Mary Tuma is a Palestinian – American artist and art professor. Born in California in 1961, Tuma began sewing and crocheting with her mother at an early age. Her love of these processes led her to begin her formal study of art as an apprentice at Beautiful Arts Hall in Kerdassa, Egypt, where she learned to weave tapestries.
Her work addresses issues of the transformation of the body and the spirit through the use of clothing forms applied to found objects or placed within a contextual environment. For her, the use of old fabrics and found objects is important in creating a work or environment that evokes a feeling of loss, or distant memory. About her work, she says:
“I am interested in the sorting of images from the past, images that are like shadows or ghosts, something not quite whole and no longer real but still of great influence and power. In most of these works there is evidence of loss—an allusion to the passing of time; a vacant space within a form once occupied; an identity that merges fully with it’s environment. To speak of this loss, I superimpose worlds.“
One of her artworks, Palestine, is particularly mesmirizing. Tuma’s dresses make notice of the absence of the human form, and by doing so, provide a metaphor for the status of a people who are known more for the shadow they cast on current events than for their own personalities and culture.
Palestine – Homes for the Disembodied
“This is a tribute to Palestinian women who provide strength in terrible circumstances, but who receive little recognition. A place for the spirits of those forced out of Jerusalem to dwell. The dresses are sewn from one continuous 48 meter length of fabric.”
all images © Mary Tuma/Station Museum