When I first
saw the mixed media art of Lee Bontecou, my world went off-kilter. I had never
seen anything like her darkly wondrous abstract art forms before. They are
simultaneously lovely and threatening, calling to mind contradictory
objects—artillery and transcendent portals, war machines and chrysalises.
|Untitled by Lee Bontecou, 1966, welded steel, canvas, epoxy, leather,
wire, and light, 78 1/2 x 119 x 31.
The works are
hard to codify. Is it sculptural mixed media collage? Mixed media painting? I'm
still not sure. The freestanding and hanging pieces combine porcelain, wire
mesh, silk, string, and wire in ways that look like 3-D collage drawings. Drawn
lines and hatched marks transform into spindly steel armatures; cutouts of
paper or photographs become cloth or canvas wrapped or stitched in place. I see
them and think of the vastness of galaxies and the smallness of animalcules
(microscopic creatures if you prefer).
|Untitled by Lee Bontecou, 1998, welded steel, porcelain,
wire mesh, canvas, and wire, 7 x 8 x 6 ft.
Other works are
often affixed to the wall on a frame that resembles a traditional painting canvas,
but the works tent in, out, and around the wall on steel frames, ribs, and
support cages onto which pieces of canvas and fabric are sewn with wire. In
many of them, there is a black hole or opening that confounds—is it a way out
or in? Overall, the resulting painting hybrids are like sculptural mosaic art
calling to mind altered and abstracted spirals—like the whorls of a
seashell—and the nature of black holes that might have once been stars.
|Untitled by Lee Bontecou, 1962, welded steel and canvas. 68 x 72 x 30.
artist whose work is equally haunting and powerful is the mixed media
assemblage of Ruth Rosner. Her work is featured in one of my favorite new eBooks, Mixed Media People, Part 2. In it,
you'll find inspiration and instruction on how mixed media can enhance your
work, whether you are a painter, sculptor, collagist, or work with fiber and
stitching. Mixed Media People, Part 1 and
Part 2 are especially helpful because
they emphasize the figure in art and how to approach it
in new and unusual ways. Enjoy!