marilyn pappas

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The works in The Life of Beauty series are meditations on western concepts of beauty throughout time.   Brightly colored flowers are introduced to represent a timeless life to the beauty of these ancient, broken, inanimate figures. I am interested in the imperfection of beauty and the beauty of imperfection. In The

Life of Color pieces I am also fascinated by the knowledge that the ancient statues were originally painted with very bright colors and patterns. I try to imagine how the color has eroded over time, creating beautiful imperfections of the original decoration. As I reinterpret these symbols of another time, I choose to express my ideas in a direct but labor-intensive way, grateful for the comfort and pleasure that comes from handwork, developed slowly over time. In this high speed world I rejoice in the meditative process of the work and in the conviction that I could not achieve the particular uniqueness of these heroic images on the cloth by more rapid means.



The series “ History Lessons” utilizes the ancient sculptures to create a bridge between two worlds, classical and modern. Architectural fragments help to place the figures in time, and the pictures on the broken pottery begin to suggest narrative issues that remain pertinent today. A central focus of my cloth pieces is a concern for how time has altered classical sculptures and the ways we view and interpret the mysteries of antiquity, their destruction and preservation. Although the ravages of time have broken these marble sculptures and ceramic urns, they express a poetry of imperfection that is still poignantly human and relevant today.


The handstitched artworks in the series “Muses” are  inspired by classical sculpture and in particular, the remarkable Greco-Roman representations of women. Larger than life, scarred and battered by the ravages of time, there is a peculiar beauty, vulnerability and dignity in these mythical personifications of idealism. By placing the draped images of the goddesses back into the softness of linen, the fabric depicted in the ancient marbIe sculptures, I try to reemphasize their femininity while retaining the individual character of each figure. Some are powerful, strong, larger than life; others seem vulnerable, yet dignified. They express emotions that we can still identify with today. My stitched muses are celebrations of the timeless power and beauty of women.


In the group of works called “Fragments”, I focus on smaller details that are drawn from classical sculptures. Many of these come directly from the broken remains of ancient figures, as we see them today in museums. In others, inspired by the surprising beauty of these incomplete pieces, I create my own fragments of the sculptures, so that I can study and draw, in stitches, the more intimate details of the figures and their drapery.


The mixed media collages, based on my travels, have often served as studies and inspiration for my stitched pieces. Many of the collages were made during my trips, from gathered ephemera, and they became visual journals of places and experiences. Increasingly, the Mediterranean countries, their architecture, museums and ancient ruins became the major sources of my interest. I find the spontaneous and direct nature of creating collages a  diversion and respite from the labor intensive process of the stitched drawings.


During the early 1960s I began to work with cloth and thread. The earliest works were

stitched and appliquéd cloth hangings, based on familiar landscapes. The flatness of these patterns became gradually replaced by reliefs formed of manipulated fabrics, pieces of clothing and found objects. Although the human figure did not actually appear in these works, it was implied by the character of each garment, its related objects, colors, textures and stitched patterns.

© marilyn pappas