and ecology through art:
the work of joyce metayer
Metayer with Josephine Lero,
retired head of the Bristol High School Home Economics Department, acted
as the local liaison for the 25th anniversary celebration.
asked, Whats your passion in life? Joyce Metayer says,
without a moments hesitation, Making art and being in nature..Joyce
is an artist who is best known for her Sculptural Archetypes
reliefs that are a combination of painting and sculpture, impeccably
constructed by sewing, and often circular in format. The look of her
work is very contemporary even though she claims it is based on Paleolithic
feminine symbology. I feel I am creating pieces that have an ageless
quality about them since they honor the past, explore significant symbolism
in the present, and suggest the future.
wonder why so much of her work is circular
she says she wonders
why we tend to hang rectangles on our walls! Jung felt the circle was
the most basic, primordial form. Joyce tends to see circles and cycles
in most everything
nature, the solar system, our families, relationships,
6 years of receiving her undergraduate degree in painting, Joyce had
broken away from traditional painting forms and was inventing a totally
new art form of large, 4 to 6-foot, dimensional paintings. By the time
she finished her masters in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design
in the mid-seventies, her Sculptural Archetypes were becoming well accepted
in the art world on the East Coast, and expanding and refining her invention
was Joyces passion.
has had dozens of museum and gallery exhibitions from New England to
the Southwest (and Mexico, where she lived for many years) and her work
is in many corporate and private collections. She has been honored in
Ms Magazine as one of New Englands major female artists. She has
also spent a good part of her life teaching art from kindergarten
kids to graduate students and evening adult education classes.
all the innovative work Joyce has been involved with over the years,
she talks most passionately of a public artwork she created with 55
women in New England 25 years ago as being one of the highlights of
her creative life. In the late seventies she applied for and was the
only woman of 4 artists chosen for a one-year Art in Public Places grant.
She lived, and would create her art, in Bristol, Rhode Island. Instead
of making her own art work to fit in particular public spaces, Joyce
wanted to create a significant work that would describe that particular
place of Bristol in a unique way.
time earlier, a group of women from Bristol, England, brought over a
historical tapestry to exhibit at the Bristol Art Museum. One day, tramping
along the shores of Narragansett Bay and mulling over her own work of
circles, cycles and her love of the natural world, she had one of her
Eureka! moments. She would create a large tapestry of embroidered
sections that would represent the ecology of Bristol at that moment.
When all the sections were designed and painted she would invite women
from the town to embellish them with lustrous embroidered handwork.
She imagined a map of the town in the center with all the streets that
were there at that time, surrounded by the elements of the Town Seal:
a sailing ship, a Wampanoag native, a stylized local hilltop. And circling
around that would be 64 panels depicting 113 examples of local flora
and fauna. Joyce talked with naturalists to determine what species were
most representative but also unique for the area.
largest circle I could draw on the largest wall in her studio
determined the 7-foot diameter of the entire Tapestry. When the drawings
were finished and turned into colored embroidery kits, others
became involved. In a short time, the project became part of many womens
lives. She first enlisted her mother-in-law and her sewing circle; they
each took on one piece to embroider. She approached a high school Home
Economics class and a local retirement center, finding experienced and
talented needle workers as well as novices. The project spread by word
of mouth, and women from the community came to her studio and selected
the section each wanted to embroider, often for sentimental reasons
womans son used to catch a particular fish when he was a boy,
and another woman watched for the blooming of a certain wildflower because
it represented a significant point in the seasons for her or reminded
someone else of a loved ones birthday. As Joyce moved this huge
project for the winter from her unheated studio to her home, the dining
room table became the workspace for sorting through and selecting from
the hundreds of different colored threads for the various embroidery
kits. Some individual panels contained as many as 4 species.
Her daughter Jessica loved to re-organize the skeins into their color
families when she came home from school. Jessica was 10 years
old at the time and the youngest person to work on the tapestry. She
embroidered the pussy willows. The living room furniture was pushed
back as Joyce needed more and more space for sewing the pieces together
and stretching it on a circular frame she designed and helped build.
Bristol Tapestry has hung in its specially-made glass case in
Bristols Town Hall for a quarter century, but it also holds a
special place in the hearts of many people in that community. Penny
De Luca, whose mother, Eva De Luca embroidered the opossum, oyster mushroom
and elm tree panel writes to Joyce, Thank you
and my grandchildren and their children for many generations can go
to the town hall and see the mark my Mom has left long after we are
I hope you are contributing something like (our Tapestry)
for other towns to be proud of. Kimberly Kirby, great niece of
Mary Bense who embroidered the winter flounder (and has passed on) writes,
I am especially proud that a part of her lives on for many generations
to enjoy. Thank you for making that possible.
are never broken, they simply expand; in October there was a 25th Anniversary
Celebration of the Bristol Tapestry to bring together the women who
worked on the piece, relatives of those who have passed away, the artist,
and friends from the community. The Tapestry has created a kind
of common bond among us, and those friendships are such precious gifts.
And the circle is expanding again: students at Roger Williams University
will use the tapestry to study the current condition of native species
depicted in it 25 years ago. Joyce feels this may be a first for
a public art work to be used as an ecological benchmark.
Metayer will be showing samples of this work and speaking about both
the Rhode Island project and the potential Western North Carolina project
at our January WNC WOMAN potluck Sunday, January 4th, 4-6 at the Enka
Campus of AB TECH. Call us at 689-2988 for details.