Meaning maker CoverArtist: Mimi Holmes' artwork is fiber-rich, inventive and full of stories
Indigo Girl Listens to her Dreams (above) and Self-Portrait as a Middle-Aged Artist (middle) by artist Mimi Holmes
by Norma Smith Olson
Quilting, beadwork, embroidery, crocheting, weaving, potholders, found objects, compost, trash, tar and performance art ... June's cover artist, Mimi Holmes, works in a variety of mediums.
"Working with fibers has been my main artwork," she said. "It's familiar and comforting." Holmes learned to crochet from her grandmother at a very young age. "Gram" taught her how to weave potholders. Her first quilt was made from 158 woven potholders when she was in the 5th grade. "It was really heavy," she said.
Art with meaning Making art every day is her mantra. The work she is most proud of is a quilt made for her grandmother's burial. "I ended up making a quilt to prepare me for her death." The quilt was intended to wrap around her grandmother in the coffin, to keep her warm, and to help her compost.
"I called it 'Quilt for the Death of One I Love(d)' but its nickname is 'The Compost Quilt.' It's stuffed with compostables that I dried really well, like banana skins and orange rinds and egg shells." The quilt has little hands cut out of leather and little squares that Holmes tucked notes in about how much she loved her grandmother and memories of things they had done together.
When her grandmother died she was cremated, so Holmes is the keeper of the quilt. "It's just a lovely piece and did really well in the art world, getting into books and things," Holmes said. "It's really art connected to life and to the people you love. My gram was really honored by it and I really think it's my best artwork."
Art helps Holmes make sense of things. Her artwork is full of meaning. "I grew up with a southern mom. There were all of these restrictions about how you were supposed to act." And, because she grew up without any organized religion she thinks of her art as making her own world mythology. "I think I'm the kind of person who needs to understand the reason behind something," she said.
Indigo Girl dreams The cover artwork, "Indigo Girl Listens to Her Dreams," is made of a variety of fabrics, pieced together and enhanced with embroidery and beadwork. "Somebody gave me all those little fleece snippets" from which her wild purple hair is made. "I must have held onto them for 10 or 15 years," Holmes said. "I finally found a use for them with Indigo Girl."
Indigo Girl's face is divided with a profile looking towards the eye. "To me, it's about being quiet, inward, seeking out that still, small voice within, to know what you should be doing," Holmes said. "She realizes that if she just follows those dreams she's really going to do good."
Self-portraits Indigo Girl is one of many self-portraits that Holmes has made. When she was in graduate school at Florida State University, Tallahassee, she hadn't considered herself an artist because she didn't think she could draw very well. A fellow student told her it's easy to draw if you just set up a still life and draw it every day. "'In a month you'll be able to draw,' he said."
Holmes' "still life" was herself. "I decided to draw myself every day, and he was right, in a month I could draw really very well. I kept drawing myself every day for over 10 y
When she turned 50 a few years ago she made 50 self-portraits. Some were of fabric or beads, some were made from found objects. "When I go for walks in my neighborhood I pick up the trash. I took a week's worth of trash and made a 'Trash-collecting Mimi.'"
Doing the 50 self-portraits made her try new things. "Not all of them were successful, but it allowed me to try new things without it being so scary. Sometimes, no matter how inventive you try to be, you get into little ruts. You know how to do something well and it's really easy to rely on that," Holmes said.
There's a pattern, too, about her art-making cycles. When she turned 40 she made 40 dolls. "I haven't decided what to do for 60 yet."