Mary Miss

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Mary Miss
Mary M Miss

(1944-05-27) May 27, 1944 (age 74)
EducationUniversity of California, Santa Barbara (B.A. 1966)
Maryland Institute College of Art (M.F.A. 1968)
StyleEnvironmental art
Bruce Colvin
(m. 1967; div. 1986)

George Peck (artist)

Mary Miss (born May 27, 1944[1]) is an American artist and designer whose primary interest is the public realm. Her work has crossed boundaries between architecture, landscape architecture, engineering and urban design. Her installations are collaborative in nature: she has worked with scientists, historians, designers and public administrators. She is primarily interested in how to engage the public in decoding their surrounding environment.

Early life and education[edit]

Miss was born May 27, 1944 in New York City, New York, but she spent her youth moving every year while living primarily in the western United States .[1]

Miss studied art and received a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1966.[2] Miss later received an M.F.A. from the Rhinehart School of Sculpture of Maryland Institute College of Art in 1968.[3]

Influence in public art[edit]

As a public artist, Mary Miss is considered a pioneer in environmental art and site-specific art, as well a leading sculptor during the feminist movement of the 1970s. She was a founding member of the journal Heresies. From her earliest work, she has been interested in bringing the specific attributes of a site into focus along with and audience engagement within public space. Miss’ work crosses boundaries between landscape architecture, architecture, urban design, and graphic communication. Her work creates situations that emphasize a site’s history, ecology or aspects of the environment that have gone unnoticed. She has been particularly interested in redefining the role of the artist in the public domain.

In her influential 1979 essay, Sculpture in the Expanded Field, art critic Rosalind Krauss opens with a description of Mary Miss’s, Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys. Krauss uses Miss’s work to support her examination of sculpture’s interdisciplinary nature between architecture and landscape. South Cove (1988)[4], a permanent public project in Battery Park, is a seminal project in Miss' career as it signified new possibilities for artists working in the public realm. The project, located on a three-acre site at the base of the riverfront Esplande, was made in collaboration with architect Stanton Eckstut and landscape designer Susan Childs. "South Cove brings the public more intimately in contact with the water than any other component of Battery park City or, indeed, any other Manhattan riverside park."[5]

Since 2008 Miss has worked on the development of the City as Living Laboratory: Sustainability Made Tangible through the Arts, a non- profit organization which nurtures teams of artists and scientists working with neighborhood communities to bring about greater environmental awareness and envision more livable cities of sustenance.

Notable Work[edit]

Ropes/Shore (1969), traced the edge of Ward’s Island with ropes staked and pulled taut at 20-foot intervals. Battery Park Landfill (1973) installation was a temporary piece of five signboard-like structures, placed 50-feet apart across the landfill site. A series of large cut out circles descended into the ground describing a column of air that materialized only when the viewer stood with the boards aligned.

Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys (1977), located at the Nassau County Museum. For this installation, three tower-like structures, two mounds and an underground courtyard were built on a 5-acre park site. The towers varied in size, from 12’ to 18’ tall. After passing between the earth mounds, the viewer came upon a 16’ square opening in the ground with a protruding ladder. Approaching the hole and descending, a sunken courtyard is revealed. Inside the submerged courtyard were numerous doorways, windows and corridors to venture. The viewer encounters experiences and multiple perspectives, both above and below ground.

South Cove (1984), New York City, the Battery Park City Fine Arts Commission chose Miss to be the lead artist for South Cove, a restoration and waterfront promenade along the Hudson River in Manhattan. The 3.5-acre park near the tip of Manhattan, is composed of wooden pilings, trellises, grids and a steel mesh overlook. The project also served restorative functions for both the damaged landscape and isolated waterfront. Miss worked in collaboration with landscape architect Susan Child and architect Stanton Eckstut on this project.

Framing Union Square, 14th Street Subway, NYC

Framing Union Square (1992-2000), New York City, Miss collaborated with architect Lee Harris Pomeroy to create 125 red frame elements scattered throughout the Fourteenth Street Union Square Subway Station. The red elements highlight the disappearance of lost infrastructure as well as industrial elements that remain.

The Des Moines Art Center (1986-96), Des Moines, Iowa, is a 7.5-acre site that was developed as both an art installation and restoration site. It includes a demonstration wetland, outdoor classroom, overhanging walkways, a pavilion and a curved trellis. The structures highlight the connection between land and water. Visual elements and images are interwoven throughout the site to reflect the history of the park and its surroundings.

CALL/City as Living Laboratory: Sustainability Made Tangible through the Arts (2008–present). CaLL focuses on reshaping the boundaries between artists and urban infrastructure by articulating a vision of the public sphere where artists are able to address environmental issues of our time. Multiple projects have been developed or are under development as part of this initiative.

CALL Projects[edit]

BROADWAY: 1000 Steps (2011 – ongoing) A long-term initiative to establish Broadway as the “green” corridor of New York City where sustainability is made accessible to citizens at street level. BROADWAY-1000 Steps,started by Mary Miss in City as Living Laboratory, is used to decode the environment of city in art. in long term, this project makes a great outline to change the Broadway in art with the collaboration of scientists and citizens. it has huge impact on art and science, and it helps the city to change itself into a modern city.

Ravenswood/CaLL (2011) An initiative to establish a district of innovation in Long Island City that recognizes the ad hoc nature of the area, its often hidden ecology, the history of manufacturing, and the presence of small-scale artisanal fabrication and artists. The project focuses on the historic and now submerged, Sunswick Creek. By tracing the path of the creek through the neighborhood, patrons will learn about Ravenswood’s history and influence in New York City.

FLOW (Can You See the River?) (2011) A project made up of a series of ‘stopping places’ along a six-mile stretch of the White River between the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the center of Indianapolis. The project brings together the cognitive power of science with the affective power of art to raise river awareness.

The Passage (2010) This installation intended to make the journey to the Staten Island Courthouse Memorial Green an integral part of tourist experiences available in New York Harbor. The ride on the Staten Island Ferry was turned into an opportunity to follow the experiences of immigration: stories of departure, crossing and arrival are sequenced from Manhattan, to the ferry, to the Staten Island Terminal, to the Memorial Green.

Roshanara’s Net (2008) The project created a temporary garden of medicinal plants—ayurvedic herbs, trees and bushes—in New Delhi, India. The installation focused on the small scale—the health and well being of the individuals and their communities. Parks as Living Laboratory (2005-2006) A concept and program developed by Mary Miss during the Master Plan phase for the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California that will transform city parks into a place of active participation and collaboration. The goal is to create a Research and Residency Center, a place where artists can collaborate/engage with scientists - botanists, hydrologists, biologists, - and social scientists - environmental ecologists, sociologists, anthropologists.

StreamLines (2015), In five modest neighborhoods in Indianapolis a cluster of mirrors and red beams radiate out from a central point to nearby streams and waterways: these elements stake out a territory for observation. All are intended to provoke the visitor’s curiosity and send them out to the nearby waterways. This project was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation.


Miss was included in the exhibition "Twenty-Six Contemporary Women Artists," at the Aldrich Museum in 1971. Lucy Lippard was the curator, and other artists included Alice Aycock and Jackie Winsor.[6]

Along with others, Miss's work has been included in the exhibitions: Decoys, Complexes and Triggers at the Sculpture Center in New York, Weather Report: Art and Climate Change organized by Lucy Lippard at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, More Than Minimal: Feminism and Abstraction in the 1970s, Brandeis Museum’s Rose Art Museum, and Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis at the Tate Modern.[7]

Miss has been the thesis of other exhibitions such as Harvard University Art Museum, Brown University Gallery, The Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the Architectural Association in London, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and the Des Moines Art Center.[7]

Selected Group Exhibitions[edit]

Selected Solo Exhibitions[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

Miss received the New York City American Society of Landscape Architects President's Award in 2010, the American Academy in Rome's Centennial Medal in 2001, and a Medal of Honor from the American Institute of Architects in 1990. She received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1986. She was awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984, 1975, and 1974.[8]

She was named as a distinguished alumni of UC Santa Barbara in 1985 with RMS Titanic-discoverer Robert Ballard.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Miss married sculptor Bruce Colvin in 1967,[10] but later divorced in 1986.[11] She is currently married to George Peck, a New York-based artist.[12] They live together in Tribeca where Miss also has her studio.[13]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kingsley, April. "Six Women at Work in a Landscape." Arts Magazine 52 (April 1978): 108–12
  • Lippard, Lucy. "Mary Miss: An Extremely Clear Situation." Art in America 62 (March–April 1974): 76–7
  • Marter, Joan M. "Collaborations: Artists and Architects on Public Sites." Art Journal 48 (1989): 315–20
  • Miss, Mary. "On a Redefinition of Public Sculpture." Perspecta, no. 21 (1984): 52–69


  1. ^ a b "Mary M Miss - United States Public Records". FamilySearch.
  2. ^ "Summit NYC 2011: Mary Miss". The Municipal Art Society of New York. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  3. ^ "Mary Miss | The Cultural Landscape Foundation". Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  4. ^ "South Cove". Retrieved 2016-03-03.
  5. ^ Princenthal, Nancy (June 7, 1988). "In The Waterfront". Village Voice.
  6. ^ Chadwick, Whitney (2012). Women, Art, and Society (5th ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson. p. 349. ISBN 9780500204054.
  7. ^ a b "U.S. Department of State - Art in Embassies". Retrieved 2015-04-07.
  8. ^ Miss, Mary. "Artist Home Page". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  9. ^ "UC Santa Barbara Will Honor 2 Alumni". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. November 7, 1985. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  10. ^ Degenhart, Karen (September 1, 1981). "Activities". The Governors State University Innovator. 8 (1). University Park, Illinois: Governors State University. p. 6. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  11. ^ Berman, Avis (November 1989). "Space Exploration" (PDF). ARTnews. Vol. 88 no. 9. New York City. pp. 130–135. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  12. ^ Baldwin, Deborah (September 20, 2001). "It's Going to Take More Than Elbow Grease". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  13. ^ Smith, Sonia (September 7, 2006). "Mary Miss, artist". Orange County Register. Santa Ana, California. Retrieved March 3, 2016.

External links[edit]