Blue Reed

Mary Merkel-Hess, American, born 1949

Made in Iowa City, Iowa, United States, North and Central America


Paper, reed

18 x 36 1/2 x 10 inches (45.7 x 92.7 x 25.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by The Women’s Committee and the Craft Show Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1998

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Blue Reed is intricately connected to the simplicity and austerity of the Midwestern landscape. Taking visual cues from the natural world, Mary Merkel-Hess makes art because she is fascinated by form and structure. “I like grasses growing tightly in a ditch. . . . I look for details that evoke the whole.” Paper, the artist’s chosen material, enables Merkel-Hess to make large objects, such as Blue Reed, in a swift and fluid process. Her work is firmly rooted in basket making, but functionality is not the goal. Blue Reed sends the message that a basket presents in terms of shape, recalling our daily existence. But in recreating textures found in nature, it becomes a spiritual vessel for meditation and contemplation.