The vernacular architecture of the Native Americans has been the inspiration behind artist Necole Schmitz’s monumental Grass House structure, which will be on display at London’s Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground from tomorrow.
The Wichita -style temporary structure, (which is on show as part of Schmitz’s final MA degree show at Chelsea College of Art & Design), has been constructed by the artist entirely from natural materials, including: wheat longstraw, hazel and willow – components typically used to create haystacks. The interior of the installation is clad in 140 earthenware tiles, each one being painstakingly hand-cast by the Schmitz over the course of her MA. Together these tiles formulate a narrative of the artist’s family lineage, by displaying depictions of her Native American ancestors, she allows the viewer to journey deep inside her personal mytholologies.
Schmitz’s obsession with natural hand-made structures developed at a young age. Fascinated by her parents involvement in the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970’s, she begin reading and collecting Native American literature. Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art and The American Indian Craft Book detailed the indigenous structures dotted across the remote forests and mountains of Northern Idaho. Furthermore, these primitive huts roused ideas of complete self-sufficiency for Schmitz, prompting her to create Grass House, using only low-tech traditional building techniques. Sited next to London’s Tate Britain, the installation offers a space for viewers to encounter another world, separate from the chaotic London backdrop.
The artist will further develop these ideas of ancient folklore and mythology through daily performances inside the structure for the duration of its display. Wearing costumes hand-made by Schmitz, these performers will retell the personal stories strewn inside the Grass Hut by interactive dance.
Artist, Necole Schmitz, says “This piece has been all engrossing and I am excited to see it completed with the performance piece inside. I wanted to make and touch every element of it, to make it absolutely personal and honest in the sense of it being a world unto itself. I thought by making it all myself this would give it some sort of authenticity and strength.”
Necole Schmitz is currently completing a master’s degree in fine art at Chelsea College of Art in London. She previously studied painting at Boston University and has exhibited widely in both Europe and the United States. In her current practice she explores ideas of physical sensation and bodily experience through the use of installation, performance and collaborations with other artists.
In her recent work Schmitz employs sound, texture, and light to alter the way viewers move in a space. These performances are centred around the idea of intimate encounters with the viewer, whether physically or through their presence as suggested by a surrogate object, environment or narrative.
Schmitz currently lives and works in London.