Geraldine L. Mailender TAC Member Highlight Interview
After spending her formative years in Pittsburgh, PA, artist Geraldine L. Mailender attended The Ohio State University and earned an advanced degree in Occupational Therapy. Mailender then opened a successful occupational therapy health and wellness practice in Cincinnati, OH, where she raised her two children. After making her way to Florida, she was presented with the trip of a lifetime: a tour of the National Parks. From Grand Teton to Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore, Mailender absorbed the vibrant colors of America’s most pristine landscapes: lavender-grey mountains, deep blue waters, and the red-dotted fields of Indian paintbrush. “I saw such beauty, the colors are amazing,” says Mailender. “The wildflowers reminded me that I’ve been doing embroidery since I was seven years old.”
Her background in embroidery translates seamlessly into the work inspired by her travels. Combining Japanese embroidery techniques with watercolor paintings on silk, Mailender began to create her unique works of art. The silk Mailender embroiders upon is 34 momme—momme is the unit of measurement for silk’s density, the higher the count, the more threads—a dense, luxurious canvas for her watercolors. She buys the silk in large bolts sourced from France and Italy, then precisely cuts and finishes them into 18-by-18 squares: “I stretch the silk onto the Japanese wooden frame, there is no taping, no pasting, it’s all done with needles, no knotting. There is a step and a process to everything. So I do the painting, I do the embroidering, then I take it off and mount it over museum-grade poster board.”
Though the Japanese Embroidery Center is located in Atlanta, GA, Mailender was able to take part in weekend retreats given by an instructor from the Center living in Florida. After learning the basics of Japanese embroidery techniques, Mailender began experimenting in her own practice, inspired by her trip through the National Parks: “I began experimenting with the light, which was so important. On those trips, you get your money’s worth, they have you up at the crack of dawn. So I really got to see when the sun first comes up over Grand Teton it really is red, then turns to gold, so I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ll get a chance to use gold floss.’”
Mailender’s careful attention to light is reflected in the three pieces featured in The Art Center’s gift shop. Delicate threads of gold cast over pink and blue mountain silhouettes recall morning light brimming over the horizon in Mental (Healing, Learning). While bronze light dominates the frame in The Great Eclipse, a piece celebrating the beauty of the August 21st, 2017 total solar eclipse. These pieces and more can be found in The Art Center’s gift shop from now until July 1, 2023, as a part of our Member Highlight Program.
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