February 17, 2015
By Rachel Rogol

Sheila Pepe installation Sheila Pepe: From Space to Place, Eli Marsh Gallery, 2015.

“Please don't touch the artwork” is not something you’ll hear when visiting the newest installation in Amherst’s Eli Marsh Gallery.

World-renowned contemporary artist Sheila Pepe—best known for her large-scale and site-specific works of knitting and crocheting—has created a remarkable installation that combines her hand-crocheted materials with artworks by Amherst faculty. The result is an intimate setting that welcomes visitors inside… to sit, to contemplate and, most interestingly, to participate.

On Jan. 29, the installation opened in the Eli Marsh Gallery, located in Fayerweather Hall near art classrooms, faculty offices and studio spaces. Pepe delivered an opening lecture (see the video below) about her life and work as an artist, and her idea behind this nontraditional exhibition space: “What I’ve attempted to do is to make the gallery a place for the art students who study here.”

Pepe described the space as “a clubhouse, a pinup space and a work space, but still a gallery,” and said that she included loose materials in the installation, such as spools of yarn and fabric, for the specific purpose of allowing students to “continue” to make the space their own.

Printmaking II student
Printmaking student Ashley Felix ’15 discusses her
work during a class critique held in the gallery.

On Feb. 10, Amherst’s Senior Resident Artist Betsey Garand visited the installation with students from her “Printmaking II” course. Garand says that they “immediately felt welcome” in the space. After discussing the color, form and texture of Pepe’s work, Garand’s students pinned their own artworks onto the walls and held a regularly scheduled class critique in the gallery.

“The sense of being welcomed into a gallery space,” says Garand, “not only physically, but also as a participant, was a generous gesture of community on Sheila’s behalf, and integral to the concept of the installation.”

Pepe invited studio art faculty, including Garand, to create work “in conversation” with her own, and added it to the installation. Garand created monotype pochôir prints in response to a crocheted piece Pepe sent her in January; these works now hang beside each other in the gallery. 

“All of the faculty’s work,” says Garand, “surrounds and is placed on the exterior spaces of the installation, in contrast to and protecting the interior, student space.”

Overall, Garand says, “Sheila Pepe orchestrated and created a unique installation for experiencing contemplation, connection and conversation.”

All are welcome to experience this special exhibit, Sheila Pepe: From Space to Place, on view in the Eli Marsh Gallery in Fayerweather Hall, through Friday, Feb. 20, 2015.

"From Space to Place," a lecture by Sheila Pepe
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015

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0:00–5:30      Welcome and introduction by Garand
5:33–40:15    Pepe discusses her life and work
40:16–44:47  Pepe describes the installation in Eli Marsh
44:48–55:15  Pepe takes questions from the audience