Mary Corey March

Refuge of Leaves

Mixed Media Participatory Installation: natural papers hand-dyed with plant-based dyes, bookbinding thread. (10/2017).

The Contemporary Jewish Museum invited me to be part of their "Sukkah Studio" over the week of Sukkot.  One artist or artist group inhabited the pre-built wooden structure of the Sukkah at the museum to create an installation or studio experience.  I chose to create a new participatory installation around the concept of Refuge. 

The Sukkah is a place of refuge in the “wilderness”, traditionally a ritual space within Jewish tradition serving as a reminder of flight and seeking refuge. “Refuge of Leaves” creates a Sukkah as a ritual space for reflection on refuge in a traditional sense, but is also a place where people from many backgrounds can reflect on and share their many experiences of refuge in their personal experiences of refuge from “wildernesses”, whether physical or metaphorical.

I followed some traditional aspects of the Sukkah in using natural plant-based materials in the form of a variety of papers from different places and times, including papyrus as well as paper that could be put through a modern printer.

These are for participants to write responses to their choice of prompts on the subject of refuge. I hand-dyed the papers with natural dyes to mimic the color range of plants one might build a traditional sukkah from to echo the effect of a natural structure made from plants, but also to make each piece of paper more individual in color and texture. Just like the people writing their responses on them, no two are identical.

The title is a play on words- “Leaves” acts in four ways; the individual leaf of paper in a larger book, the plant leaves that form a traditional Sukkah, the fact that a refuge is a temporary shelter, not a home, one that eventually requires one to leave, and that the structure is made of the stories each individual leaves behind