Molly Zimmer: Soft-Scapes at Harwood Art Center


by Albuquerque artist Molly Zimmer

Opening at the Harwood Art Center, 7th and Mountain

Friday, January 10, 2020


Please do register at our Facebook event:

Molly and I connected for the first time a few weeks ago, over at Humble Coffee on Lomas. We had a great conversation about creative practice, the artist’s life, and where our work has taken us in the recent past. She’ll be showing in the Main Gallery at Harwood (see above), and I’ll be showing in the Front Gallery there simultaneously. I am thrilled to see our work together, as both of us love color, texture and pattern enormously. Here’s an introduction to Molly and her work, from her website (

“Molly Zimmer is a multimedia artist whose work combines painting, textile, and collage. She holds an MFA in Painting from the University of New Mexico, and a BFA in Painting from Maryland Institute College of Art. Her work has been exhibited throughout New Mexico and nationally. Molly is also a textile restorer, specializing in Navajo weavings. She has taught sewing, drawing and painting courses through community-engaged workshops at museums, K-12 schools and universities, and in rehab facilities. She lives in Albuquerque where she maintains a studio at Downtown Contemporary. 

Molly’s work has been exhibited in solo shows at Saint John’s Cathedral, Exhibit 208 and Small Engine Gallery in Albuquerque. She has participated in numerous group shows at Fleckenstein Gallery, Baltimore, MD; Tamarind Institute and Harwood Art Center, Albuquerque, NM; Form and Concept Gallery and Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe, NM; The Alternative Gallery, Allentown, PA; and Cerulean Gallery and Amarillo Museum of Art, Amarillo, TX. 

Molly is the recipient of a SITE Scholar Award, at SITE Santa Fe (2017). In collaboration with the Tamarind Institute at UNM, she completed a Wilderness Studio project in Bandolier National Monument and Chaco Canyon.”

Below, you’ll find the text of an email-based interview I conducted with her after our free-flying discussion. 

Andrew Fearnside: How do you imagine the relationship between your work and the environments it finds itself? Have you experimented within that relationship? What happens within that artwork+context relationship when your works leave the studio?

Molly Zimmer: I think that I am still navigating and working on building my environments for my pieces. I think the multiplicity of work in a space creates its own environment, changing the atmosphere of a room – the literal and palpable feel of a space that is inhabited by my thoughts and emotions conveyed in color and pattern.

AF: Your work draws on the making vocabularies and histories of sewing and pattern making; surface design and textile design; and all kinds of painting. What’s a making vocabulary a newcomer to your work would be surprised to find that you love? What’s a making language that fascinates you now, but that isn’t obvious within your work? Are there making vocabularies that resist your interest, that seem to confound your attempts to engage with them? 

MZ: Typical making vocabularies– painting, oil bars, weaving, knitting, quilting, drawing, abstraction, clothing design, screenprinting, digital sketches, collecting color palettes, knotting, hat-making, basket-making, costume/camouflage.

Right now, a newer one is making woven baskets out of felt. I am also spinning yarn, dying yarn with collected cosmos flowers, and creating a more traditional quilt of my own design. Knitting socks. Another is making hand-made cards for people. I have also started making small collages during live model sessions at the harwood– I bring scraps, glue and my scissors, and work during the 5, 10, 20 minute sessions. That is exhilarating to try and capture it with a small amount of time, really gets things flowing! I think that with gardens, and nature, it is always in respect to our bodies interacting with shapes, so to me collage is an appropriate medium.

AF: How would you describe your relationship with the French post-structuralist theory of the 60s and 70s, American feminist theory of the 70s and 80s, the gender theory of the 90s? Are you interested in political readings of your work? If so, how would you characterize your relationship to the theories that undergird our moment in Progressive struggle? 

MZ: I think the struggle is really about keep on keeping on – making the work, expression, being true to yourself– and that is something of the moment today, it is expressing yourself and acknowledging the histories that have influenced you and that you are drawing on intentionally. Such as me working on Navajo Textiles, and having that affect my work subconsciously, and intentionally researching to learn more about Diné culture. I am not making a political statement about my work, and I think that ambiguity helps to keep work out of the cannon. I am also not a “woman artist”, I am an “artist”. I will leave the theory and politics to the art critics to discuss. I create art, critics dissect and break down art. I would say that my work does give a nod to the collective experiences of craft, women making household crafts, mending and fixing things – Dust Bowl Days of my family, and the idea of labor in work/process, labor of women— attached to that of quilting, weaving, knitting, crochet, embroidery, and other works to show skill/design. I can say that from a family of strong women, I am proud that my mom and grandmother taught me to sew and passed on a love for making things with my hands, being creative, self-sufficient and resourceful.

AF: Are you a religious person? A spiritual person? Neither? Something else? How would start talking about your metaphysics, your sense of what is “real?” Are spirits real? Do trees have consciousness? How about bacteria? How about electrons, or quarks? Planets, or solar systems?

MZ: Religious – no, but making art takes a kind of “faith”. Spiritual–no, but I think there are rivers of consciousness that we as artists dip into and collectively explore. Spiritual in the sense that positivity and the power of thoughts can lead us in a direction, and that intuition is a strong internal navigator. Things are all interconnected, tied by strings of thought and energy – responding and pulling in many directions.

AF: What are some pattern languages that you just can’t get enough of? 

MZ: Lines, wiggly lines, straight lines, curved lines, rounded, jagged, and anything in between. I use drawn lines in my work to show textures of leaves and veins, or to convey my own sense of movement. Lines can show rows, lattices, perspective of agriculture and pathways. They are a mapping of space, a thought of mapping, internal dialogue, a diagram aspect. They convey structure and form, also structures of fabric, theads, looms and weaving warp threads. They can be veil, mesh, window, a brick walkway. 

AF: For our fellow artists—could you refer us to a text (book, video, poem, visual work, etc etc) that is an endlessly giving source of inspiration for you?

MZ: Really encouraging book on all the common artist doubts– to train your inner critic…. with lots of solitude in studio time, I need some good thoughts.

“Great artists are often childlike – it is a paradox of the creative life that serious art involves serious play – such as a kitten learning to hunt with a ball of yarn.” ~ from Letters to a Young Artist by Julia Cameron

A visual source would be ever-changing, but Shara Hughes is a current favorite painter, she uses typical kid crayons and materials in her drawings. Marsden Hartley with such nice clouds and tree forms. Gee’s Bend quilts. I like work that is unassuming and considered that there is no hierarchy inherent to shape or material used.

AF: How would you describe your relationship to fluorescent colors? 

MZ: Fluorescents work like odd elements in textile design, similar to how they work in painting. Happenstance of colors. They seem to radiate light, other colors reflect light. Sunsets radiate, gardens reflect.

AF: Could you share with us an artwork whose study really changed the way you think of “nature” and “the landscape?” 

MZ: Charles Burchfield– love those wild trees and another similar– Henri Rousseau. They both capture a strangeness and beautifulness of the landscape that is more than what you can “see”, but also what you might “feel”. 

AF: If you were given a fully-funded artists’ retreat anywhere in the world (or the universe), where would you go, and what would you be excited to explore there?

MZ: Ah, so many places….. A natural space, just drop me off with my paints, some food and lots of coffee and let me get to painting. I especially enjoy mediteraniean and tropical climates with the types of plants that grow there. Bright colors, large sculptural foliage.

AF: What’s more difficult for you as an artist—time management, accounting, or marketing? Where do you go to work on that difficult aspect of professional life?

MZ: These are all challenges as a younger artist, as most artists might not hit their stride until 65+, but I would say that for me writing/marketing is a challenging professional artist tool. I have a few trusted friends to edit and look over press/promotion/marketing, and with practice and creating a bank of language for your work, those tasks get easier.

AF: Can you recommend a “channel” you tune in to to discover opportunities for your work?

MZ: Does “tending to a garden” count? I think being still enough to watch the seasons is an important and valuable way to discover/play/connect.


Molly will be teaching a collage workshop at Harwood’s 6th Street studio in the beginning of February. 

Abstracted Gardens: Collages with Molly Zimmer

Saturday, February 1st & Sunday, February 2nd, 9:00am – 4:00pm

Location: Harwood’s 6th St. Studio

Workshop Fee: $135 Harwood members / $150 non-members

Materials Fee: $35 per student

Registration / More information 

Do you enjoy flowers, gardens, landscapes, and collage? Come learn more about abstract collaging in an exploratory and playful environment. Coinciding with textile artist and educator Molly Zimmer’s Exhibition “Soft-Scapes” at Harwood in January 2020, she will offer a weekend workshop to share her collage process to develop new ideas. Students will experiment with a wide range of textured materials such as fabric, felt, paint and wire. The workshop will emphasize spontaneity and personal intuition. Students will walk away with 20 unique collages, additional materials for future use, and a small box to store their works of art.

email inquiries to 

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