Amy Meissner


Artist Information for Amy Meissner

Hand stitching isn’t fast work. It’s a quiet skill that feels tenuous, lost in a contemporary context, slipping away like childhood, like domesticity, like safety beneath the weight of something handmade. I sew because I don’t know what it is to not sew, despite the connotation of “minor art” or “women’s work,” and it’s this expectation of what the hand-sewn form is — protective,
warm, decorative … the definition of the ideal domestic role — that compels me to push against it. I use abandoned cloth and old skills, relying on the traditional, beautiful handwork I was taught as a girl, then later as a professional seamstress, couching it within the painful, uncomfortable or frightening. My intent is to create thoughtful, arresting work, reliant on layers of narrative within the textile pieces themselves, yet resonating within the lens of history each viewer brings.

This is time-based work.

An act of slicing apart, then piecing oneself back together.

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Fatigue Threshold

Fatigue Threshold54” x 79”   Photo by Brian Adams

In the study of materials — iron, steel, wood, plastic — fatigue refers to a component’s failure after repeated and excessive loads. It is the crumpled beam, the snapped lever, the bowed wall. This piece explores the landscape of women’s work through the use of abandoned cloth, the female form and traditional handwork, to portray the moment before collapse. The burdens are emotional, physical, sexual, literal. We hoard, we discard, we mend, we make do because despite our destruction, some scrap of beauty can always be salvaged.

"Reliquary #8: Scroll"

"Reliquary #8: Scroll"3” x 325” installation dimensions variable   Photo by Brian Adams

“Reliquary #8: Scroll” is a piece from the on-going Reliquary Series, an exploration of found objects, history, memory and loss. This work is anchored by the remnants of two dock bollards found on an Alaskan beach, with the scroll form acting as a vessel for items embedded within its length — stones, shell, bone, abandoned embroidery and discarded cloth. It is a reliquary for the combined narrative of these objects,  a romance with the fragment, an act of revering and collecting the valueless.


Inheritance38” x 34”   Photo by Brian Adams

I’m drawn to abandoned textiles created by unknown women, and consider the mythology of these lives while navigating my own. It’s my intent to honor these previous needle workers by providing a contemporary platform for the narratives of their lives, connecting the inner landscapes of women past and present through the intimacy of cloth. Through variations on the quilt form, I explore the emotional residue of the domestic realm, using traditional sewing techniques taught to me as a young girl, then later as a seamstress in the garment industry. “Inheritance” considers the fears I have as a mother, daughter, granddaughter, and the things I possess and need to pass on to my children – tangible and intangible parts of myself and my history, my living questions and my own misunderstandings.

Acquisition of Language

Acquisition of Language72" x 48"   Photo by Brian Adams

When my young family began communicating through the language of pain — this hurts, now this hurts — I worried that our own complaints had taught our children how to speak this way. Had we learned this from our own parents? The script details every body part, every ache ever complained about in our home. The found objects represent mortality. The voice of the piece, the question, “Why do you say always that something hurts?” could be my children asking me, or me asking them, or me asking my parents or my husband. As I grow older, it’s what I have begun to ask myself.

Girl Story 2

Girl Story 235.25” x 35.25”   Photo by Brian Adams

Every woman holds a story of menarche; the way we are ushered into womanhood is a hasty and confusing business, generally uncelebrated, always practical, an often hoped-for sterility competing with the intensity and muck of the moment. Some are taught that if we scrub and rinse hard enough, we can achieve perfection, even if this means removing the most fragile layers — even if it means leaving a hole. Girl Story 2 was made when my daughter was 5, and explores our evolving relationship: “This is how it could be. Something beautiful.”