At the beginning of her career as an artist, Mimi Peterson rejected the oligarch that was Abstract Expressionism stylistically favoring Fauvism. Desiring a deeper sense of narrative and an over-saturated palette, Ms. Peterson was led to Rufino Tamayo who became an entree to the richness of the Latin World. In Mexico City, she continued painting in the tradition of muralists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco.
In the early 1970s, while working as an interior designer in Chicago, Ms. Peterson, was commissioned to design a collection of area rugs fabricated by the Polish mill, Dywilan. By 1976, she was working almost exclusively in the area of luxury textile and high-end hospitality carpeting. When doing her graduate work in the 1990s at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ms. Peterson began realizing a transdiciplinary approach by creating substructures of wood and found metal detritus on the surfaces of her canvases.
Experimentation with both the DuChampian notion of ready-mades and the found object combined with the Dada principle of art-making via non-art material as Ms. Peterson fully committed her practise to sculpture. As of 2005, Ms. Peterson's work divided itself into three distinct groupings. Toys are intimate, enchanting, biomorphic figures whose delicacy prohibits physical play while triggering the fantastic mind. Vessels begin with a discarded industrial or found natural object serving as both base and armature upon which Ms. Peterson weaves container-like structures from plastic oxygen tubing and copper wire. Manipulation of the found object in tandem with a conceptual nod to Greco-Roman sculpture is the basis of Archetypes which poignantly investigates the iconoclast in mythology which historically has become fodder for art.
More recent works such as "Neo-Plastic" fall into a new grouping of sophisticated works called Appropriations. Here, Ms. Peterson pushes Dada notions of art-making further by boldly using utilitarian materials like notebook-binding spirals and plastic flower pot rests creating avant-garde decorative objects mindful of 1960s Minimalism, commercial and camp 50s/60s b-movie Futurism and cool Mod plastiques.
The whimsically beautiful, ephemeral wall-piece, "Feel Fresh", moves into the realm of Pop Art. After months of hoarding newspaper sheaths, Ms. Peterson formed them into pastel, petal-like wads which are the stuffing of vintage, dry cleaning bags emblazoned with text and kitsch illustrations in complementary lavender. Plastic clothes hangers spotted with sheer orange nail varnish hang the twin bags from commercial, black metal brackets. Seductive humor camouflages the dark core of this diptych.
Ms. Peterson shows two selections from The Paper Dolls. An ongoing series of boxes which house free- standing photo-montaged characters paying homage to her ancestors juxtaposed with the fantasy of contemporary fashion photography. Another ongoing work is Ex-Voto. In the excerpted series of six exhibited in Face Value, Ms. Peterson embellishes photo-documentation of ad hoc street offrendas marking sites of accidental death due to traffic accidents or urban violence. We someday hope to see the entire series of experimental inkjet prints in book form.
Face Value: The Art of Mimi Peterson is on exhibit at the Krasl Art Center (707 Lake Blvd. St. Joseph, Michigan 49085) July 26 - September 8, 2013.
Face Value is curated by Tami Miller.
Erik R. Peterson * August 2013
* Erik R. Peterson (Mimi's son) is a mixed media artist who has also worked across the disciplines of photography, installation and performance. He exhibits in his native Chicago, Benton Harbor, Michigan, New York and London. Erik is also a freelance curator and writes about art and culture.