We checked in with artist Mary Lum, who lives and works in North Adams, teaches at Bennington College, and is represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York City.
She was kind enough to share what she’s been making during the unusual summer of 2020:
For months during the pandemic we weren’t allowed to bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store. So when a large stack of paper bags accumulated in my studio I decided to use them for drawing paper. I carefully untangled each one from its functional form, glued two together at a time, and used the fold marks from the bags’ former function to guide my drawings.
Another drawing project brought on by the conditions of the pandemic got its start while I was teaching my Bennington College drawing students over Zoom. I started drawing along with them during our Zoom meetings, and I discovered a genuine interest in making comics! This has turned in to an ongoing drawing project, even after teaching ended in June. I’m still a beginner at the form, but am finding it so engaging.
I feel very lucky to live in North Adams, in my studio, so it was relatively easy to keep working this spring and summer on a few bigger projects that the pandemic found me in the middle of.
One of these projects is a large-scale tapestry for a new library at Oxford University in the UK. It’s a huge learning curve for me, and I’m very grateful to Mandy Johnson of JZJN architecture studio in North Adams for helping me sort out the logistics of the proposal and project. I made three trips to Oxford before the lockdown to do research for my design. I will work with Magnolia Editions in Oakland, CA. to prepare files of my work to be sent to Flanders Tapestries in Belgium to be woven. Everything is a bit slowed down now, because of travel restrictions and work schedules, but I hope to complete the project this year.
I’m also working on a mural for the new TD Bank headquarters in New York, and an artist’s project for the Archives of American Art Journal at the Smithsonian.
The book Modern Artifacts was published this spring by Esopus Books and MoMA. Along with a selection of compelling items from the MoMA archives, reproduced in facsimile, this book contains six artist’s projects, including one that I made.