Discover the Thought Provoking Works of Sculptor Margaret Griffith
Feasts for the eyes and mind.
Written byHadley Hall Meares
Photographed byMonica Orozco
The installation artist and sculptor Margaret Griffith has always known who she was. “I have this old letter up here that I wrote about myself when I was 10,” Margaret says, pointing to a note tacked to a cork board in her bright, spacious home studio. It reads, “‘I love to do art. I take an art class, and I want to be an artist when I grow up.’”
Above: The artist in her studio working on a handcut paper installation titled “101280” for an exhibition opening at the Brand Art Gallery January 22
But the warm, engaging Margaret grew up to be not just a fine artist, but also a serious thinker. While attending the North Carolina School of the Arts in her hometown of Winston-Salem, Margaret discovered such artists as Nancy Holt and Robert Morris, whose works are conceptual and based outdoors in natural environments. “The idea that the work didn’t have to go on a wall, that it could be outside, and it didn’t even have to be a thing; it could actually be a hole in the ground,” Margaret says. “That really blew my mind as a 16-year-old.”
Above: Margaret with her “15th, 17th and Pennsylvania” sculpture at the Jose Drudis-Biada Art Gallery at Mount Saint Mary’s College in LA
An avid explorer, Margaret traveled extensively early in her career, becoming fascinated with dualities—fragility versus stability, public versus private space—and boundaries, both real and imagined. After earning her MFA in sculpture from Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2001, she and her husband, Jamie, also an artist, moved to Los Angeles. For the artist—a self-described urban scavenger—Southern California, with its complex sociopolitical issues, has been fertile, stimulating ground.
“There is a social and political undercurrent to a lot of the work that I do,” she explains.
While living in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Highland Park, Margaret began to make paper sculptures of her neighbors’ gates. A sculpture called “15th, 17th and Pennsylvania,” recently on view at her solo exhibition Divisions at CSUN’s Soraya Art Gallery in Northridge, is Griffith’s pointed interpretation of the gates of the Trump White House, which she constructed using a gilded Tyvek fabric. “It’s like I’m going to remove these obstacles that really are serving as a Band-Aid for greater problems,” she says. “I wanted to make these gates that were kind of fallen and droopy, kind of like a frilly curtain.”
Above: Margaret uses an airbrush to spray paint hand-cut Tyvek for a piece titled “Catherine,” based on the entrance gate to the Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
During the pandemic, Margaret completed a series of wall-mounted pieces with intricate, off-center patterns inspired by perforated steel patterns on trash cans and grates. “I’ve been just really interested in this idea,” she says. “You can’t quite focus. You can’t quite get your footing. You can’t quite get still. I may be over-analyzing, but I think that may very well represent how I’ve felt, and probably many of us have felt, during the pandemic.”
Still fascinated with boundaries, she is currently working on a richly detailed hand-cut hanging sculpture inspired by a wire gate in San Jose, which was installed to keep homeless people from encroaching upon a residential neighborhood. Plans are underway for the piece to be part of a group show at the Brand Gallery in Glendale this January. For Margaret, this sculpture, like all her art, is not an overt statement but something even more powerful. As she puts it, “It’s an invitation to contemplate what is really happening.”
Visit Margaret’s website at www.margaretgriffith.com