Danish ceramic artist Marie Herwald Hermann is in love with the everyday.
Beginning in 2015 with a solo show And dusk turned dawn, Blackthorn at Simone DeSousa Gallery in Detroit, Hermann began to parlay her fascination with the “not-spectacular” nature of everyday moments into a series of ceramic shelves holding small mixed-media objects made of mostly ceramic and silicon. That mechanism evolved and expanded, culminating in a 2021 solo show And the Walls Became the World All Around at Reyes Finn in Detroit. In this iteration, Hermann pushed her everyday objects to the point of visual language, imagining the entire show as a kind of poem or essay. A natural next step to underscore this vision for Hermann was to make a book.
“I started really to think about the shelf pieces as words,” Hermann said during an interview with Hyperallergic at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, where Hermann currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and lives with her family. “All the pieces on the wall, like a small round clay disc or a wooden stick, fill in words so that they almost become a sentence. It is a story that’s slowly developing over around the walls … that’s how the storytelling slowly came in. I thought it would be interesting to make a catalog out of that.”
The book of the same title presents the content of her 2021 show in a beautifully digestible, handheld form, allowing for meditations on each grouping of objects, as well as a juxtaposition of their title words. This allows the reader to see the show as fragments of poetry, drawing a direct correlation between Hermann’s notion of objects-as-words, and their literal translation to English.
One can also draw a straight line from the William Morris “Blackthorn” wallpaper, which was a lynchpin inspiration for the 2015 show. While the objects on display in that show were exclusively minimalist and white, the colors from the Blackthorn palette have bled into the current body of ceramics, presenting fields of color punctuated by contrasting colors and broken occasionally by hazy scrims of fleshy silicon. This progression beautifully encapsulates the way Hermann is in conversation with her own practice as it evolves.
It is perhaps counterintuitive that work so tactile and installation-based could translate seamlessly into an art book, but Hermann’s attention to detail, working in close collaboration with Danish graphic designer Anni’s (a moniker for graphic designer Anni Vestergaard), creates an accessible visual language to understand the work.
“She has such a sensibility to the quality of the paper, and the way it’s laid out,” said Hermann of her collaborator. “[I loved] her way of thinking about having a matte front page, so slowly, as you’re using it, traces will be left on it.”
And the Walls Became the World All Around is a lovely primer for someone looking to ruminate on the small treasures of the everyday world — or perhaps to transcend it for just a few page-turning moments.