Q & A with Artist and Systems Thinker Miriam Dym

Miriam Dym is a multi-faceted artist coming out of Berkeley, CA. She has made her way from textile design to becoming a self taught systems thinker who uses strategies and tools from the engineering and design worlds. In the past, Miriam used techniques like drawing, painting, and hand printing with hand made stamps that brought her textiles to life. Each piece truly unique and with its own voice, speaking on a moment of her experiences. To me her work reads like a mirror, reflecting where her mind is, and what aspects of her creativity are active during this particular period.

We were lucky enough to have Miriam visit the Beklina studio last week for a presentation of what she is currently working on. It's an interactive practice where Miriam organizes a space in which you can actually connect with art as an algorithm, or a process of rules and calculations to be followed in order to receive an outcome. This algorithm however, which is made by you, or me, or the "viewer," is not restrictive and repetitive, and is really meant to break those expectations.

The project happens through a series of hand stamping which is done by the participants on a large canvas to create a unique textile print of their own, with only one fundamental rule, continuation. You have to continue a design where someone left off, so there is always a flow and communication between the things shared on the canvas in the same space and time, similarly to the flow of the natural world. You leave this performance with an idea that there is freedom in the systems which bind us, and there is a tangible therapy that happens at the hands of this interaction with art, mathematics, interpersonal relationships and oneself. 

Myself and Miriam at her presentation 

Alexis: Where are you from? Does that have in impact on the work that you do today?

Miriam: The official way to answer that question... I'm from the East coast and I live in Berkeley. I've lived in Northern California (Berkeley and Santa Cruz) for just shy of half my life, and about 10 years ago I realized that I'd become Californian.

What is something that you love about this stage in your life?

So much! It is wildly easier being human at age 50 for me, easier to connect with other people...the parts of me that were shy, prickly, and skeptical seem to have mostly (not entirely!) dissolved. Discovering how delightful it is to stay curious and appreciative.

What do you collect?

Oh, what a question! I'm de-collecting books and things from my past, love to cull. I collect ideas and new friends and places to hike with my crazy dog off-leash.

What kinds of things do you gather inspiration from?

All the plants, native and foreign, and their leaves and branches and flowers, the way they change from winter rains to late summer dryness. The work of favorite contemporary artists,not super famous ones, just people intensely doing their particular work... Joan Linder, Reed Anderson, Angelica Ekeke, Jacobine Van Der Meer...so many more. All the menders and repairers out there, those who make mending an art form (Celia Pym, Kate Sekules aka MendyKate, Tom of Holland, my own alter ego Logo Removal Service), and those who mend simply because it's useful. Where high fashion meets performance art, and wild costumes and full body geometric tattoos... Machine Dazzle, Nick Cave, Tomas Tomas.

As a creative, there is a lot of pressure to stay inspired and passionate about one’s art or craft. Which aspects of your work makes you want to continue? 

When the work has a serious, messy and non-linear, research aspect, it drives itself. Over the years of making, I haven't always had something I'm trying to figure out; sometimes I stumble around in uncertainty and feel frustrated and confused, make weird little drawings that don't feel connected to anything. There have been times, though, when a question arises for me, like, how do I not produce any garbage? Or, how can this pattern I'm printing change as I print it? That, as I start working toward answering it, turns out to be a big system question. Which keeps me busy poking at different aspects.

Did you always picture yourself doing something like this or was there a shift in this direction at some point in your life?

Not even close! I didn't imagine I'd have a small scale craft business. I come from the fine art world, and have shown in galleries and museums. SFMOMA owns a piece of mine! And I never imagined that the block printing project would turn out to be just the starting point for research into visual patterns and communication games.

What are you currently intrigued with? It can be a song, a style, an event or place….anything really.

How moving things around, like in my house or garden, or on a table top in a restaurant, can shift my perspective and mood. Why does doing something outside my body seem to reflect my psyche? The dream state of reality?

You can follow Miriam and her work at @dymline