Mimi Herbert. American, born 1936

The artist's challenge is to transform what she sees, not just to transcribe it. This requires insight and discipline. If the artist perseveres--and is lucky--the transformation occurs. How it happens is a mystery.


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Artist Statement

The trick is to know your materials and keep working. Once in a while something wonderful happens. Then I am energized to move forward again. Art is open ended.
Essays

Ruth Grover, Director and Curator
Cress Gallery Exhibitions and Collections
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
2008

I know Mimi Herbert thorough my experience as Director and Curator of the Cress Gallery of Art. While still a resident of Virginia located not far from Washington, DC, Mimi visited my office on a trip to visit friends in Chattanooga. She called to make an appointment and appeared on that date to present a professional packet toward exploring the possibility of an exhibition with Cress. I was definitely impressed with Mimi's work, her manner of thinking and expression, and her accumulation of knowledge in the sphere of theory and approaches to drawing.

As drawing is sometimes overlooked as to its importance, even among artists themselves, drawing is the central heart of solid artistic production. The importance of drawing is key to curriculum of the UTC Department of Art as four years of drawing courses appear on its course schedule. I looked at Herbert's large format reproductions of drawings based upon her collection of historical Southeast Asian puppets of significant cultural relevance, and the sense of life these drawings provided to relative inanimate objects. Absolutely apparent was a knowledge of line, a demonstrated responsiveness to weight and expression through the pressure of drawing tool applied to surface, and a sensitivity to the training of the eye and hand as an ongoing process.

In the coming year I saw a place for Mimi in the Cress Gallery exhibition schedule. I called and we talked. I again appreciated Mimi's intelligence and her ability to speak to what she does. We set a date for Fall 2006: "Voices of the Puppet Masters", an exhibit of 17 drawings from the series inspired by the puppets and a small display of actual puppets remaining in her possession. The exhibit was enormously successful and its value as a resource for teaching was absolutely fundamental.

I have conducted several studio visits with Herbert here in Chattanooga and am familiar with her current tack and self challenge. It is soundly and rationally developed. Herbert naturally seeks growth and further development. This aspect of her attitude, her being, is important. As Herbert is not satisfied to reiterate what she knows well, her desire to discover new ways of seeing and expressing what is seen is an exemplary goal for others. I certainly have tremendous respect for this particular quality of her professional nature.

Herbert understands the importance of community; the importance of working with a group, alongside others, and the richness to experiment and experience that interpersonal communication during working within a group provides. This is an essential element of her working philosophy and an admirable aspect of her productive approach to creation.

It is my view that Chattanooga is fortunate to have Mimi Herbert in this city as an active member of a growing community of serious artists, artists who do not rest upon a formula to survive, but who seek new equations without reserve.

Biography

Mimi Herbert is both painter and sculpture. She has lived, worked and studied in the USA and overseas. In Indonesia from 1990 to 1995 she conducted research and field work in West Java for her book, Voices of the Puppet Masters: The Wayang Golek Theater of Indonesia, published by the Lontar Foundation, Jakarta and the University of Hawai’i Press in North America in 2002. Her drawings appear in the book. She has lived and worked in India, Pakistan, Haiti, Brazil, El Salvador and New Zealand.

She has received the following awards and fellowships: Create Here Career Advancement MakeWork Grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, 2009; Fellowship Department of Fine Arts, American University, Washington D.C. , 1982-83; Departmental Prize for Drawing, Department of Fine Arts, American University, 1982; First Prize for Sculpture All India Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, The Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta 1963; Fulbright Traveling Fellowship for study of art in, Baroda, India, 1960-61; Ford Foundation Fellowships for study at the University of Pennsylvania, South Asia Regional Studies, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, 1959-60 and 1960-61; United States Government Grants for Language Study (Hindi) 1959-60 and 1960-61; Maintenance Grant awarded by the Department of South Asia Regional Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Pennsylvania,1958; Syracuse University Tuition Scholarships; a Banos Scholarship, Syracuse University, l954-58.

CV

born
1936 Brooklyn NY

education
1983 MFA, American University, Washington DC
1976-78 studied in graduate sculpture program, University of California, Berkeley
1962-64 MA Regional Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
1954-58 BS Syracuse University, NY

public collections
American Art Museum, Smithsonian, Washington DC
American University, Washington DC
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN
National Museum of American History, Washington DC
Renwick Gallery, Washington DC

Reviews

Chattanooga Pulse News, TN
by Michael Crumb

"This past year has provided stunning art experiences here in Chattanooga, and I present the following list without a hierarchical ranking, a more random numbering; but I can easily recall where this year in art really began for me:

1. The "Ascension" pieces by Mimi Herbert, lithographs enhanced with pastels—for the first time in Chattanooga, I found myself contemplating work so driven by inspiration and executed with world-class élan that at that moment the wall at 1401 Gallery became a window into the complexities of dynamic, imaginative vision full of realizations, intuitions, and excitement."


Chattanooga Times Free Press
by Ann Nichols

"Mimi Herbert's show, which opens Friday at Gallery 1401, could be about many things. Color, the female figure, value contrast and gesture—each of these could characterize the artist's intention. ...Ms. Herbert is equally skilled at sculpture and printmaking but has enjoyed the immediacy of pastels and creating the figurative drawings for this show. They are luscious and filled with an energy and vitality that display the artist's engagement with her medium and her creative drive."


The Georgetowner
by John Blee

"It is an ingenuous sensibility one encounters here; there is no irony in the pizzaz of Glory #2 which has a grace in its movement that is somehow at once a kind of drawing and sculpture....The more ebullient flag pieces are akin to lyric poetry rather than to patriotic hymns, and the best of them undulate in a biomorphic rhythm which invigorates the poetic ambiguities...The etched pieces have the quality of a new made manuscript covered with palimpsest of an indecipherable script. Their edges glow (literally) and give further linear twist.


Washington Post
by Ferdinand Protzman

"The material's fluid plasticity and her handworked shapes take over. Herbert's sculptures resemble flexible coin purses, origami creatures, tarpaulins, air mattresses, car seats, crumpled napkins, towels and folded flags. Their myriad folds imply unfolding and mystery and the notion that if you could open them up, there would be something inside."


Washington Post
by JoAnn Lewis

"In Mimi Herbert's sculpture the plastic sheet is the module of each work. It is heated and then pulled folded, twisted or rolled into shape. "...with this uncomplicated system, Herbert has managed to transform what we know to be a cold, hard substance into something soft, sensuous, visually satisfying, and absolutely irresistible to the touch."


Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection Catalogue
by Roy Slade (former director Corcoran Gallery of Art)

"When I first came to your house the first thing I saw was that flag by Mimi Herbert. She did a major sculpture in fiberglass that covered the front of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. I had commissioned that work for the Bicentennial to hang outside the oldest art museum in the nation's capitol. One of the first Detroit collectors that I met was a man who has a Mimi Herbert. It was like meeting old familiar friends."


Washington Post
by Michael Kernam

"Strange vinyl shapes in lush colors feature the Mimi Herbert exhibit at the Henri Gallery. Constructed by laboriously heating vinyl sheets with sun lamps, then folding and refolding them into airy untrammeled shapes, the shiny sculptures invite the touch and yet at the same time inhibit it because of a certain virginal quality."


Washington Post
by Meryle Secrest

"Strange, surreal sculptures of real beauty are on view....their crumpled and dented surfaces should put one in mind of the wracked remnants of an automobile graveyard. But because the material is translucent been handled with care, the result is ethereal and elegant, and the uneven surfaces throw sliding patterns of light and shade over white walls that are subtle and beautiful."


Evening Star
by Benjamin Forgey

"Her sensibility is somewhat lyric and touched with a rather distant sense of humor. The pieces are non-objective but informed with generalized associations with natural events........All the pieces in the show are formed from sheets of transparent plastic at their best the forms, organic and somewhat painterly in reference, exist on three formalistic levels. They reflect light in fascinating ways, and in this sense they are all surface, and yet they are strong enough in outline to exist as three dimensional objects. And they cast shadows which are an important part of the visual experience. The best pieces begin to live a life of their own that is beautiful and strange."



MY BOOK "VOICES"

"Voices of the Puppet Masters: The Wayang Golek Theater of Indonesia" by Mimi Herbert, published by the University of Hawai'i Press in North America, and the Lontar Foundation in Indonesia, 2002.

REVIEWS

"There has never been a work of such passion devoted to wayang golek providing not only a wealth of scholarship, but also a rich canvas of extensive pictorial studies allowing the imagination to enter the physical and spiritual world of Javanese puppet traditions…For devotees of Indonesian performing arts, academics, and students of the theatre arts, the book should be treasured for its serious study of wayang golek and its revelation of Javanese cultural heritage."

- Ian Jarvis Brown, Bandung, Indonesia, in Asian Theatre Journal, Vol.20, No.1, Spring 20003, pp. 93-95

"Herbert's study…ably demonstrates her capacity as portraitist in words and pictures. The book is a vital index of what puppeteers and puppet enthusiasts have to say about wayang golek – recording various passions, investments, and worries regarding this lively art…It is to Herbert's credit that she allows "the voices" … to speak with few interruptions, and it is to the credit of the publishers that the beautifully mounted, posed and photographed illustrations are reproduced so artfully."

Mathew Isaac Cohen, Glascow University, in The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 61, No. 4, November, 2002, pp.1436-1438

ADVANCED PRAISE

"An enthralling entry into the magical world of the wayang golek puppet traditions of Indonesia. Through the master performers, the dalangs who hold audiences spellbound by breathing life into their puppets, we glimpse a world of entertainment that is imbued with spirituality. This unique volume, with evocative visuals, imaginative layout, and its ancient stories in the puppet masters' own words, is a delight to peruse and a must for those interested in world performance traditions or Asian culture"

- Vidya Dehejia, Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

"Through the artists who keep the wayang golek theater of Indonesia alive and contemporary, this book beautifully renders voice to the puppets of one of the world's great theatrical traditions. Mimi Herbert captures the essence of the puppet theater of West Java and makes is accessible. Through her highly articulate text and exquisite images, Herbert brings to life the multilayered world of the wayang golek theater, a world that simultaneously reflects the deepest belief and philosophy of the West Javanese people and their lively theatrical passion."

- Rachel Cooper, Asia Society

"Mimi Herbert takes us on a mental voyage unlike any other into the realm of the wayang golek. We wander and wonder, exploring and discovering the multifarious aspects of the cultural, philosophical, spiritual, mystical, and mythic nature of the wayang. We share the socio-economic problems and socio-pressure that the puppet masters have to live with. The author succeeds in giving the average reader, as well as the aficionado, an authentic and authoritative interpretation of the wooden rod puppets in the guise of gods, heroes, and villains, clowns and servants, as they go through life in the fascinating wayang stories."

H Boediardjo, former Minister of Information, Indonesia

Bibliography







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