (right), 72 by 144 inches, Peace Silk, Wax, Thread, Lake bottom sediment stain, iron

“Minnesota is a very wet state!” artist Moira Bateman told in an interview about her work. “There’s up to 90,000 miles of shoreline around the lakes, wetlands, peatlands, rivers, and streams. Because water flows significantly out of and not into the state, it has been called ‘The center of the water universe of North America’ …. most certainly by a Minnesotan.” Water is an essential element of Bateman’s artwork, as she creates assemblages from waxed silk, stained with waterway sediments of Minnesota’s rivers, lakes, and bogs.

Her large-scale fiber works are on view in January during two exhibitions. Her McKnight Fiber Art Fellowship Exhibition, Etudes: Watersheds, Bogs, Kayaks is at the Textile Center in Minneapolis from Jan. 17 through Apr. 8, 2023 (Bateman is a 2022 McKnight Fiber Artist Fellow). She is also showing new work in a companion exhibition, Bog Etudes, at Form + Content Gallery in Minneapolis from Jan. 5 through Feb. 11, 2023.

“In all truth,” Bateman writes in her artist statement, “I didn’t begin my career with the intention of working as a textile/fiber artist; I began as an artist who worked with earth, plants, and land. I began my artistic work with land art and landscape architecture. My work centered on conversations with ideas of a place (site specific constructions), and work that enfolded materials such as dirt, wood, clay, and, importantly, plants as gardens, crops, or wild habitat. I sought to explore and describe concepts of wilderness and waterways—as well as ideas of toxicity inflected on the earth, mothering and nurturing, and growth and caretaking more broadly.”

Her abstract assemblages are made of silk cloth she’s soaked (for weeks, months, or years) in the waters, mud, and sediments of rivers, lakes, and bogs throughout Minnesota. She uses “peace silk,” which is fairly traded, sustainably sourced, and cruelty free—and the moths are not killed when they emerge from their cocoons.

“Sediments carried in the waters dye the silk and imbue the cloth with many types of startling markings,” she says. After she collects her material, she cuts it into shapes and places the shapes into patterns connected with wax “to preserve and transform the silk into skin-like, large-scale, cloth assemblages. As an abstractionist, my hope is that the organic shapes, earth colors, stains, and textures of my assemblages evoke a strong sense of place, as well as the movement and condition of water and time.”

Some of her pieces are flag-like in their declaration of time, nature, and materiality—reconstructed through a sustainable process that reflects what Bateman has captured of water. Others are almost immaterial because they’re so full of holes, held evocatively together through the thinnest of connections.

Meet Bateman during the Textile Center’s opening reception of her exhibition on Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 5 to 7 p.m. On Saturday, Jan. 28, from 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. at Form + Content, Bateman will be in conversation about her work with Dr. Irma Mayorga, a theater artist and scholar.

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