Michelle Stuart - photo by Ruth Fremson, NY Times

Michelle Stuart

United States 1938

Installation, Sculpture, Environmental Art, Land Art


Michelle Stuart
Michelle Stuart
United States
July 21, 2015
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

Michelle Stuart is an American artist multidisciplinary artist best known for her sculpture and painting in Environmental art.

Stuart Pioneering Organic Mediums in Art

Michelle Stuart was born in Los Angeles, California in the 30s. She studied in Mexico, France, and New York at The New School for Social Research. Stuart was one of the first artists to pioneer the use of organic mediums such as earth, wax, seeds, and plants to the vertical surface experience. With her art, she has created complex, multifaceted investigations of the relationship between nature and culture.

For more than four decades she ranged in scale from monumental earthworks to intimate talismanic sculptures.

Michelle Stuart - Earth Diptych from 1969 made out of earth, structolite and wood
Michelle Stuart – Earth Diptych from 1969 made out of earth, structolite and wood

Scrolls – Earth Rubbings

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Stuart’s experiments with alternative mediums resulted with so called scrolls – earth rubbings which are created through a process of smashing, pulverizing, rubbing and imprinting soil and rock into sheets of scroll-like paper. These luminous monochromatic drawings brought Land art to the galleries, expanding the Minimalist vocabulary to include nontraditional materials. She gathered her materials on places like Sayreville, the Mesa Verde, or the Honduran Mayan archaeological site of Copán – and what she did is exploring the elements inherent to that specific location just to displace them in a translated artistic form within the gallery or museum context.

Michelle Stuart - Niagara Gorge Path Relocated, 1975
Michelle Stuart – Niagara Gorge Path Relocated, 1975

Stuart called this “drawings in the landscape”, like in Niagara Gorge Path Relocated from 1975 or Stone Alignments/Solstice Cairns from 1979, she positioned 3,400 boulders in a linear configuration which indicated the rise and fall of the sun at its summer solstice.

Michelle Stuart and Women’s Movement

In the 70s, Stuart was very active in the development of the Women’s Movement – she participated in gatherings of female art professionals in New York City. She was a part of Heresies, a feminist publication devoted to art, politics and history and she also helped create the Women’s Art Registry in New York, a grassroots method of disseminating information about under recognized female artists.

Cover of Heresies, A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, number 7, 1977
Cover of Heresies, A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, number 7, 1977

Throughout the 1980s, Stuart created a series of large gridded paintings, introducing beeswax, seashells, blossoms, leaves and sand imbedded in an encaustic surface with a system that promotes a non-hierarchical world of composition – it allows perception to oscillate between the fragment and the whole.

Ashes in Arcadia

Stuart also experimented with multi-media installations with light and sound elements. Ashes in Arcadia from 1988, was a monumental encaustic relief painting, with earth, fossils, books, rocks, plants, glass, metal, refuse, ashes and the haunting sounds of a humpback whale. This work expressed Stuart’s discontent with America’s irresponsible treatment of its own nature and culture as well.

Michelle Stuart - Ashes of Arcadia, 1988
Michelle Stuart – Ashes of Arcadia, 1988

That was the breaking point for Stuart to extend her meditation on the vulnerability and endurance of nature. Series Extinct from 1993 was inspired by a Victorian album of leaves carefully and lovingly preserved until today. She contemplated that old fashioned effort in contrast with a modern world of consumption.

Rock Book series

Stuart shared her skill for writing words throughout her entire career – back in the 70s; she began to create the Rock Book series, artworks about her experience with a use of natural materials from specific sites. These writing could be easily considered alternative travel logs. Besides that, all through her work elements of language could be found in the form of fragments of texts, petro glyphs, postcards, logbooks and maps.

Michelle Stuart - Book of the Stone, 1984-85, earth from Machu Picchu
Michelle Stuart – Book of the Stone, 1984-85, earth from Machu Picchu

Stuart’s work can be found in museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center Minneapolis, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the National Gallery of Art, Canberra, Australia.

Stuart was a resident at the American Academy in Rome. Among the grants that she has received are John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1975); four National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants (1975, 1977, 1980, 1989), two New York Foundation for the Arts grants, and a Ford Foundation grant. She is an Academician of the National Academy.

Michelle Stuart currently lives and works in New York City, Amagansett, and Carpenteria, California.

Featured image: Michelle Stuart, photo by Ruth Fremson, NY Times
All images copyright © the artist

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015Tracing Memory Selected Works 1969 to 2015Parafin, LondonSolo
2014Silent MoviesLeslie Tonkonow Artworks + ProjectsSolo
2014The Radical Redefinition of Drawing, Works from 1969 to 1979Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, Art Basel, MiamiSolo
2014Michelle Stuart, Early DrawingsAnthony SlayterSolo
2013Drawn from NatureDjanogly Art GallerySolo
2012PalimpsestsLeslie Tonkonow Artworks, New York, NYSolo
2012Ends of the Earth, Art of the Land to 1974The Museum of Contemporary ArtSolo
2011Works from the 1960s to the PresentLeslie Tonkonow Artworks & ProjectsSolo
2007Butterflies & MothsJudy Ann Goldman Fine Art, Boston, MASolo
2006Aurelian VariationsThe Drawing Room, East Hampton, NYSolo
2002Silent FieldsArt Sites, NYSolo
2002OrbsGallery at Dieu Donne Papermill, NYSolo
2000Michelle StuartLocus Gallery, St Louis, MOSolo
1999Passages and NavigationsJohn Weber Gallery, Solo
1999Frog Pond,Quartet EditionsDiane Villani Editions, NYSolo
1998The Heart of the MatterSoutheastern Center for Contemporary Art, WinstonSolo
1998Michelle StuartGlenn Horowitz, East Hampton, NYSolo
1997Natural HistoriesJohn Weber Gallery, New York CitySolo
1996Michelle StuartBellas Artes, Santa Fe, NMSolo
1995Botanica, Sculpture, Objects & DrawingsAnders Tornberg, Lund, SwedenSolo
1994Recent Objects, Wall Works, DrawingsFawbush Gallery, New York CitySolo
1993Michelle StuartBellas Artes, Santa Fe, NMSolo
1992Derelict TractsAn Observatory, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara ,CASolo
1992The ElementsFawbush Gallery, New York CitySolo
1991Michelle StuartB.R. Kornblatt Gallery, Washington D.C.Solo
1989Michelle StuartFawbush Gallery, New York CitySolo
1989Michelle StuartGalerie Marie Louise Wirth, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
1989Paintings, Books & PrintsB.R. Kornblatt Gallery, Washington D.C.Solo
1989The Architecture of NatureSan Antonio Art Institute, TXSolo
1989Small SculptureArt Gallery, College of Wooster, Wooster, OHSolo
1988Silent Gardens, The American LandscapeRose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MASolo
1988PaintingsMax Protetch Gallery, New York CitySolo
1988New WorkvanStraaten Gallery, ChicagoSolo
1988Michelle StuartB.R. Kornblatt Gallery, Washington D.C.Solo
1987Michelle StuartGalerie Ueda Ginza, Tokyo, JapanSolo
1987Michelle StuartGalerie Aronowitsch, StockholmSolo
1987Navigating Coincidence, Paintings, Prints, SculptureGalleriet, Lund, SwedenSolo
1987Michelle StuartGalerie Thorden Wetterling, Gotteborg, SwedenSolo
1987Michelle StuartToni Birckhead Gallery, Cincinnati, OHSolo
1986Michelle StuartThe Arts Club of ChicagoSolo
1986Paradisi, A Garden MuralThe Grand Lobby, The Brooklyn Museum, NYSolo
1986Michelle StuartMax Protetch Gallery, New York CitySolo
1986Michelle StuartSaxon Lee Gallery, Los AngelesSolo
1985VoyagesHillwood Art Gallery, C.W. PostSolo
1984Sacred Precincts, From Dreamtime to the South China Sea, including Nantucket ExcavationNeuberger Museum, State University of New YorkSolo
1983Michelle StuartGalerie Ueda Warehouse and Ginza, TokyoSolo
1983Michelle StuartGalerie Krista Mikkola, Helsinki, FinlandSolo
1983Place and TimeWalker Art Center, MinneapolisSolo
1983M.SHaags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The NetherlandsSolo
1982Michelle StuartGalerie Schmela, DusseldorfSolo
1982Michelle StuartSusan Caldwell Gallery, New York CitySolo
1981Michelle StuartGalerie Tanit, MunichSolo
1979DrollKolbert Gallery, New York CitySolo
1979Michelle StuartGalerie Schmela, DusseldorfSolo
1979Michelle StuartFoster White Gallery, SeattleSolo
1979Michelle StuardInstitute of Contemporary Art , LondonSolo
1979Michelle StuartEhrensperger Gallery, ZurichSolo
1979Michelle StuartJanus Gallery, Los AngelesSolo
1978Michelle StuartCentre d'Arts Plastiques Contemporaines de Bordeaux, FranceSolo
1978Michelle StuartFine Arts Gallery, Wright State University, Dayton, OHSolo
1978Michelle StuartGalerie Farideh Cadot, ParisSolo
1978Michelle StuartZolla Lieberman Gallery, ChicagoSolo
1977Michelle StuartGalerie Munro, HamburgSolo
1977Michelle StuartGalerie Schmela, DusseldorfSolo
1977Michelle StuartMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MASolo
1977Michelle StuartWilliams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MASolo
1976Michelle StuartGalerie Schmela, DusseldorfSolo
1976Michelle StuartGalerie Farideh Cadot, ParisSolo
1976Michelle StuartMax Hutchinson Gallery, New York CitySolo
1976Michelle StuartGallery of Fine Arts, State University of New York at StonybrookSolo
1976Michelle StuartZolla Lieberman Gallery, ChicagoSolo
1975Michelle StuartMax Hutchinson Gallery, New York CitySolo
1975Michelle StuartFine Arts Center, State University of New York at Oneonta, NYSolo
1974Michelle StuartMax Hutchinson Gallery, New York CitySolo
1974Michelle StuartGalerie Schmela, DusseldorfSolo
1973Michelle StuartDouglas College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJSolo
1973Michelle StuartWindham College Art Gallery, Windham College, Putney, VTSolo