the writings of SLMM founder, Mary Carroll Nelson
New Thoughts For New Times
By Mary Carroll Nelson
As of May, 2021, the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media has been in its 40th year since it was recognized as a non-profit educational organization by the State of New Mexico and the Internal Revenue Service. In March, 1985, I submitted an article to LEONARDO, The International Journal of Arts and Science. Written in academic style this is a key sentence from the Abstract at the head of the text: “Although layering techniques are an outgrowth of well-developed twentieth-century methods and do not represent a new style, layering is a perceivable development in contemporary art characterized by a synthesis of technique and holistic thinking.” The piece was published in March, 1986.
At the time I was focused on the similar sources Layerists cited as important to their inspiration: Einstein’s space/time, Jung’s collective unconscious and the famous photograph of Earth from Space..a single beautiful blue planet with no visible borders were all symbols of connectedness.
Today America is in a fractured state of awareness. We seem to be coerced into a primitive form of regressive tribalism. This is not usual for us. Most of us think of our country as the UNITED States. But divisiveness is affecting families, friendships, reputations, businesses and careers. A difference of opinion can lead to a riot, or a form of shunning. Our country needs healing.
These months of lockdown have given me a deeper sense of how Layerists might be the agents of healing. Even in isolation our members have created examples of Layered art by bringing a diverse assemblage of elements into harmony. Though most shows have been virtual, our SLMM web exhibits attract more viewers than the majority of our wall-hung regional and national shows.
I began reviewing our SLMM history of exhibitions, national conferences, and published books. Accomplishments such as these are the result of cooperation by tens of members.
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. The first all member show was held in the Zanesville Art Center of Zanesville, Ohio in 1987. It was conceived and led by Mary Todd Beam and Marilyn Hughey Phillis with an enthusiastic committee. I was privileged to attend the show. It was standing in that spacious, light-filled gallery that I first “heard” with my inner ear the humming current of energy that has identified so many of our later shows. I think of it as the spiritual component of holism.
Holism refers to the concept of Oneness. I have faith in the power of a holistic intention. By making our SLMM website, books and virtual or gallery shows known on a larger scale, we can offer leavening and a possible blessing to others who might pick up on the true meaning of holistic thinking. My new thought is to promote vigorous activity throughout SLMM. Get our work and our premise into public consciousness. Activate the power we hold in common. I believe SLMM can make a difference.
Mary Carroll Nelson
Layering: Approaching the 'Layer' As a Formal Element and a Significant Metaphor in Artmaking
Published in LEONARDO, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 223-229, 1986
By Mary Carroll Nelson