THE PAST YEAR INSPIRED AILI SCHMELTZ TO INVESTIGATE THE LANDSCAPES SUROUNDING HER HIGH DESERT STUDIO UNCOVERING NEW MEANINGS IN ITS HISTORY AND SETTLEMENT. CONSIDERING THE VERY NOTION OF SURVIVAL, SCHMELTZ BECAME FASCINATED WITH THE WOMEN WHO CHANGED CALIFORNIA FOREVER.
Activists, Homesteaders, and Reformers
The research-based practice of Aili Schmeltz often alludes to utopian ideologies that inform the development of the American West and the vast artificial environments of Southern California in particular. Schmeltz initially focused her new series of hybrid works on historical female figures who were trailblazer in the exploration, settlement, and preservation of the Mojave Desert – a landscape where the artist resides part time and is a constant source of fascination and inspiration. However as the body of work developed, Schmeltz began to see the new typological and spatial colonization that the hybrid artworks represent as a lens to consider a greater range of historical women of California who were leaders in the struggle for equality including advocacy for Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, LGBTQIA+, and Women’s suffrage.
Schmeltz both extends yet localizes the groundbreaking work of feminist artists like Judy Chicago and Faith Ringgold through creating a sculptural presence to call out overlooked female historical figures of the West. Honoring their accomplishment by evoking their memory though physical form making and, in particular, needlework; Schmeltz, transforms her painted and pieced canvas with rows and fields of embroidery. Mining craft techniques to explore the construction of gender and economics creating her own type of social abstraction dense with new encoding of histories of contemporary relevance. Like Harmony Hammond, Schmeltz participates in the narrative of modernist “hand-made” abstraction though post minimalist concerns of materials, processes and a monochromatic palette; however, she achieves works that are brilliant in their saturated colors radiant in contrasting layers creating optical fluctuations and shimmering effects drawn from the rugged landscape itself and ultimately conjuring joy, celebration and rebirth.
Referencing historical figures like Grace Finley, June Paxton, and Melissa Branson Stedman; Schmeltz honors pioneering woman who undertook gender-breaking roles as miners, explorers, writers, and activists. One work is titled after 19th-century African American entrepreneur, financier, real estate magnate and abolitionist Mary Ellen Pleasant (1814- 1904) who expanded the Underground Railroad westward and achieved legal victories for civil rights that have enduring relevance earning her the title, "The Mother of Human Rights in California." Another work is a tribute to the avid gardener and desert conservation advocate Minerva Hamilton Hoyt (1866-1945) who championed the creation of Joshua Tree National Park that became reality in 1936. Together the series is a reexamination of tapestry of our historical fabric, recognizing progressive females whose legacies precede enormous changes in the role, recognition, and power of women today.
Begin to discover thier stories by clicking to the individual artwork pages.
Sewn Constructions features Aili Schmelt's newest works combine painting, collage, and sewing to create all together new hybrids of painting and sculpture in her continued fundamental investigation of pattern and form. Conflating notions of traditional “woman’s work” and the mark-making practices and monochromatic pallet of Minimalist painters; these wall-based works dazzle in their subtle radiance and undulation of color. Created from individually pieced and painted bits of canvas; sewn and together bound though repeated stitching organized in linear rows and meandering fields they represents Schmeltz's reconstruction of the lost parts of our history – the women who worked to make the West better for all.
My paintings are inspired by forms found in nature and serve as small monuments, hand tended floral devotionals honoring lives within the feminist continuum
Plan Your Visit
Installed at the Thomas Lavin Showroom at the Pacific Design Center and curated by Edward Cella; the exhibition is available for in person viewing Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. Appropriate social distancing measures will be monitored and updated, to learn more about these please visit our CONTACT PAGE
Schedule your personal tour with Edward Cella, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
or telephone 323 525 0053.
We are planning for an in person conversation with collector Thomas Lavin, gallerist Edward Cella and artist Aili Schmeltz in the showroom in late July. Please check back for updates and announcements.
Aili Schmeltz: Sewn Constructions represents her second exhibition with the gallery and will run concurrently with an installation of her works on paper in a project entiled Evenfall opening on July 10 at The Landing Gallery.
Aili Schmeltz: Sewn Constructions