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Art Watch : Anne Mondro

Anne Mondro is in focus for our Art Watch for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

Anne Mondro spends laborious hours in preparing her anatomically perfect crocheted wire hearts. Yes – it is perhaps the most unusual combination and the outcome is breath taking as it is intriguing. In her sculptural work, she blends metal and weaves it with a unique with metaphor – craft with compassion, and art with empathy. It’s definitely unanticipated, in both subject and design, and often demands a second look.

“I employ metaphors all the time in my work,” she said. “For a long time now my work has been focused on art and the human body, in all ways, in our relationship with ourselves, with others, both physical and metaphorical.” Says the artist.

Mondro started out with studying jewellery making and metalsmithing at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, but her focus shifted when she travelled to Kent State University in Ohio to earn her Master of Fine Arts.

It was during this time her grandfather in Detroit, to whom she was close to, contracted cancer and it had a deep impact on her, the way she looked at like, impermanence and the way the treatment was served to patients – the frailty of the human body. It produced in her wells and wells of compassion that would have unpredictable outcomes.

Why Anne Mondro?

“As I was driving, I would reflect on the experiences my family was going through as a result of my grandfather’s illness … and I was thinking how a patient is treated as a specimen, rather than a whole being. It was like a person becomes an object — a region — rather than a whole person. And that experience started coming into my studio, and the work became very personal.” She recounts the exact moment of transformation and inspiration in her life.

She has a ready smile and a gentle quality about her and says that she had a wonderful childhood with parents supported her artistic endeavours, and loved by her grandparents.

Her work was challenging from the start and it took about a year of research about the anatomy of a heart in order to ensure that her art was as anatomically as authentic and plausible. Her training in design was essential as she was able to make these hearts using 3-D modelling software. There was more as Mondro engaged herself in spending time in the university anatomy laboratory. The result of all her endeavours are the crocheted tinned copper wire beauties that are nothing short of spectacular.

The result of her thought process was her thesis, “Sarcinae de Corpus,” or “Baggage of the Body” — an assortment of sculptural pieces that resembled old-time doctor bags.

Her description of her process may not fit the squeamish, but it was her own – she called them ‘medical bags, She intended that when they were opened, inside would be a representation of the region of the body affected by an illness. Eventually these bags became a metaphor for the baggage we carry, when someone is ill.

Artistic Journey

Mondro talks of her journey and inspiration when it comes to her art, and says – “Intrigued by the ways the human body is experienced and valued in society, I create sculptures and images that investigate and portray various aspects of humanity.” Personally speaking, her works to me represent challenging the limitations of the human body – perceived and constructed. She asks us through her sculptures – are we trapped or is this our structural limitation. Her work is fascinating at a technical and a cerebral level.

Anne Mondro, is an associate professor at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.  In 2006, in an endeavour to weave art, healing, medicine together she developed a community engagement course, partnering with the University’s Geriatrics Center. The course, was called Retaining Identity: The Role of Creativity in the Healthcare Setting, and it focused on the benefits of creativity as a positive distraction from pain.

“Creativity helps retain who you are beyond your illness. When you’re in the hospital, you lose a lot of your independence; this is an opportunity to have some say in an activity, or a part of your day. Creativity alleviates stress, it gets you focused on something else. It’s a chance to play and use your imagination, which is hard to come by when you’re in the hospital. It’s a chance to tell your story.”

Mondro developed an interdisciplinary course that pairs students with adults at the centers, she spends several hours working with geriatric patients.

For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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