Vessels, a golden grid of wire boxes, is a receptacle for visitors’ private invocations written and then folded into small, jewel-colored, rectangles of paper.”  —    Excerpt from Leslie Luebbers’ Forward Essay for Adrienne Outlaw: Seek Shelter Exhibition Catalog, The Art Museum of the University of Memphis, 2007

“In the tradition of prayer walls, memorials, and peace walls, Outlaw not only invited participation during its display but also in its making. Reminiscent of American quilting bees, she invited others to cut, punch, and sew the squares. Interestingly, it was the construction that seemed to stimulate the most meaningful personal exchanges. Difficult to make, the baskets demanded close attention, forcing volunteers to fasten their eyes on the task. Thus free from eye contact with co-workers, they felt less inhibited, Outlaw says, to share their stories with others.”  —  Excerpt from Dorothy Joiner’s article, Adrienne Outlaw: The Bread of Industry for World Sculpture News, Vol. 16, Fall, 2010

“Conceived during a time of general unease, with the country at war, the economy uncertain, and health-care costs spiraling, Outlaw’s project was widely embraced. From the moment it was installed, the baskets were filled with rolled slips of paper bearing personal messages, effectively transforming the secular space into a charged environment.”  —  Excerpt from Susan Knowles review, Vessels of Grace, for Fiberarts Magazine, Vol. 31, p. 55, Sept/Oct., 2004 

“In this instance, the hopes, fears, intimate, thoughts and prayers that one might utter in front of a memorial wall are placed, in written form on rolled-up papers, into the containers. These traces impact each new viewer or participant, revealing the potentially endless number of individuals involved in the process and support of healing.”  —  Excerpt from Wendy Koenig’s essay, Being Many Together, for Adrienne Outlaw: Seek Shelter Exhibition Catalog, The Art Museum of the University of Memphis, 2007


We made Vessels both in the studio and in a dozen workshops held in hospitals, churches, synagoges, youth and community centers, colleges, and cancer centers. In each workshop I asked people to think of someone who helped them or someone they helped. The stories poured out while people who wouldn’t normally sit together shared deep personal secrets. Vessels was first exhibited at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. It travelled to the Republic of Korea for the 5th Cheongju International Biennale, for which they produced an exhibition catalog.