The Society of Layerists in Multi-Media is founded on a holistic view of art and the world. Here the earth is seen with no boundaries, everything in relationship to the whole, with a Holistic view of inner and outer space. Photo courtesy of Earth Sciences and image Analysis Laboratory, Nasa, Johnson Space Center.
In 1982, artist and writer, Mary Carroll Nelson founded the Society of Layerists in Multi Media (SLMM). She believes Layered Art is a Postmodern development, an art of multiplicity, an investment within the work by each artist, of multiple meanings, allusions, analogues, often mythic and sacred in its intention.
SLMM has published five books highlighting the works of the members as well as the theories of Layering in our lives and our art.
In 1981, Mary Carroll Nelson met the artist Alexander Nepote in Scottsdale, AZ at a gallery exhibition of his artworks. She had seen his black and white collage of a great boulder in 1961 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Seeing that work influenced her theory that some artists were layering their work with meanings beyond its visual content. They both had an instant understanding about the definition of layering and began a friendship by exchanging letters in which they discussed layering and its broader implications. The letters amplified her premise that layering expresses a holistic world view. His replies included details of his mature philosophy related to the “isness“ of All That Is.
In January of 1982, Mary began a campaign of letter writing to introduce the concept of Layered Art to selected artists whose work she knew. That spring she showed a modest collection of layered imagery to James Moore, the director of the Albuquerque Museum of Art. He scheduled an exhibition, “Layering, An Art of Time and Space” for the summer of 1985. Nelson spent three years curating the show, while gradually extending the number of artists to be invited to exhibit in it. She found that although their work was not alike, many artists expressed similar ideas, especially to unifying theories such as space/ time and the collective unconscious. Many artists told her they had encountered a sense of oneness because of a clarifying moment, a trauma or a vivid experience, and now invested their art with these references.
Alexander Nepote in the Bay Area and Virginia Dehn in New York helped in the search for artists to include. With a grant from the Charles Burchfield Foundation, Nelson toured around the country interviewing the artists who were selected for the show.
These conversations led Nepote to encourage Nelson to found SLMM as a place where artists might associate with others who have a kinship of mind rather than mediums. In May of 1982, Mary Carroll Nelson incorporated the Society of Artists in Multi-Media in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1982 SLMM became a 501 c3 organization. The original members of the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media were Mary Carroll Nelson, Alexander Nepote, Virginia Dehn, Martha Slaymaker, Wilke H. Smith and Evelyn Rosenberg.
Alexander Nepote was the first SLMM president, until his untimely death in 1986. Richard Newman assumed the presidency and continued to serve until 2004. Nancy Dunaway became president and held the office for 4 years. The next president was Nina Mihn, who began her term in 2008, followed by Jaleh Etemad, then by our current president Laura Pope. Over the years, SLMM has benefitted from the fine leadership of these presidents and their Executive Boards. SLMM has grown steadily with members across the US and Canada. Every member adds to the wholeness of the group with personal insights, experience, knowledge, and conversations that spark friendships and connections across the country.
Over the past 40 years SLMM has had national and local exhibitions as well as shows in Mexico, England, and France. SLMM has published books and CDs highlighting the works of the members as well as the theories of Layering in our lives and our art. National Conferences were held annually across the country as well as in the UK. Along with the conferences there would be workshops and exhibitions. Other exhibitions and local meetings happened through the years. As an educational group, we shared our ideas and our art to those in our communities.
Emails helped connect the members as well as letters and phone calls, but everyone really looked forward to the annual SLMM Conferences. In 2020 SLMM was unable to have its annual conference due to the Covid 19 Pandemic. We missed the conversations in person. Then the group discovered a new option which was growing in popularity, Zoom. Many SLMM groups around the country began gathering online via Zoom. In December 2020, the members of the Kansas SLMM group began connecting via Zoom and it was mentioned on SLMM Facebook site. Soon members from across the United States and Canada began joining the Tuesday Zoom meetings sharing our artworks, our process, and our ideas. This led the artists to collaborating, sending materials to each other to use in collages. SLMM had a new way to connect!
The SLMM Premise: Enlightened Art Making
Mary Carroll Nelson saw SLMM as a wellspring of energy that is contributing, however modestly, to the evolution of consciousness. Layered art suggests that an intuited world penetrates the “real” one and it is available to all of us. What we derive from it connects us to everything else. The study of consciousness at the frontier of new science reveals the vast potential of our minds to receive and to transmit information through space and time.
"The artist, alone in the studio, is a nexus of power to influence the outer world through enlightened art making. Today, the artist’s way of thinking horizontally, inclusively, trying many solutions before settling on one, is needed as a balance for the linear and adversarial thinking that still dominates the planet." — Mary Carroll Nelson
Mary Carroll Nelson, seen here walking a Labyrinth at the Episcopal Cathedral, San Francisco, CA 2009, founded the Society of Layerists in Multi Media (SLMM) in 1982. She says “Layerist art is a Postmodern development, an art of multiplicity.”
“One might say everything SLMM does is holistic. We are constituted as a holistic society. Our efforts are not made to compete with one another, but to join in a group enterprise. We formulate intentions together and carry them out in our regions and nationally.”
— Mary Carroll Nelson