July 2020 Vol. 1, No.3
The Delicate Boldness of Mimi Czajka Graminski
Thread, balsa wood, wire, fabric
When Mimi C. Graminski works in her Red Hook, New York, studio she enters the instinctive creative space where she explores endless possibilities, sometimes with conscious ideas, other times on free-flowing auto-pilot. After a lifetime devoted to her art, the process itself is an integral essence of her being, a natural part of her humanity. Since early childhood she has painted, drawn and made sculptures, working with her hands, getting into that space she calls “the state of flow.” The daughter of upstate New York dairy farmers, and the granddaughter of immigrants from Poland and Sicily, always “loved making beautiful things.” She eventually took a Bachelor of Arts from Bard College, an experience she now recognizes as male-dominated. “There was only one female teacher and role model”, she recalled, “I left there and needed to find my own voice.” She found that voice!
Fabric, pin, shadow
Fabric, pin, shadow
Redhook, NY Studio
Fabric, wire, shadow
Blue and green fabric, thread, wire, shadow
Graminski works with a variety of materials to create installation art, finding inspiration by exploring limitless ideas, forms and media. Installation art, simply said, is the creation of work in site-specific three-dimensional interior or outside spaces, when an artist puts something with something else. A new spatial environment emerges, both on the conceptual and community level.
Plastic ziplocks and other non- recyclable packaging
2019 Gallery Shot
Photo courtesy Ann St. Gallery
“It is important to me that my work is who I am, an integral part of my conversations and struggles.”
Each of Graminski’s creative projects is a juxtaposition of paradoxical pairings, an expression of beauty by combining inanimate things and bringing them to life, indeed to let them dance. She took old pieces of lace and united them with logs of wood, for example. She takes something massive and pairs it with the most delicate and light. She finds objects and, in the right moment in time, takes these things of the world, the seemingly opposite that exist in the same space, and she uses them as forms of emotional expression. The resulting clash between strength and fragility yields a new object, as the artist pushed herself, releasing something that seems to have been bottled up inside. All of her installations seemingly follow the same free approach. She finds the beauty in things, and takes them to a dance in a fluid swirl, until new objects emerge with a new lightness of being. Some part is vision, the rest is chance. As she said, “Letting the art take me wherever it wants to go.” The result is vast freedom and vivid playfulness. Movement flows out of her art. You sense not just the persistence of sensuality, the human interaction with textures, colors, shapes, light and shadow, but also of the engaging mind joining that dance. The viewer’s senses are transformed and immersed in the feeling of the moment. Graminski instantly evokes a high level of intimacy between her art and the viewer. Her work is not merely a precious object to be looked at, but it becomes a presence that evokes a mood or a feeling. The art engages viewers in new ways. Beyond that, no verbal categorization fits, no explanation is needed, nor would it matter. You look at it and feel it.
Orange Pumpkin with flour
Twigs – flour on moss
Sassafras Leaf with flour
Flour on moss
Tree bark, flour
Landing on Joy
Locust and elm logs, flour
Locust and elm logs, flour
Like many artists, Graminski is obsessed with the creative process as an existential part of her life. “I have to do it. It’s my calling. I love the space, the state of flow. I love creating. I sometimes think of my studio as a laboratory where I collect specimens of different materials- lace, mesh bags from vegetables, translucent fabric and combine them in different ways, 'playing' with them until they resolve into a piece.”
Installation: crocheted fabric
Installation: Various sculptures
Installation: crocheted yarn
Hearts and Lungs
Installation: vellum and string
Expectedly, Graminski’s approach to spatial dynamics is as uninhibited as her use of materials. Sometimes she works with very small pieces and combines them into one large unit. Other times she places big objects in large spaces and creates an entire environment. She is at once bold and delicate, but never predictable. Her style is not identifiable by a particular technique or regularity. You could never walk cold into an exhibit and be able to declare “Oh, there is a Graminski.” No two projects are ever the same. Her “style” is to be limitless and unencumbered, defined not by what you see, but in the process, expressed by the artist as “I put myself into it.”
Graminski ‘s frequent collaborator is artist and curator Bibiana Huang Matheis. The pair works together weekly on various projects, including “Bibi and Mimi’s Friday Adventures.” Huang-Matheis stated, “Mimi Graminski’s work carries elegance, a form of pure sincerity.”
Portrait of the artist by Frank Matheis
Writer. Photographer. Producer.
Contributing writer to the Hammond Museum, Frank Matheis, is a music, visual arts and culture writer and photographer. His latest project was the book ‘Sweet Bitter Blues’ co-written with National Heritage Fellow Phil Wiggins (University Press of Mississippi, 2020). His Hammond Museum column ‘In Other Words’ features member artists in all disciplines. He is also a contributing writer to ArtsWestchester, Living Blues magazine (Center for Southern Culture Studies) and thecountryblues.com.