Mary Tuma uses crochet, sewing and embroidery skills to explore the issue of transformation of both body and spirit in her art. She frequently works with old fabrics and found objects.

About Artist Mary Tuma

Mary Tuma is a California-born artist who holds multiple degrees in art and fashion, most recently graduating with a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona in 1994. She works as an associate art professor and serves as the head of the fibers program at UNC Charlotte. In her own artwork she uses crochet and other fibe techniques to manipulate old fabrics and found objects. Tuma’s work has been featured in multiple museums and galleries throughout the world in both group and solo shows. It has been written about in a number of high-profile publications including Art in America, The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times.

About Mary Tuma’s Art

In her artist statement, Mary Tuma explains that she is especially interested in using clothing forms to explore the transformation of the body and the spirit. She loves working with old fabrics and found objects, because she feels that it evokes a sense of loss that’s important to her work. She describes her artistic creations as “like skins and bones – the interior and exterior of one possible system” and she strives to recreate the place where the body “becomes an emotional landscape”. Tuma’s father is Palestinian and some of her work has addresses the Palestinian experience. She also addresses feminist issues and considers the line between art and craft, while celebrating them both. Mary Tuma learned to crochet from her mother when she was a young child. It was also her mother who taught her to sew, forming the basis for her lifelong work with fiber and fabric.

Mary Tuma’s Internal Systems

The core body of work in which crochet plays a key role is called Internal Systems.

It was described by one writer as “a feminine, pastel explosion of crocheted forms resembling internal organs.”

Tuma did several variations on this project, crocheting with poly-satin ribbon, fabric, yarn and thread to create different effects.

In some displays, the organs look very literal whereas in others they look more abstract. In either case, there is more than just the body parts on display here; the work evokes a sense of humanity and individuality.

Mary Tuma’s Other Crochet Art

The photo above is from a 2004 display called Internal Power where some of these organ-like designs are hung in a cave. Something about this environment really captivates me.

This one is from a series called Minuet, where most of the work is in long crocheted chains and ropes.

Other Similar Artists

I’m reminded of Sarah Louise Burns who crochets anatomically correct body parts

I’m reminded of Ty Tham because of the rope-like crochet and reference to the body form

The organic nature of the installation work reminds me of some of the pieces from Melissa Maddonni Haims


San Francisco based and crochet-obsessed writer, dreamer and creative spirit!


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