Art in Science
by Karen Farley
photos by Karen Farley
Can a single strand of DNA be a piece of art? According to Brown County artist Michele Heather Pollock, the answer is a definite yes. Her creations combine poetry, textiles, and science.
Michele grew up in a small town in Lake County, Indiana. She remembers her mom buying needlework kits at the local Kmart. “The only place we had to go besides the library and post office was Kmart. I can remember asking my mom to buy the stitching kits,” Michele says. Her love of crafts came from “rainy day” bags filled with construction paper, glue, and glitter her mom assembled to keep her and her sisters busy.
In high school, a teacher encouraged her to make science her career. Michele excelled in her classes and it seemed to be a wise choice for a young woman. Leaving her love of paper and stitching behind, she headed to Purdue to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. After graduation, Michele accepted a position as a research scientist at 3M in Saint Paul, Minnesota. As soon as she started the job, she realized she missed the creativity she loved as a child.
While employed at 3M, Michele started writing and creating with paper again. After taking classes at the local art center, she needed a more disciplined approach. She decided to pursue an advanced degree in Fine Arts. Michele attended Hamline University and studied creative writing. During the six years working on her MFA in Poetry, Michele realized the connection between the visual arts and language. That realization can be seen in most of her work today. “The words you see in any of my work are mine,” she says.
Butterfly paper quilt
Shortly after graduation, Michele took a bookbinding class. With her makeshift studio at home, she created collages and began to combine her love of stitching with paper art. One of Michele’s most engaging pieces is an artists’ book. “Artists’ books are mainly a twentieth century art form. They are usually one-of-a-kind. It combines book structure with content. The whole thing is a piece of art,” Michele explains.
In addition to bookbinding, Michele creates mixed media greeting cards and shadow boxes. She studied hand bookbinding and box making at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and has exhibited her work regionally and nationally. Her three dimensional mixed media shadow boxes incorporate nature and memories. She recently finished a shadow box for her aunt displaying war memorabilia and military records from her uncle.
Michele’s love of paper and stitching has also inspired paper quilts. During American pioneer days, paper was used for patterns and batting. Today, paper quilting is an art form. Michele quilts with paper using two different methods. Quilting the traditional way, she uses two layers of paper with quilt batting in between. She says, “Using paper, you don’t have to worry about the fabric fraying, but you have to be careful of it tearing.” Her other method is a modified collage fitting together pieces of paper and then stitching as a single layer.
When Michele and her husband moved to Brown County in 2007 she set up her studio on Lost Lake Road. “My husband grew up in the Ozarks, and Brown County reminded him of home,” she says. “It wasn’t too hard to convince him to move here.” Michele vacationed here as a child, and loves the beauty of the hills and the artist community of Nashville.
Michele recently joined the Brown County Craft Gallery in Nashville, and as Vice President of the Art Alliance, she is preparing for her role as president in 2009. “The Alliance is doing some very interesting things. We are working on a project at the Chateau Thomas Winery. Using the space above the shop, artists can exhibit their work,” she says.
What is her current project? “My working title is ‘What it means to be human,’” Michele says. “I have been collecting things that will allow me to connect the visual to the writing. I want to show how science defines being human.” Michele will use poetry to make that connection. One of the pictures she collected shows a strand of human DNA in air. She plans to make a quilt using the image, and incorporate identity through images of fingerprints into the work.
Michele has turned her love of paper and stitching into an art that is functional as well as beautiful. According to Michele, “My work blurs the line between textile and paper art, between literature and visual art, and between fine art and fine craft.”
A mixed media artist, Michele Pollock weaves a consistent thread that connects all of her work with words and life to create unique art.
Michele can be reached at (812) 988-0198. Her studio is located on Lost Lake Road. You can e-mail her at <Michele@lostlakestudio.com>. Her website <www.lostlakestudio.com> is currently under construction.