little vignettes of clarity
Artist Fritzi Huber explores memory and time
By Kathryn Manis
RIVING BACK AND FORTH
to Wilmington from
Carolina Beach, Fritzi
Huber took note of an
abandoned house. The
building continued to
draw her attention as
it decayed, until, finally, the artist had to see
what was inside.
“I kept driving past this house that was
becoming more and more reduced and
dilapidated,” Huber says. “I had to know if
there was anything in there.”
What Huber discovered in the battered
structure was the decomposing elements of
another person’s life — the life of a woman
named Mary Nixon.
Huber, a fiber artist whose practice since
the late 1970s has hinged on her fascination
with textiles and a penchant for papermak-ing,
was mesmerized by the left-behind
Opposite: Fritzi Huber makes rain paper from abaca
fiber using a mold and deckle in her space at Acme Art
Studios. Above: The completed rain paper.
paper and artifacts. These remnants became
the material and emotional content of a piece entitled “Forgotten Histories: Mary Nixon.”
“It turns out that Mary had used her living room as a space for her small sewing business,” Huber says.
“Anything that was considered of monetary value was gone. All that was left were traces of what her life
once was. I thought initially that I wanted to make a collage from some of the materials. But ultimately I
wanted to do something more since there was so much tangible material; I wanted to tell a story without
telling a story.”
Huber used the original documents she found, creating a functional archive of Mary’s life. The final
piece, which speaks to the life of the work’s namesake as well as the meaningfully collected detritus of life
in general, included a baby’s crib, garter belts, photographs and an accordion file of the many pieces of
paper that Huber discovered.
These personal, and sometimes painful, moments are arranged in a kind of chronological order, but
Huber isn’t attached to them staying that way. As viewers pull pieces out for reading and put them back in
a different slot, the piece both evolves and stays true to the original.
“If something goes back in the wrong place, then it is as I found it and the viewer has to tell their own
story,” she says.
PHOTOS BY ALLISON POTTER