Exhibitions: Current | Upcoming | Past

Exhibitions: Past

Mary Edwards
A Retrospective
Something to (Be)Hold

September, 23, 2021
Way Finder

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When Bristol Community College moved to remote learning in March 2020, all exhibition programming moved online. We are delighted to reopen now, 18 months later, with an ambitious project. In collaboration with the gallery, composer and sound artist Mary Edwards reimagines the campus as a series of sound encounters to reawaken us to the natural world. Edwards uses immersive sound as an environmental or architectural element with the objective to enhance the listener’s spatial experience and transcend practical information by taking the ordinary and creating another reality.

Edwards’ first large-scale public art project, Something to (Be)Hold, began with the two of us taking a walk together around the campus, and in keeping with the times we are living through, she joined me for our walk via FaceTime. We marveled at the pristine beauty of the campus, the pond, the wooded areas, how lush and expansive everything felt. As we traversed the landscape a series of ideas began to take shape.

What does re-awakening feel like?
How do we reconnect ourselves to place and time?
How do we enjoy things together again?
How do you find music in natural or human-constructed environments?

The Pandemic is still with us, and will likely be with us for some time to come. We continue to assess and reassess the methods and best practices to keep each other safe. We negotiate distance and mask wearing and the pros and cons of virtual versus physically tangible experiences.

But the landscape is always there for us too. Its constancy makes it easy to miss its invitation and the opportunity to learn something about ourselves, if only we would look up, or listen, for a moment. There is no correct way to explore what Edwards has created for us. You can listen to the pieces either sequentially or randomly. Your encounter can be as intentional or as fluid as you wish.

In conjunction with the premiere of Something to (Be)Hold the gallery, is presenting a mid-career survey of Edwards other sonic works.

Due to Covid protocols, the retrospective exhibition and the sound walks are designed to be enjoyed using your smartphone and a pair of earbuds or headphones. Masks are required inside the gallery at all times.

Kathleen Hancock

Mary Edwards


All sounds are habitable, and have the potential to be transformative once you get inside them. As a composer and sound artist/architect, I respond to the ecological, constructional, and emotional essence of the inner and outer landscape.

Other than my use of sketches and sound arc notation (a timeline with a curvature)—purposefully to unfold allegory and create a cinematic immersion in these auditory spaces—quintessentially, there are no visual components to my installations. The coalescing of ambient resonances, disembodied voices, humming, melody and intonations are in themselves the structures that I cultivate to convey an emotional channel or soundtrack one may associate with acoustic intimacy.

Upon closer listening, those sounds may reveal an infinitesimal harmonic or dissonant universe located in a conversation that speaks to the conflict of desire and uncertainty that can simultaneously haunt intimate (if sometimes interim) spaces. Each draws on the relationship we have with time, where the anticipation of travel or movement often overshadows the destination.

I practice what architect Juhani Pallasmaa calls “Sensuous Minimalism,” where a certain neutrality, restraint and silence are an inherent quality of the discipline: “The significance is not in its material form, but in its capacity to reveal deeper layers of existence.”

Something to (Be)Hold

What does “place” sound like when it, upon first impression, seems so familiar that one may bypass their imagination for the ordinary?

The locations around the gallery can serve as portals, or an impetus to possibility, that what we subconsciously navigate in our everyday patterns can be transformative to our encounter and expectations if we pace ourselves and listen. You will discover there is no actual silence or stillness afterwards. You may, through engagement, eventually find music in nature, and beauty in between the complexities and unanswered spaces.

What about the sound of time? Does it render the momentary or seemingly endless passage whose common denominator is ominous discord? Or does it gleam with consonant brightness toward the future? Do we hear or resonate differently when we revisit a place after a period of absence? Does the place itself repopulate with resounding motions other than our own?

The soundtracks you hear draw from the material form, and are an extension of my relationship to the natural world, and the lesser known, but no less important histories that have unfolded in these spaces through which you are walking. The elemental sounds or voices I use are not designed to elicit disquietude, but to evoke a sense of remembrance, as well as nature’s reclamation of these discrete, yet interrelated spaces—each being, at once, vast and intimate.


Mary Edwards is a composer and sound artist who uses the medium as an environmental or architectural element with the objective to enhance the listener’s spatial, historical and sensory experience, often through cinematic scoring techniques. Themes of temporality, impermanence, nostalgia, Mid-Century Modernism and the natural world are interspersed throughout her recordings, time-based installations and writings.

Her catalogue includes Natural Anthem; Endeavour: A Space Trilogy for the NASA Expedition of Dr. Mae C. Jemison; The Wa(l)king Pattern; The Sweet Curve; Gospel Number Eight: Tributary; When the Ocean Meets the Sky and Everyday Until Tomorrow, an homage to the Saarinen-designed TWA Terminal 4 at JFK Airport and the opulence of early air travel. Her projects have been commissioned and/or curated by The Provincetown Museum, Indivisible Gallery, 429 Architectural Spaces and The William T. Davis Conservancy. Her Retrospective at The Grimshaw Gudewicz Art Gallery marks her first career survey of sound works. Something to (Be)Hold is her first large-scale public work. Her most recent essays can be found in Invert/Extant (U.K.), The Mentor that Matters series, and her poetry, in the anthology, Joy Has a Sound.

Mary Edwards has been accepted to The Arctic Circle Residency, where she will join a cohort for the 2021 Art & Science Expedition aboard an ice-class barquentine sailing ship beginning in Svalbard off the coast of Norway. Her research in the Arctic Circle will include data sonification—converting glacial geology and ocean data into music and sound.