<i>They’re hanging from the ceiling, seemingly very delicate and easily breakable. Instead, what they really are is a threat. They’re extremely heavy, and if they fell on you, they’d crush you. So the work has all these dimensions.</i><sup>1</sup>
Both thoughtful and adventurous, Petah Coyne (b. Oklahoma, 1953) seeks out unconventional materials for her sculptures: mud, sand, sticks, dead fish, horsehair, and birdcages, to name a few.<sup>2</sup> A frequent traveler since her youth, Coyne chooses the materials for her sculptures in correspondence with her voyages.
<i>Untitled #765</i>, a mixed-media piece made primarily of wax-covered found fabric flowers and ribbons, is typical of this artistic approach. Spherical in shape and suspended from the ceiling by a satin-covered wire chain, <i>Untitled #765</i> is often likened to a chandelier. While its pure white color and fragile flower details give <i>Untitled #765</i> an air of ethereal beauty, the weightiness of the piece and downward pull of the drips of wax imply earthly decay.
<i>Untitled #765</i> is part of a group of sculptures the artist made between 1993 and 1994, all of which hang from the ceiling. First shown in a 1994 exhibition at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City, the sculptures quickly attracted attention. Their unique shapes ranged from pear-shaped, that conjured up images of extravagant wedding dresses, to upside-down letter Ts, similar to ballet tutus. Her suspended pieces—a mode she worked in almost exclusively until 1998<sup>3</sup>—are always placed low to the ground, while her later works typically rest on the floor or are installed at eye level, as she seeks a high level of intimacy between viewers and her works.
In her more recent work, Coyne continues to pursue her interest in alternative materials, such as taxidermied birds which she arranges on tree branches. A departure from her earlier work, she is now exploring darker colors in her works, turning from innocent whites to seductive blacks and dark reds, sumptuous purples and deep blues. Coyne’s trademark juxtaposition of delicacy and darkness becomes more literal in her recent work, such as the 2007-08 piece <i>Untitled #1234 (Tom’s Twin)</i>, in which she arranges black and burgundy silk roses, along with a host of other organic and synthetic materials, into a piece consisting of both hanging and floor elements.
Also in the Addison’s permanent collection is Coyne’s <i>Fourth of July</i>, a series of ten black-and-white images of people at an amusement park swing ride. Blurred by the artist’s movement, coupled with that of the swing, the still photographs capture motion while simultaneously stopping it, lending the images a frozen quality similar to that of the dripping wax in <i>Untitled #765</i>.
Sharan Gill ’16
1. Lynne Tillman, “Petah Coyne,” <i>BOMB</i> 80 (Summer 2002), http://bombmagazine.org/article/2485/petah-coyne.
2. Coyne cites Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois as two important influences, as they are sculptors who similarly utilized unusual materials and explored juxtapositions in their oeuvres. “Petah Coyne,” National Museum of Women in the Arts, http://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/petah-coyne.
3. Judith H. Dobrzynski, “Steadily Weaving Toward Her Goal; Petah Coyne's Art Strategy Has Its Scary Moments,” <i>The New York Times</i>, October 6, 1998, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/06/arts/steadily-weaving-toward-her-goal-petah-coyne-s-art-strategy-has-its-scary.html.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:Exterior Spaces, Interior Places, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/2/2014 - 1/4/2015
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