Mary Ann Lomonaco: With Every Fiber at Pelham Art Center

The artist and Mop with Delicas

Mary Ann Lomonaco began her artistic life as a papermaker after majoring in
Fiber art at Parsons School of Design . Ultimately this led to exploring the kitchen mop as a cellulose fiber she could use when making pulp. One day she started noticing the mophead itself as a potential sculptural element on its own. This insight subsequently led her to explore other recycled materials. Mary Ann Lomonaco recently completed commissions for Delta Airlines for their Executive Lounges in San Francisco, London, JFK, Seattle and Atlanta as well as a large piece for their Atlanta Headquarters. Her installation at the Westchester County Airport is comprised of 55 multiple pieces. Her work is also in the collections of the Neuberger Museum, Neutrogena, AT&T, PepsiCo and the World Bank Library among others.

What brought you to work in fiber?
I frequently visited the Rockefeller Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and greatly admired the African headdresses I saw there. I’d always been attracted to primitive art with its ability to transform humble items of everyday life into tactile, innovative works of art. I began to explore the possibilities of using the “humble” kitchen mop as my common element and began incorporating everyday objects into my contemporary headdresses.

Each mop has its own particular growth pattern and as I employ different techniques to change each one, it evolves. After I dye it, it takes on a personality of its own. It’s so pleasing to alter mundane objects so they can be seen anew; to take ordinary items that otherwise might be discarded as valueless; to create an “Aha!” moment that enables people to really look and see.

Mary Ann Lomonaco, Mop with Soda Can Tabs, 2000, Fiber and recycled materials. Photo courtesy Nick Saraco

Tell me about the genesis of work in this group show and what is the idea behind it?

I’ve been exploring the “menial” kitchen mop for years, and now have about 18 mop headdresses completed. As I’ve said, each one evolves as I’m working on it. I begin with an “idea” or vision, but invariably this is only a jumping off point and one decision leads in a different direction. Most headdresses take many months to complete, as I need to let each decision and visual change “sit” for a while. I am generally working on several pieces at any one time, though only on one headdress at a time. I think of them as a family at this point.

Can you elaborate on your process of working in fiber?
I like working with various materials and patterns as well as different fiber techniques. For example, every morning I would go outside, pick up my New York Times plastic delivery bag, remove the newspaper and recycle the bag. One day, the sun was shining particularly brightly and as I reached down, I noticed the bag itself for the first time. I noticed the brilliant blue color and decided I had to do something with it. I had “stood in a different place.” I explored various fiber techniques and ultimately learned how to create a “yarn” from the plastic bags and taught myself to crochet. I created standing crocheted vessels which have evolved into a series with various embellishments.

Right after 9/11 I was seeing American flags all over on cars, houses, billboards and that image was “in my head.” I had often been drinking San Pellegrino sparkling water at the time and the bottle caps had red stars on them. From here I began to think of embroidery techniques and American flags and this evolved into using painted and cut roof flashing as my “yarn” and hardware cloth from the hardware store as my base. I used the roof flashing to create a fiber technique of cross stitching and the bottle caps to create the stars. A fiber technique was at the core of this new series.

As you can see, I like to use everyday materials and many fiber techniques in new ways to create endless possibilities.

Mary Ann Lomonaco, New York Stories, 2010, crocheted plastic bags. Photo courtesy Nick Saraco

Mary Ann Lomonaco, Fifty Stars, 2004, roof flashing, cross stitch embroidery. Photo courtesy Nick Saraco

How do you see the work in this show in context of your overall work?

My sketchbook is primarily composed of pictures I cut out from magazines and newspapers that appeal to me visually. I periodically go back through them and see what ideas they initiate. The inspiration for a recent headdress came from some pictures of birds in a National Geographic issue.

My three-dimensional mixed media constructions are made from recycled reclaimed, reconstructed “stuff” using a variety of techniques and materials. My aim is to help viewers stand in a new place – to realize that things they see every day and consider as disposable, as trash, can become something valuable, unusual and beautiful – can become art. This all began with a mop: something every woman has and uses without thinking about it. To take this and turn it into something unrecognizable and beautiful is really where I begin.

Mary Ann Lomonaco, Royal Flycatcher, 2020, Fiber, beads, feathers. Photo courtesy Nick Saraco

With Every Fiber at Pelham Art Center through April 3rd, 2021 Curated by Anki King. Artists: Ruby Chishti, Joy Curtis, Jessica Lagunas, Mary Ann Lomonaco, and Mary Tooley Parker, Liz Whitney Quisgard, Victoria Udondian

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: