- Identity Tapestry
- Refuge of Leaves
- Between the Lines
- Digital Breadcrumbs (M.I.S.S.T.)
- Urban Pulse (SF)
- Cultural Fabric Breathes Still
- Write me for Art/ Do you Read me
- Do you read me? (digital mediation)
- Living Guestbook
- Binary Experience
- Primary Text
- Dream Blanket
Identity Tapestry is a Registered Trademark with Copyrighted material. Unauthorized copies are not permitted for public display.
Mixed Media Participatory Installation: Over 200 identity statements on laser-cut acrylic, over 200 individually dyed strands of yarn wrapped around stones, moldable acrylic, wood panel. There are 12 Iterations from 2008-2018. Dimensions vary.
The piece begins as a blank wall of statements that may be part of identity. Participants select a color of yarn to represent them and wrap it around each statement that identifies them. No statements contradict, some are simple and many are challenging. Intersections between people and patterns become apparent in the weaving. Each person leaves their yarn with its anchoring stone as a mark of their identity as a part of this complex Identity Tapestry which is itself a portrait of that particular group of people in that time and place.
There are now 12 iterations of Identity Tapestry shown in the following places:
#12 Marjorie Barrick Museum, Las Vegas, NV (2018)
#11 "Expressions of Identity: 40th Anniversary Exhibition, San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum
#10 Wer Bin Ich?, Vögele Kultur Zentrum, Pfäffikon, Switerland (2015)
#9 Principal, San Francisco (2014)
#8 Permanent Collection, Southern Vermont College (9/2013)
#7 Wisdom 2.0, San Francisco (2013)
#6 Reel Stories Film Festival, Pepperdine University, Malibu, (2013)
#5 Text: Message, Bleicher Gallery, LA (2012)
#4 You First, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Orange County (2011)
#3 Wide Open 2, BWAC, Brooklyn, (2011)
#2 Treasure Island Music Festival, San Francisco (2008)
#1 Alchemy, Cellspace, SF (2008)
Identity Tapestry was Awarded "Best Installation" by Nat Trotman (associate curator, Soloman Guggenheim, NYC) at the BWAC Wide Open2 show (2011) and an honorable mention in the London International Creative Competition (2010).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I copy this?
No. Identity Tapestry is an officially Registered Trademark and is Copyrighted (registration of various versions and images in process). Copying it without explicit permission would be a violation of those. This is my artwork, my intellectual property and my blood, sweat, and tears for years. If you want it in your space, contact me about a commission. Artists deserve to be recognised and compensated for their work and their ideas.
Making an unlicensed copy for an event, art shows, public display of any kind is not permitted.
I am working on a more robust kit for things like churches, hospitals, student groups etc., but it isn't easy. It took me two years to figure out how to have 200+ people do this and have it not fall apart or hide the labels after the first 30 for the fine art version. People trying to copy this with ordinary materials, other statements and obvious methods invariably end up with a broken mess which reflects badly on the piece and my work.
I’m a teacher. Can I do an “homage” version of Identity Tapestry in my classroom with my students?
Yes. Small versions for educational purposes inside a single classroom (with no fees for participation) are okay. I am currently working on creating a kit for classrooms.
This is on the conditions that:
1. It is in classroom only (not a school-wide or public event).
2. You attribute it as “Inspired by "Identity Tapestry” by artist Mary Corey March” both to the students and most especially on any online posts, articles or images, preferably with a link to this page.
How did you come up with this idea?
As a person who grew up between definitions, with friends and family who did as well, I was frustrated by how little things like census data say about who a person is.
I wanted something that reflected self identification, lived experience, loves, fears, hopes and so much more. I also wanted something that showed people their connections with each other, and which would show a group of people what they had in common.
Also, my mother is a cultural Anthropologist (one of Margret Mead’s PhD students) and my dad’s PhD is in Sociology. I grew up with discussions about the complexity of identity and I’ve always been fascinated by ways of expressing data and interviews.
How did you come up with the statements?
The statements are continually evolving. The most important things to me were that they would really include a broad range of people and that they would include rather than exclude. For example, I make sure that statements are never contradictory, like saying “I am straight”, “I am gay”, I am “bi/pan”. Instead multiple statements can tell that story without excluding: “I am a man” together with “I am attracted to men” would tell us “I am gay”, but by sharing statements rather than having statements that divide.
In choosing the original set of statements I looked at how people describe themselves in things like online profiles, but I also asked a lot of people a lot of questions, especially strangers. I went out of my way to think and talk to people as far out of my own social circles as I could to get new statement ideas. Statements like “I don’t like children” are the result. I also listened to people talking about the piece and what they wished was there during shows.
Another source of inspiration was psychology tests. One doesn’t ask “Are you an introvert?” in those tests. Instead you ask a series of questions about how a person feels in different social situations like in crowds or around strangers or in private.
New shows in new places or things which happened in the world invite new statements to emerge as well.
Lastly, phrasing the statements is very tricky. There is a small amount of space. I try to keep it simple, but powerful. I deliberately include things that could be interpreted in multiple ways. Wording is very important. It’s like writing a few hundred Haikus. Translating it all into German for the show in Switzerland really made that clear.
How do you decide the arrangement of the statements? Is it always the same?
It’s different every time, but how they are arranged is very intentional. I tend to start with statements around very basic identifiers that tend to come up in regular data samples: gender, race, culture, language, martial status, etc. but then it gets more personal. There are some ones that hit very hard, and they are usually at least halfway in, when someone is already in the flow of the process, committed. I try to keep those ones surrounded with positive or even some more lighthearted statements to soften them. The end tends to have statements that are more conclusions on reflection of the whole set, for example “I am fortunate” is always the farthest to the right. I even make some of them physically related to their meaning. “I love challenges” is always the hardest to reach, whereas “I am lonely” is isolated from the others at the bottom.
What is the basket?
The basket came about in the 4th iteration at the Orange County Contemporary Center for the Arts. While there were always bits of the end of the yarn dangling down like roots, they now had a nest/womb/cocoon form to spring from. It’s a beginning-of-life form.
What are the stones?
The stones give a physical sensation of weight to holding the yarn. It unconsciously makes people treat it more seriously. At the end they become like memorials to the life of each person- and end-of-life form.
Why did I run out of yarn? Can’t you make them longer?
I make a wide range of lengths, knowing that some will be too short. It is part of the piece, a reminder of mortality- no one knows how long they will have to express their life.