Artist Mary Louise Geering in Conversation with Noah Becker

Mary Louise Geering, Ham, wood, glue, found objects, 8 x 12 x 15, 1989

, NOV. 2017

Mary Louise Geering spoke with me recently. She has a show on at happylucky no.1 gallery in Crown Heights Brooklyn. 

Noah Becker: Was your childhood a creative one? 

Mary Louise Geering: Yes, my childhood environment was very creative. My 93 y/o father is a retired research scientist, and also plays piano, built furniture, did trigonometry for fun and started painting after he saw the Jackson Pollock movie. My mother sang in a choir and was a terrific seamstress and cook.

STRAP-ON DEVILED EGG 4, 5 in x 19 in x 45 in, rubber, plaster, gouache, leather, 1990

Becker: Amazing story! Now I'm curious, tell me how your works are made?

Geering: The geotex series was designed with textile computer software, transferred to paper and then meticulously painted in gouache. I spent the last thirty-odd years working in the garment district as a textile designer while concurrently pursuing my sculpture and paintings.

Becker: Do you consider the paintings as trompe l' oeil or readymades? 

Geering: I find these paintings both dadaist and trompe l’oeil.

Becker: I love the texture in your work, the woven aspect. 

Geering: The Denim Appliance series combines silhouettes of some of my sculptures with hand-painted simulated denim along with painted images of juvenile fashion embroideries, rhinestones and patches some of which I encountered while working at at young girls clothing company. As silhouettes, the sculptures read as odd organic shapes attached to recognizable tools and functional appendages. The surface patterning of twill denim and the fashion elements add another layer of context to the hybridity of the silhouettes. These paintings reflect a kind of anti-beauty and inconsistency in modern life.

Natural False, 9 5 in x 3 in x 3 in, mixed media, 1991

Becker: Are you reading anything or watching films that influence you?

Geering: I most enjoy reading about science and scientific research, watching nature documentaries, and films that are intense dramas. I also play the violin and am continuously fascinated by the mathematical structure of music and in particular the sound architecture of the violin.

Becker: Your color sense is very advanced, how do you think about color?

Geering: My interest in matching colors came very early on as I remember being about four years old and begging my father to let me pour the cream in his coffee so I could see the color change. He replied, “OK, but I want you to make it the color of that door”, which I was thrilled about doing. In textiles color must be matched exactly for approvals. I’ve used this ability on countless occasions with my work matching the colors of meat, eggs and flesh and denim to name a few. The rhinestone paintings are matched to photos I took of the actual objects both by using enlarged printouts and/or looking at the photo on my cell phone.

Natural Tool, meat, screwdriver handle, pinecones, velcro, silicon, wood, 1990

Becker: Who are your mentors?

Geering: In terms of mentors, I would say that the sculpture of Eva Hesse was my first passion when I was about nineteen years old. At that time, my art teacher in college lent me the book written about her by Lucy Lippard. It became my bible. I was also hooked on Lippard’s book “From the Center”. I do feel however, that I really march to my own drum, although I love the work of Martin Kippenberger and much of Marcal Broodthaers and Ree Morton.

Becker: Do you work in smaller series or ongoing series of works?

Geering: I generally work on a series for a chunk of time, although I am also constantly juggling, as I often need time to resolve technical issues – both in sculpture and paintings. I may be experimenting with other mediums for the next project to test things out while working on a series that is up and running without any glitches. Although the works may be in different mediums, I feel there is a thread connecting it all in the form of repetition, juxtaposition of seemingly incongruous forms as well as using expanded scale as a means to abstract the idea. The works in this exhibition span from 2004-2017, so there is a range of my vision. Overall, using techniques that I may have learned thirty years ago (like airbrushing or soldering or casting or matching color) and constantly learning new techniques using new materials (like rice and magic-sculpt and glass) keeps me engaged and keeps the work fresh for me, but still intensely personal.

RED ROSE, 20 in x 26 in, gouache on paper, 2004

Becker: They are based on found objects?

Geering: The crocheted butterflies were not made by me, but found in the garment district as 1” embellishments for a young girl’s hat or dress. I scanned the object, enlarged it on the computer, reduced the colors with textile software, traced the image and painted it in gouache.

Becker: Your 2-D work is very sculptural. 

RHINESTONE BUTTERFLY, 20 in x 26 in, gouache on paper, 2004

Geering: Yes, my primary focus has been sculpture, but I also make paintings and this exhibition is entirely of the two-dimensional works.

Becker: What's next for you?

Geering: Going forward, I would like to continue the intensity I have had in my studio practice for the last six months. I received a Gottlieb grant in 2015 and sat on the money until I knew I was having this solo show. I would like to exhibit my work more often and have an opportunity to have another exhibition focusing on my sculpture. I would also like to expand on my nascent project of incorporating the sound of the violin into my objects in the form of video. 

Denim and Diamonds is on view until November 12, at happylucky no.1, 734 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn. WM


Noah Becker

Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023. 


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