August 6, 13, 27, 2022

(Closed August 20)

The Mute Project

Textile Works of Ries Niemi

Opening Reception: Saturday, August 6, 12-4pm with music & beer
*PUNCH Gallery will be closed Saturday, August 20

This August, PUNCH Projects is excited to bring the new textile works of Ries Niemi to PUNCH Gallery in Thorp. A cross-disciplinary artist from Bow/Edison, Washington, Niemi is primarily known for his metalwork and public art, though he simultaneously works in various textile processes in the form of sewing, knitting, crocheting, batiking, weaving and embroidery. This life-long interest in textiles began in the 1960s and continues to this day.

In April 2020, Niemi began a series of embroidered portraits of musicians from across the globe who have died from the Corona Virus. Every day, more musicians have been dying from the virus. Musicians in every genre, in many different countries, ranging in age, style, and degree of fame. For Niemi, they are all equally important, are all Royalty, and are all being Muted by the virus before their time. Hence, the Mute Project.

Currently, Niemi has produced more than 150 of these portraits, with a current backlog of at least 50 yet to do, memorializing musicians who died thru December 31, 2021. For Niemi, this has been an amazing journey, learning about the lives and music of so many disparate musicians, many of whom were unfamiliar to him.

All of these pieces are machine embroidered on various handmade papers. Using a CNC embroidery machine, Niemi has made hundreds of pieces with this mechanized technique, and has spent nearly two decades inventing new ways of using and misusing this device. The portraits begin with hand drawn imagery, sometimes drawn on a tablet, sometimes on paper. Then, they proceed thru three different computer programs, refining and redrawing, before they are loaded into the computer of the sewing machine, and sewn. The average piece is 40,000 stitches and may take several hours just to sew.

For Niemi, these musicians were all unique, interesting, and talented, regardless of fame or success, and he honors and celebrates this through his embroidered portraits.

The Mute Project opens this Saturday, August 6, with a live DJ set of reggae and hip-hop in the PUNCH yard by Ellensburg’s Black Grenade.

Additionally, PUNCH is excited to welcome three more artists-in-residence for the Visiting Artist Program (in partnership with Gallery One in Ellensburg and the Robert B. McMillen Foundation) this August. Neville Barbour will be in residence Aug 1–14, followed by artist duo Shan Wu & Drew Cavicchi from Aug 27–Sept 7.

Neville Barbour is a Washington, DC native who uses charcoal portraiture to draw on the virtues of ambivalence that we experience as people in this world. He believes that the past remains with us for a reason. We must choose how to reinterpret this past. We must process it so that we can move forward. He has participated in over 23 domestic
and international juried exhibitions and recently exhibited at the Museum of Science + Industry in Chicago, IL for their “2022 Black Creativity exhibition”. Neville has a piece in the permanent collection at the David Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Arts & Culture of African Americans and the African diaspora.

Shan Wu & Drew Cavicchi are an interdisciplinary artist duo working predominantly in film, video, installation, photography, conceptual sculpture and process based work. Their work investigates gender, cultural and national identity, science and technology in culture, site-specificity and human-nature relationship. Shan received her MFA in Film and Video and Integrated Media Program at the California Institute of the Arts. Drew received his B.A. in Asian Studies from the College of the Holy Cross and is pursuing his M.S. in Computer Science at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. Their practice involves working with land, environment, architecture, living plants, and nature, and raises questions about identity, politics, perception, and the relationship between humans and nature.

About PUNCH Visiting Artist Program

For this residency program, housing is provided by PUNCH in the upstairs apartment of our exhibition and event space in Thorp, WA. Our partner organization, Gallery One Visual Arts Center in neighboring Ellensburg will provide studio space with access to their ceramics facilities if desired. With support from the Robert B. McMillen Foundation and Gallery One, $400 weekly stipend will be provided and a partial travel stipend will be available for artists traveling from outside of Washington State.