Michelle Stitzlein was born and raised in the small town of Coshocton, Ohio, and maintains a studio in a re-purposed, former grange hall in the rural community of Baltimore, Ohio. With family ties to the now mostly-defunct, manufacturing history of her hometown, a teenage life spent in a culture of 1980’s wastefulness, and memories of a thrifty, fabric-scrap-reusing grandmother, Stitzlein creates sculpture with found items that resonate with fortune and abundance but that also address ideas of economic stress and natural depletion. Utilizing materials she scavenges and collects, her work is mindful of the resourcefulness and bootstrap mentality of farmers, homemakers and the depression era, as well as folk artists and craftsmen in developing countries. Her work and imagery venerates imperfections found in the handmade, the patched/mended and secondhand and pays deference to nature and habitat enduring continual loss and destruction due to the industrial pursuit of new and raw resources.
Stitzlein holds a BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design, in Columbus, OH. Her work has been exhibited at the Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, PA; Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Auburn, NY; Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, FL; Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mt. Vernon, IL; Mulvane Art Museum, Topeka, KS; Carnegie Mellon University / Miller Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA; Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus, OH; COSI, Columbus, OH; Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, OH; Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, OH; and the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ. She has been a resident at the Millay Colony of Arts, NY, and was awarded Individual Excellence Grants from the Ohio Arts Council in 2008 and 2017.
CURRENT & UPCOMING Artist residency, 2022
Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CAHeadlands
PDF of Michelle’s exhibitions & resume
My work is created with recycled and found materials. Items such as old garden hose, electrical wire, computer cables, piano keys, mini blinds, china shards, license plates, and bottle caps are utilized to create imagery and abstractions born in my imagination. However, only purposeful study will reveal the individual identities of the hundreds of objects within each of my pieces. These objects, once assigned and confined to a certain function or task, find a new decorative incarnation within my work as color, texture and/or pattern. Through the process of cutting, dismantling and placement, I coax the multiple, disparate objects into unusual relationships and odd bedfellows to unite as a bold, visual whole.
My work is influenced by motifs found in nature, though it does not necessarily resemble any one species of plant, animal or insect. The Fynbos Series, is titled after the shrubland zone of the Western Cape region of South Africa and the exotic, spiky flower heads of the protea, a flowering bush found in that area. But then, the series is also inspired by common house plants and succulents sold in almost every local nursery near my Ohio studio. Each piece in the Moth series combines patterns and borrows attributes from many butterflies and beetles, but it is also a study in the symmetrical being a bit asymmetrical. No two wings are identical. I’ve admired the beautiful imperfections found in nature’s details and, in turn, exposed those “flaws” by enlarging everything by hundreds of times its original size.
The contradiction of ideas surrounding artwork inspired by nature, but created entirely with discarded materials left over from mass consumerism and industrial production, is intriguing to me. It’s something of a full circle story. Raw resources are extracted and harvested from the earth to manufacture solid goods and household wares and then those same items are disposed of by the community and scavenged by myself to create a vague essence of nature. I find the concept simultaneously disturbing and comforting. At once, an insult and a tribute to Mother Nature.