My studio, Fairlee Forge, is now located in Chestertown, Maryland. Use the contact form for a private studio visit by appointment. I’m also open during Studio Tour, sponsored annually by RiverArtsChestertown every fall. https://community.chestertownriverarts.org/
My work is a forged synthesis of life experiences and playful inquiry, visual and scientific research with poetic metaphor. I make sculpture and functional objects, primarily from cast or fabricated metal hardware and found objects. Images and forms are discovered in the physical act of making: bending, building, connecting, stacking and welding. In the studio I’m guided by memory and research notes, vivid experiences as a school-age child articulating a canine skeleton or assembling balsa-wood airplanes; or employed as a nurse, binding wounds and applying pulleys and weights to broken limbs. This world of invention is the conduit of connection with the viewers’ own imagination: surreal, mechanistic bodies or cosmic catastrophe. If a handle or turning mechanism is present, the viewer can initiate the movement and the meaning of the work. The pieces are intended to energize space yet remain ambiguous. Recognition is contingent and uncertain, but through visual quotation, discovery, and delight-in-making comes a sense of awe, of “being” in the world.
For this site, I created an artists’ daybook, a diary of women artists I want to celebrate and track. These excerpts are only quick studies. I’ll add links to their exhibits or pages for further examination.
I grew up in Detroit, Michigan during its post-war heyday but mostly its declining years. One of my most vivid memories was a visit to a Ford steel manufacturing plant on the Rouge River. From a catwalk high above the factory floor, rivers of molten metal were transformed into miles of steel plate, material that would help to build the engines of prosperity for a nation. I attended Cass Technical High School as an “Art and Science” major, a fully integrated school that offered technical and college prep courses. Shortly after leaving Detroit for California, the city was irreparably altered by the infamous “Detroit Riots.”
In the midst of confusing times, rapid changes in cultural norms, gender and racial expectations, and political platforms, every aspect of modern life was undergoing massive transformation. I moved to San Francisco late 1960’s, a city in the midst of a radical upheaval where I participated directly in the new rising social order. Despite the change and challenges, a young girl must still grow up and learn to make the conscious choices needed to make a life. To cope with the chaos of my young adulthood, I enrolled in nursing school and obtained a nursing degree from Harbor College in San Pedro, California in 1975. The hard won stability of steady professional work allowed me to pursue my longing to be an artist. In 1977 I met my future husband and moved to Baltimore where I earned a BFA in painting from Maryland Institute College of Art 1981. After raising two children I returned to academic studies to obtain an MFA in sculpture from University of Maryland College Park, 2002. This was the golden opportunity to mine past experiences and memories, launching a journey of self-discovery and revelation as an artist in full, armed with new techniques with which to articulate my conflicted world. Two bodies of work: “Fantasy of Ability”, and “Hippocrates Promise” were heavily influenced by my experiences as a nurse, as are a series of polymer prints.
I was a semi-finalist for the Trawick Prize, 2006, sponsored by the Bethesda Arts and Promotion, and the Sondheim Prize in Baltimore Md. Major exhibitions include Beim Handelsmuseum, Bremen, Germany, the International Sculpture Center in Hamilton NJ, Loveland Museum in Loveland, CO, Adkins Arboretum and the Evergreen Museum in Baltimore. My work has been featured most recently in Striking Women: Mild as Steel, by Latifa Sayadi, 2013, published internationally, as well as American Craft Magazine, Sculpture Magazine, The Anvils Ring, The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Magazine, and Bmoreart.blogspot.com. Curatorial projects include Go West, 2011 and more recently was invited to curate “A Cause for Optimism/ Centers for Creative Energy” an exhibition of prints from 7 regional academic institutions, York Arts, York Pa, 2014. My most recent solo exhibition titled “SKEPSIS” was seen at the Rice Gallery, McDaniel College, 2015.
I’m a practitioner of the metal and plastic arts, a designer, a printmaker and occasional curator. Before Covid I was working on a commission for an outdoor sculpture made of steel and glass designed to turn in the wind. I finally developed a functional prototype and I’m excited to share my research with visitors to my studio. I also collaborated with a colleague, Mimi Frank, to create outdoor work for the DC Department of Transportation, a commission titled ALPHABET ANIMALS on Capitol Hill. This was a fun lighthearted collaboration, an installation by multiple artists for children and adults alike. My ideas reveal themselves through the process of investigation, invention and imagination, so the gas forge, welding equipment and simple hand tools are what I use to render found objects, steel and mixed media into structures, novel forms and animated relationships. I’m inspired by surreal or mechanistic bodies and structures in the natural world, especially cosmic catastrophes. I use surfaces, planes, and primitive mechanisms to energize space but still the viewers’ recognition may be contingent and uncertain. Through visual quotation comes discovery, delight-in-making, and a sense of awe, of “being” in the world. My shop is open by appointment, and during the annual Studio Tour sponsored by RiverArts: FairleeForge Studio, founded in Chestertown, 2011.
Photo credit above: Peter C. Gilleran