The Art of Now
The Dixon pulls out all the stops for this one-of-a-kind show.
(page 5 of 8)
While studying art at Appalachian State University, this North Carolina native had a show called “The Vessel Experience.” Mary Catherine Floyd smiles recalling how she and a good friend constructed vessels out of everything from hog-gut and wire to extension cords. So it’s not surprising that more than a decade later, her piece for “Present Tense” is called Vessel II, made entirely of stitched steel “cloth” and combining her early interest in fiber arts (in which she earned her MFA) and her current love of metalwork.
“Vessels let you experiment with different techniques,” says Floyd. “Even if one goes terribly wrong, you still have something to give your grandma and she can store her do-dads in it.” Speaking of grandmothers, Floyd credits hers for an early interest in sewing: “She made clothes for me and my dolls.” And her mother gets kudos for exposing her daughter to every form of self-expression, from singing and acting, to art and puppet-making classes.
Floyd learned metalsmithing under the late Charlie McKinney in Bucyrus, Missouri. Thrust into the architectural blacksmithing work as his assistant, she fell in love with the craft. “Building something big and structural is very empowering,” says Floyd, “and it was completely different than working fibers.” Through McKinney and his wife Marian, she was introduced to the Metal Museum in Memphis, and it was there she developed the technique of metal stitching apparent in Vessel II. Floyd was a resident artist at the museum from 2008 to 2011.
Now she lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she has a small downtown studio and her own jewelry production line, Color Block Jewelry. But what really challenges her is “prototyping work.” One such job she recently completed features bike racks in the shape of a cow, a chicken, and a fox. “They were for three establishments in one building,” she explains, “a burger place, a chicken and waffles place, and Fox’s liquor bar.” As a Habitat for Humanity project, she fabricated a light wall made of old pallet racking, and for a downtown company called Trophy Brewing, she’s constructing — what else? — a five-foot trophy. “I’m constantly solving problems and learning new skills, and it’s rewarding to see your work out in the community,” she says.
To hear Floyd tell it, most everything inspires her. “[Memphis metal artist] Jim Masterson, man-made and natural patterns and textures; Appalachian music and Dust Bowl ballads, my fiancé, parents, grandparents . . . and most recently honey bees.” As a novice beekeeper she sees great possibilities in hive forms. “Of course,” she exclaims, “another kind of vessel!”