Mother Pins: Syd Carpenter, CFEVA Fellow

Mother Pins

Syd Carpenter, CFEVA Fellowship ’17-‘18

“My mother’s wooden clothes pins, used to hang laundry in the backyard of the house in Pittsburgh during my childhood, remain in my possession. Why the clothes pins? Most things I kept from that time have long since been removed. The ceramic bird collection, the vintage 50’s clothing, the costume jewelry, carnival glass and ancient linens…all gone.. Even the house has just finally been sold. But the clothes pins remain.”

During her fellowship with CFEVA, Syd Carpenter began a series of mixed media sculptures inspired by the shape of wooden clothes pins. Such a shape is evocative of an elegant elongated female form, the clean lines recalling Cycladic figures from an ancient Aegean Culture. In the series Mother Pins the shape represents the artist’s mother, Ernestine Carpenter. Ernestine appears as a mother pin, providing shelter, food and fantasy. In whatever guise, she is always elegant, always elevated. The series re-imagines that long held bag of clothes pins transformed from a forgettable artifact to emblems of the complex but reverent relationship between a mother and daughter.

Syd Carpenter received her MFA in 1976 from the Tyler School of Art. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery Smithsonian Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, James A. Michener Museum of Art, Jengdezhen Ceramic Institute in China as well as numerous public and private collections. She is a recipient Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the National Endowment for the arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Leeway Fellowships in the Arts. 

Carpenter has been a guest artist at the Haystack Mountain School, Penland School, Anderson Ranch, Chicago Art Institute, Dickenson College, Hollins University, Howard University, Millersville University, University of Delaware and other academic institutions and art centers.  Currently, she is a professor of Studio Art, Swarthmore College.  She has recently had a solo exhibition at the African American Museum of Philadelphia, “More Places of Our Own,” “Creative Hand Discerning Heart,” at the James A Michener Museum, and “Faces of Politics”, at the Fuller Museum in Boston.


This work was completed during the artist’s Visual Artist Fellowship, a two-year incubation program that is key in CFEVA's commitment to fostering artistic excellence and furthering its mission to help visual artists build sustainable careers. Artists are selected for this program annually by an independent Board of Artistic Advisors based on the merit of their artwork, demonstrated ability to reach stated goals, and a clear vision for the next level in their professional practice. Learn more about this fellowship and other CFEVA programs at

October 1
November 16, 2018
artist reception: 
Thursday, November 8, 2018
The Center for Emerging Visual Artists
237 S 18TH ST APT 3A