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Washrooms

Collection Series

Filling and Emptying

 

Merrill Mason

Filling and Emptying (east wing women's washroom)

1999

Merrill Mason

Filling and Emptying (detail, east wing women's washroom)

1999 iron, vitreous china, glaze, photographs
John Michael Kohler Arts Center Collection
 

Location: East Wing women’s washroom

The entrance of Filling and Emptying is flanked by vignettes of cast-iron objects set into marble-lined niches. Merrill Mason collected these perfume bottles, lace-edged and embroidered linens, gloves, lipsticks, hand mirrors, and hair combs and re-created them in iron, replacing the tactile qualities of these intimate items with an unyielding permanence appropriate for their public placement. The interior of the washroom furthers the concept of a woman’s private room for dressing, contemplation, and ritualized preparation with additional iron still lifes and photographs of a woman seated at a vanity holding Mason’s sculptures. The tiled walls are embossed with historic French, English, and American monograms, both an abstraction of identity and symbols of propriety. Mason created these tiles at the Kohler Co. Pottery as well as lavatories and toilet bowls that contain text referring to the flow of water: “filling and emptying” and “swirling, swirling, around and around and down.” Mason’s room quietly contemplates the boundaries between public and private through personal objects and procedures that prepare one for public presentation.