When I tell people that I’m a mixed media artist, I’m often met with puzzled looks or worse, looks of doubt. I suppose it’s still considered a new enough medium that many people haven’t heard of it, or don’t really know what to do with it as an art form. In some cases, people go so far as to think of it less as a form of fine art and more of a hobby or something only children do in school art class.
While the line between art and craft is frequently blurred, shifted and altogether smeared away, people sometimes think of craft as a lesser form of creation. Sadly, this stifling cloak of thought can sometimes deter artists from experimenting or crossing the line into craft, and certainly limits the audience that a fine artist may receive if their work passes over this line. Despite this sometimes chilly reception, I think mixed media is the perfect blend of art and craft, and I think it belongs entirely and perfectly in the fine art world.
Mixed media dates back to the cubists and Pablo Picasso, who was known to use mixed media in many of his works, including Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper, seen below.
Cubists in general used mixed media to reinforce their fragmented portrayals of three dimensional objects. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was a Bauhaus professor who used mixed media in an almost architectural way, achieving gratifying simplicity of form. The medium gives even the most prolific painters a tool to breathe more life into their paintings - a testament to the depths that can be achieved with mixed media.
With that said, mixed media is my medium, and I stand by it as an incredible way to create depth, explore texture, and toy with surreality. It allows me to create worlds with my photographs serving as the foundation of each work. I love mixed media for this and so many reasons, one of the most important being that I can repurpose materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill or the ocean.
To reinforce the idea of repurposing/reusing, at my next solo exhibition, I plan on handing out reusable straws to the first thirty people to enter the exhibition space. I want to use the public arena as a way to spread the message, “think before you throw.” Before you throw away a piece of garbage, consider where it will end up and if it can be placed somewhere else. I’ve saved a lot of landfill space by stopping and asking this one simple question.
Unfortunately, I don’t know when my next solo exhibit will be. Originally planned for early August, 2020, it has now been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. I received a St. Petersburg Arts Alliance Individual Artist Grant this year, which I used to create some of the works for the solo exhibit that was cancelled. For now, I’d love to share some images of the work I’ve created for that exhibit and some images of my process.
This is a diptych in which I bisected a portrait of a woman gazing directly at the camera. The direct gaze gave her the perfect symmetry that enabled me to bisect the portrait so that it looked like mirror images. The left depicts a sunny, bright, daytime scene and the right side depicts a moody, celestial night time scene. I’ve been singing “It’s a Wonderful World” to my five month old daughter every day at bedtime, and the lines “the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night” are so simple and beautiful that they stuck with me. I had to create something based on this since it’s constantly repeating in my head.
This photo shows the piece in the composition stage. Only part of the media has been secured so far in this photo, and the rest is awaiting placement. I usually arrange everything, take a step back, and then rearrange (and rearrange and rearrange) the pieces until it feels right. Also shown are some of the many sizes of scissors and Exacto blades I use to cut even the smallest details.
This photo shows the ink transfer part of the process. For this particular piece, I just transferred the ink onto multiple layers of acrylic gel, which I’ll then affix to the wood canvas. Sometimes I affix directly to the wood, but for pieces like this one, I am going to add layers of color and media below the photograph so I’ll place the photo last. I wash the paper off into my garden where it composts in my soil and feeds my plants. This year we’ll grow potatoes, zucchini, kale, and some herbs like parsley and basil.
This photo shows the early stages of a piece, in which I’m just pulling textures and colors that I like. I’ve been drawn to natural textures like grey, taupe and pink stone complemented by the bright blues of the Carribean, so we’ll see where this one goes.
That’s a small sampling of my process, which has evolved over the years. I’m currently learning encaustic painting, so once I implement my process will change again. I’m excited to incorporate the misty hues and hazy, dreamlike quality of encaustic. One thing I know for certain - because mixed media is so versatile, my process will continue to change as I add more techniques to my tool kit.