TJ Mabrey    Men are Grass    detail

Before his death in 1980, Gregory Bateson argued that a “syllogism” of the form

Men die.
Grass dies.
Men are grass.

should not be dismissed as illogical or invalid. I am aware of its more logical form

Men die.
Grass dies.
Men are like grass (in that they die).

but the artist in me prefers the metaphor that “men are grass”. This comes closer to explaining human relationship to the environment. It seems more ecologically sane to believe human beings are part of, not apart from, nature.

To Bateson, the “grass syllogism” reflects the way poets and schizophrenics speak, with metaphor, much as prelinguistic mammals probably thought.

Art is given - as religion, dreams, and the like - freedom to distance itself from logic, much as Zen Buddhism invites us to return to prelinguistic consciousness where there is no “I” separate from “the other”.

I strive, through my sculpture, to make the point that nature and humans are the same. To destroy one is to destroy the other. But we live in an unprecedented time in history when humans seem intent to do both by denying that we are all part of the whole.

Perhaps the “grass syllogism” could be re-worded to read

Humans die.
Grass dies.
Humans are grass.

Would that save us?


TJ Mabrey, Artist and Human
September 2019

photographs by Kathleen Brennan
TJ Mabrey    Men are Grass
glass tubes, etched eye-glass lenses, paper-clips, grasses
approximately 45 x 34 x 60 inches
TJ Mabrey     Men are Grass     detail

Migration Metamorphosis Symbiosis Emergence

“…it would be an undeniable shame to miss this! such quality is rare anywhere. hire a bus and all go together.”

– Simone Swan, Founding Director of the Menil Foundation

The artist with the east wall of "Emergence," at the Taos Center for the Arts, Taos, NM, paper installation, approx. 23 by 16 feet

T.J. Mabrey has for years made evocative sculptures in the age-old medium of marble and proved herself adept at the art of direct carving. Her latest work at the Taos Center for the Arts demonstrate that she can bring a sorcerer's touch to the ephemeral ways of paper, combining poetry and chance and abstract origami in a series of mind-bending constructions reminiscent of the playful seriousness of the Dada painter-poets of a century ago.

Ann Landi, founder and editor,
contributing editor, ARTnews


Sculptor TJ Mabrey created a site specific installation of paper sculptures that was suspend from the ceiling and embraced the walls of the Taos Center for the Arts’ Encore Gallery.

Strands of text-flows — all selections from poet John Campion — accompanied the sculpture, enveloping the viewer in a world of migration metamorphosis symbiosis emergence.

TJ Mabrey and John Campion     Installation      Metamorphosis to Emergence
TJ Mabrey and John Campion     Installation     Metamorphosis to Emergence

Mabrey’s work, created from cut, rolled, folded and embossed papers was influenced by selections taken from “Consilience,” the fourth in a projected series of five book-length poems by Campion (, whose works explore the relationship between human culture and ecology.

Frames of Mind

“Frames of Mind: TJ Mabrey and Robbie Steinbach” was a collaborative installation of art on exhibit at the Hulse/Warman Gallery in Taos, New Mexico. The artists created a dialogue between stone and paper that is beautiful and challenging to the intellect, the ear, and the eye.

Living in an age of increasing chatter and visual distraction, it becomes a challenge for the eyes and ears to process what is seen and heard. Octavio Paz said, “To read a poem is to hear it with our eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears.” What if one could look at art with that thought in mind? Can one understand art by hearing what it says with our eyes? Could one see art with our ears? How are the data processed by the mind’s eye? How is memory recalled?

TJ Mabrey      Ismael and the Rising Tide of Memories
TJ Mabrey      Ismael and the Rising Tide of Memories     detail
TJ Mabrey     Bearing Gifts III      White Marble Bronze Element      15 x 15 x 22 inches
TJ Mabrey     Bearing Gifts I      White Marble Bronze Element      11 x 11 x 22 inches
TJ Mabrey     Bearing Gifts II      White Marble Bronze Element       12 x 12 x 20 inches

For Flora

TJ Mabrey     Four Florae for Flora      Leuter's Limestone      Four Columnar Elements, each 19 x 19 x 60 inches

Four Florae for Flora represents four species of flora in Central Texas: Oak Tree, Woodrose Vine, Horsecrippler Cactus and Mexican Hat wildflower. The sculpture is permanently installed in the Hannah Springs Sculpture Park in Lampasas, Texas.

TJ Mabrey     Four Florae for Flora (scale models)       Leuters Limestone      6 x 6 x 14 inches (each)
photographs by TJ Mabrey and Kathleen Brennan