As I became involved with books, I began to study their history and forms. I discovered an ancient structure called the girdle book: prayer books worn by medieval monks, lashed to their belts, their girdles, so their prayers would always be at hand. I had a different vision. My girdle books would contain new objects of devotion or contemplation. Girdles are binders, like notebooks, places to hold stories, house ideas in structures usually used to mold the female figure into idealized, often unreal shapes. I use a variety of materials, including clothing, printed matter, dressmaker pins, thread, staples, and photographs to tease out their narratives, posing questions that rarely have answers.
My most recent work has focused on the relationship of women to motherhood and non-motherhood; especially how women without children situate themselves in a world that largely values women for their fertility? I have also begun to examine the complexity of maternal relationships at the other end of life’s spectrum, an exploration prompted by my own mother’s descent into dementia. How, for example, do we renegotiate relationships with aging parents who, increasingly ill and needy, live beyond their ability to care for themselves and, like small children, become cared for by their former children, now adults? How do we negotiate these same trials for ourselves as we age? I see my work as part of a dialogue about issues that directly engage people’s lives.
Miriam Schaer is a multidisciplinary book artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her principal work consists of artist books, book-related sculptures and installations, prints, embroideries, photographs and multimedia projects that deal with feminist, cultural and societal issues.
She has exhibited steadily, domestically and abroad, for more than three decades. Numerous public and private institutions have acquired her art works, including both the Yale Museum and Yale’s Sterling Library, the Brooklyn Museum, Harvard University, Florida Atlantic University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture at Duke University, the Tate Gallery in London, The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, The Bainbridge Museum outside Seattle, the University of California at Los Angeles, San Diego and Irvine and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC
Her work has earned a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and representation at the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in South Korea. In 2007, she was artist-in-residence at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. Her series, Babies (Not) On Board: The Last Prejudice?, about societal biases against women without children, was included in the International Museum of Women’s MAMA-Motherhood Around the Globe exhibit in 2012. In 2013, the Soros Foundation supported her work making artist’s books with women’s organizations in the Republic of Georgia. She returned to Georgia in 2017 as a Fulbright Scholar, where she established the Artist Book Collection at Telavi State University. In her first street performance, she participated in Art in Odd Places 2019: Invisible, focusing on older and marginalized artists.
Miriam Schaer’s Website