THERE’S SOMETHING WONDERFULLY WHOLESOME ABOUT KNITTING and works with textiles. But Marcia Widenor takes the medium to much higher levels. She’s trying to create a sense of quiet as an antidote to the harshness in the world.
Widenor’s life as an artist began by studying with Don Stewart, a printmaker for Jasper Johns, to create ghost prints like her “Sails” series. The works are visually delicate, the colors are so wispy and light, they’re virtually floating on their planes. But to call them fragile would be a mistake. They are confident and own their place.
The stylistic signature she developed with the prints carried forward with her as she advanced her techniques, particularly in tactile crafts. Widenor has taken courses in printmaking, carpentry, welding and papermaking to broaden the available medium from which she can make various “homes” or moments of reprieve.
For Widenor the appeal of working with cloth was the patterns, which is what led her to knitting. “I’m able to take an idea in my head and transform it into a three-dimensional thing. People make up their own stories about the work….[But] you get the idea and then the materials take over and it isn’t that you’re thinking the whole time about the idea. You become enamored of your materials.”
Her first solo show, at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, was a springboard. Her statement from the exhibit focuses on the literal thread she’s weaving even today. “A length of linen cloth from a Pharaoh’s tomb, the linen bed sheets of my great-grandmother, a sheet of tough, translucent flax paper made in a New York City loft and a curtain of hand-spun flax string are all related. They come directly from organic materials. The picture formed in the mind’s eye gradually becomes a place, an enterable sculpture, a tent, a shelter, a hollow tree or cupboard. The installations emerge…from a yearning for safety and calm. The world is not safe or calm anymore.”
“After the Tsunami” was knit for an installation at the Tenri Cultural Institute in Manhattan and Widenor dyed it blue and gray to suit the somber mood. Trees are another constant for the artist. In 2000 her first “Ghost Elms” were installed at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art (Snug Harbor). They are gentle giants, more than 10-12’ tall, that make the viewer think about nature, space, perspective, a breath of life, everything. They’re fully realized despite being constructed of ethereal mesh, possibly typifying everything Widenor’s work stands for.
It’s a quiet occupation for Widenor. She likes that. And just as her works are easily mobile they transcend various applications. Sometimes she’ll build a sanctuary for the viewer to step into for a brief respite. And sometimes, it’s just about stepping back and beholding the shapes in a moment of contemplation.