Helen Mirra 
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Helen Mirra, "Quarry"

Stockholm, February 17th - March 20th, 2008
Image No. 1 of Helen Mirra

Summary, 2007, published journal and quartz schist with Porpida Flavocoerulescens lichen, 2 x 33 x 24 cm


Galerie Nordenhake is pleased to present American artist Helen Mirra’s first solo exhibition at the gallery as well as her first show in Sweden. Mirra recently completed a residency at the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) in September 2007. She will be exhibiting works made during her five-month sojourn in Norway. Tracing the rugged Scandinavian landscape, Mirra employs prevalent, though often unnoticed, materials to investigate the essential and mutable physicality of things and beings.

The exhibition includes works made with alpine plants that Mirra collected while above the Arctic Circle, which are pressed and labeled as is common for both scientific and amateur herbariums, though the plants here are subtle combinations of more than one species. Mirra’s attention to the correct identification of the plants, despite the idiosyncratic nature of the project, suggests a sympathy with the 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson’s own herbarium that she assembled as an adolescent. A method of drawing as much as evidence of a sincere attention to a collection of humble plant specimens, Mirra’s herbarium is indicative of her experience of the visual and the textual as simultaneous.

Mirra’s preoccupation with the materiality of how things live in the world can be seen in her floor sculptures, made with rocks she collected while exploring the Norwegian landscape, and pieces of folded, well-worn wool and cotton clothes from her wardrobe. The rocks are also painted, unnoticable to the eye but importantly to the project, as Mirra is not stressing the natural as untouched and the cultural as its opposite, but instead is engaging the always-active relationship between them. Some of the rocks consist mainly of serpentinite, a green mineral, ubiquitous in the earth’s core. Many of the rocks have lichen growing on them, unimpressively but determinedly. The hues of browns and greens, act as an ordering principle in each arrangement, the colors of the rocks and lichens similar to that of the fabrics, implying sympathy between the materials and therefore their inhabitants. The clothing is a stage for the rock, and the rock is holding down the clothing. The glacial, geologic time of the rocks coexists and contrasts with the brevity of the clothed person’s life, while the lichen’s life span is gauged relatively between the two - growing approximately one millimeter a year, and able to live for several centuries, if provided with a minimum of fresh air. The sculptures are small, not unlike bonsai trees, formally austere and scale shifting.

Image No. 2 of Helen Mirra

Installation view: Herbarium constituents, 1-16, 2007, pressed vascular plants, each 29.5 x 48.5 x 4.2 cm

Image No. 3 of Helen Mirra

Herbarium constituents, 2007, pressed vascular plants, each 29.5 x 48.5 x 4.2 cm

Image No. 4 of Helen Mirra

Draba incana & Myosotis sylvatica (graues Felsenblümchen & Wald-Vergißmeinnicht), 2007, 29.5 x 48.5 x 4.2 cm

Image No. 5 of Helen Mirra

Dryas octopetala & Dryas octopetala Poa flexuosa & Trifolium pratense (Erigeron uniflorus & Vaccinium myrtillus), 2007, 29.5 x 48.5 x 4.2 cm

Image No. 6 of Helen Mirra

Salix lapponum & Salix lapponum (Downy willow & Downy willow) Salix lapponum & Antennaria dioica (Downy willow & Cat’s paw), 2007, 29.5 x 48.5 x 4.2 cm

Image No. 7 of Helen Mirra

Sv Kattfot No Kattefot Fi Kissankäpälä Antennaria dioica x2, 2007, 29.5 x 48.5 x 4.2 cm

Image No. 8 of Helen Mirra

Metamorphosed, 2007, cotton (shirts), serpentinite rock with hematite, casein-painted magnesite and chlorite, 10 x 23 x 30 cm

Image No. 9 of Helen Mirra

Terrapin, 2007, cotton (shirts), granite rock with casein paint, Rhizocarpon Geographicum Agg., Rhizocarpon Geminatum or A. Grande, & Aspicilia Sp. lichens, 10 x 20 x 25 cm

Image No. 10 of Helen Mirra

Mantle, 2007, cotton (cordoroy shirt), serpentinite rock with hematite, casein-painted magnesite, and Lilidea S. Lat or Buellia lichen, 15 x 25 x 37 cm

Image No. 11 of Helen Mirra

Possibly sandstone, 2007, cotton (cordoroy trousers), gneiss rock with casein paint, Porpidia Flavocoerulescens & Porpidia Sp. lichens, 12 x 32 x 32 cm

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