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MAGGIE SCHMIEGELOW

My work fingers the liquid pulse of a desire for things to be both ways. Stemming from a life-long immersion in Christian, Purity Culture values, and a subsequent affinity for the trusty loop-hole strategy, I find great solace in the surrogate experience. Using sculptural materials as a proxy for my own body, I seek out moments of encounter that function both to amplify and sensitize an embodied reality that once went largely and necessarily unfelt.

A Double Pain, A Double Cure embodies those desires. Filled with loosely tempered sugar, the sculptural form embraces error as catalyst. Neither liquid, nor solid, its caramel-adjacent substance is suspended freely in the space of the not-quite-not. Fluid enough to slide through the cracks of careful hands. Firm enough to matte stray hairs. Amorphous enough for air-dried membranes that discourage sticky fingers and permanence.

A temporary release. An unwieldy allowance. A body run dry.

“Jesus wept.” -John 11:35

A common Lutheran Sunday School trivia fact, that singular breath stands as the shortest verse in the English translation of the Bible. Famous for its brevity. Memorable for its humanity. Cherished for the preciousness of the body which experiences such mortal release. Close Your Eyes for Me calls upon my own intimate knowledge of this piece of text and a longing to acknowledge the unnamed, feminine loss that too, wets those transparent, linen pages.

The words SHE WEPT, hold the history of their own tedious construction; each letter free formed with salt in the space of my hand. With each pinch, as I smooth edges into form, I welcome their granular presence into my skin; willing them to absorb my own watery excess.

—MS

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Maggie Schmiegelow’s work explores spaces of liminality and transition via sculptures in the process of transformation, both material and immaterial. Her video Close Your Eyes for Me includes a salt sculpture in the form of the words “she wept,” invoking that shortest sentence from the King James Bible: “Jesus wept.” Schmiegelow transforms the statement into a reference of the reverberating cries of untold, unsung women as the tea and salt bounce around the enclosed chamber upon which the video camera was trained. The tea dissolves the crafted sodium-words ever so gradually until their dry salt entirely washes away. The sculpture arrests us, as if we’d come upon a pillar of salt whose paradoxically unenduring yet frozen quality we must grapple with. The sculpture itself insists on its presence, even as the video leaves us with mere pixels of an already completed, if ever-renewing process. The minor glitches in the image remind us of the sculpture’s absence, while its dissolution occurs so slowly we seem to miss it. It is the careful (re-)making of the sculpture that leaves us still transfixed as we watch the words wash away before our eyes.

A Double Pain, A Double Cure plays with contrasting material content. The viscous brown sugar, held in a transitional state between complete solid and running liquid, stickily drips from the soft, absorbent white faux fur. The organic material of the sugar is mixed with synthetic corn starch and fired at high heat to produce the substance’s unique texture. This mixture of organic and synthetic materials brings the natural and artificial worlds into bonded contact. The contrast of stickiness adhering to absorbent softness confronts us with an uncomfortable juxtaposition, even as we are mesmerized by the slow drip of the sugar. Schmiegelow’s use of these seemingly antithetical materials invokes pleasing sensualities whose combined effect repels us, while also instructing us on the patience required to sit within transitional states.

—Karin Flora