Saturday, May 28, 2011


Let's get colorful!  In this final post before the conference, I wanted to touch on the subject of color. Too often I have seen artists working in bricolage or collage who only use unpigmented medium or white paint. I hope that this post will inspire you to think about color in your bricolage work--either from added encaustic paint, colored gesso, ink, oilstick, oil paint or oil pastel as well as color from the elements themselves.

Beatriz Milhazes, Brinquelandia, 2008, mixed media collage on paper, 45 1/4" x 56 1/4"
Image from James Cohan Gallery website

Beatriz Milhazes is the contemporary artist I think of as the Queen of Color. The piece above is actually not that typical of her work in that it's pretty geometric, where her usual work contains swirls and arabesques in more rounded shapes. Click the gallery link in the caption above and you'll see 25 other examples of her work.

I picked this one because I wanted to show the use of text as texture and as a means for adding color. I believe that Milhazes uses a lot of food wrappers from candy or gum in her work. In your bricolage work, perhaps you could use pieces of fabric, paint chips, printed advertising or other sources to add color to your work in addition to paint.

Yayoi Kusama, Violet Obsession, 1994, sculpture of stuffed phallic forms
in the shape of a rowboat and oars. Picture taken at MoMA in July 2010.

Detail of the Kusama work

Yayoi Kusama: Talk about saturated color! Here is an example of one hue used to cover a multitude of objects, unifying them and making an intense statement.

Kurt Schwitters, MZ443 (untitled), image from the Menil Collection

Kurt Schwitters: This work by an artist known principally for his collages illustrates how a limited amount of strong color can animate a composition. Note how the use of red brings out the pinkish paper at bottom left (may actually be the back of something red).  Black is also an important color, used in the cut paper and in pencil lines.

Detail from Rebus by Robert Rauschenberg, 1955, mixed media on three panels,
 8x10 feet x 11 1/8", picture taken at MoMA in July 2010.

Robert Rauschenberg's daring use of 3D materials along with paint and canvas was the bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. In Rebus he included 117 paint samples lined up between the two drippy reds at the bottom of this image. Here we see color from elements and color from paint, pencil, prints, newspaper, fabric and who knows what else.

Size in inches: 28"x 34 1/4"

Conrad Marca-Relli: I saw an ad for the Knoedler show with a similar piece by Marca-Relli in the current Art News and it caught my eye. I like the way he uses those stripes and adds that unexpected pale blue piece of fabric above. I suppose he means it to represent the sky, but if so, why are those cloud shapes striped too? The only little piece of red (plus white and blue) really draws attention to itself, but the competition with the movement of the stripes is pretty severe. That black L-shape at mid to lower left anchors the block of smaller shapes and implies a shadow.

Conrad Marca-Relli, Cityscape A-M-11-96, 1996, collage and mixed media on canvas, 42" x 45 3/4"

Here's another Marca-Relli with what appears to be a simple organization. The yellowish color at bottom looks like it comes from clasp envelopes. The middle section could be a deconstructed book and the black at the top could be anything but is probably paint. I really like the simplicity of this piece and the color is subtly very powerful. I think you can never go wrong with plenty of black, but that's just me.

Leonardo Drew, Untitled work. Picture taken at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery in February 2010.

Leonardo Drew: One of my favorite artists, Drew uses a lot of black in his work. Here he paints single objects displayed in a grid constructed from old window trim. Note how painting some of the boxes themselves, as well as the objects, breaks up the grid a bit. Also some of the objects are more dimensional than others and some boxes are painted whiter or less brown than others. It gives the work a more organic look and softens the geometry.

Lee Bontecou, Untitled 1961, welded steel, canvas, wire and rope,
72 5/8" x 66" x 25 7/16", image from the website of the Whitney Museum

Lee Bontecou, another of my faves, also used plenty of black in her early work. The color of the recycled canvas pieces in this one came from use (dirt) in their prior industrial life and from soot that she applied with her welding torch. The combination of the two sources gave the work a distinctive greyed-out taupe-ish color that combines beautifully with black as the color really all comes from the black scale.

Work by Brian Dickerson.  Unfortunately, something is wrong with his website
that won't allow me to look up the info on this individual work.,
but as I recall it, this is a good-sized piece, 40"-ish in size

Brian Dickerson: Here's another work that uses a color with plenty of black in it. This is a taupe with a warm temperature (toward red) as compared with Bontecou's cool (toward green). I really like Dickerson's work, which is constructed with hidden enclosures and buried components. The freshness of that little piece of  green in the midst of all that black and brown really brings the piece alive when highlighted by the white next to it. There is no question about the compositional focus being on the inset color, but what's that strange line of something inset to its left? Ah, mystery! (Here's another link to see Dickerson's work at Kouros Gallery in NYC this summer.) By the way, the list of materials in Dickerson's work says "oil, wax, mixed media on wood." I'm guessing the wax is cold wax mixed with oil paint, but I could be wrong.

Hannelore Baron, Untitled box construction, 1985, 14" x 8" x 2 1/2"

Hannelore Baron:  I am not sure what the objects in the box are, but the color that she has used on them is dark, rich and subtle in combination with that beautiful brown of the box. Whatever those vertical pieces are, they are being restrained by the rope and string and the viewer is being kept out of their intimate interior space. I am making the point here that dark color brings a richness and depth not found in bright, saturated color. My eye seems to go into the dark while light color stays on the surface.

Henry Klimowicz, Circles #3, 7 x 7 feet, cardboard and hot glue

Henry Klimowicz is a master of cardboard. He makes huge and spectacular work using just this one material and hot glue. The color is all from the cardboard itself, but the shape of the elements influences the value because the light strikes it differently depending on size and shape. This is something else to consider when making a bricolage composition from one type of element, and a factor that's also apparent in the work of El Anatsui, for example. How much can you vary the color by varying size and shape of one type of element? More on Klimowicz's website.

Spectacular cardboard works from a Klimowicz exhibition

Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2003, styrofoam cups and hot glue, 6x20x19 feet

Tara Donovan: The master of works made from one element, Donovan adds no color to her works, but the way light hits the surfaces of the elements provides plenty of variety. Probably color is not the first thought you would have when looking at Donovan's work, but here is one more example of a repeating element using light as its palette. (Take a look at more of Donovan's work at the Boston ICA.)

Kathryn Frund, Rapture, Rupture #6, 16"x16", image from website of  Chase Young Gallery, Boston

Kathryn Frund: Here is more color from elements (natural wood) plus a thin layer of paint over the natural color of the crumpled and wrinkly metal. Slightly visible at left and bottom is more color from the panel underneath. This is subtle, mostly invisible color that still works its magic. (Click the link for the gallery to see Frund's usual much more colorful work.)

Catherine Nash, Reliquary to the Dawn, 2011, 14"x13"x5", mixed media assemblage with vintage drawer,
encaustic, nautilus shell, antique market finds, raku-fired ceramics, lashed pine needles
from the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico gathered at dawn

Catherine Nash: This lovely piece gets its color from aged wood, rust, the soft tans of the pine needles with the darker bands of twine, and the luminescence of the shell. The highlight is the small encaustic painting with the pale turquoise and pinkish white of dawn's rosy glow. The 3D element of the shell plays an important role by providing the link in color and shape between the painting and the found elements. Notice that the found elements are not embedded in encaustic but left in their natural state and attached by other means to the drawer. (More of Catherine's work here and here. Studying Catherine's work will provide plenty of examples of how to combine encaustic with found elements.)

Sharon Booma, Nothing But a Rumor, 2011, 60"x60"x3", oil and mixed media on pan

Sharon Booma, Unobstructed Effort, 2011, 48"x48"x3", oil and mixed media on panel

Sharon Booma, Opportune Moment, 42"x42"x3", oil and mixed media on panel

Sharon Booma: Finally, I'm showing you three by Sharon Booma to illustrate the use of strong allover color with elements both painted over and exposed in the color field. Booma is a master of this type of painting. Notice how she leaves plenty of empty space (color field) for the eye to rest in. Having elements submerged in the field or partially exposed by scraping adds a sense of discovery for the viewer. Imagine how blah these works would be if they were painted only with unpigmented medium. Also notice that while there is a predominant color, there are also many other colors included in each work. These colors could be added with mediums other than encaustic or come from the elements themselves. (Note that if you are coming or going through Boston to or from the conference, Booma shows at Arden Gallery on Newbury Street, where you can also see work by Joanne Mattera, Kim Bernard and me).

I hope that this post will give you more ideas for your work and add some possibilities for bricolage that you may not have considered previously. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone at the conference and working with you in the post-con workshop(s). The mystery boxes are being assembled and will be waiting for you to reveal their contents.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Manipulating the Elements

Betye Saar from the exhibition last December at
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, "Cage"
(See my post about this show in Art in the Studio here.)

In my initial post I spoke about the difference--as I defined it--between bricolage and assemblage. Assemblage is the bringing together of various objects or pieces of materials as they are found, without much changing or manipulating of them. In this way, they retain their distinct identity as separate pieces although they become part of the whole.

I think the above work by Betye Saar is a good example of assemblage. You can see that she has brought together an old chair, washboard and cage together with other elements placed inside the cage. I see no evidence of paint or other manipulation of any of the parts. It looks like the pieces were incorporated into the work as she found them.

This work makes me very aware of the uniqueness of each of the objects and I wonder where they came from. That is, does Betye Saar go to flea markets or antique stores, does she have pickers working for her and so on. I think about the source of these elements because they appear to have survived over time and are more self-referential than otherwise. As I looked at the work, I understood that the combination of parts alluded to black slavery and got the evocative feel of the elements, but for me the work lacked the unique hand of the artist in its making. I thought the emphasis was more on the "found" than the "art."

Betye Saar, The Liberation of Jemima, 1972, 11 3/4"x8"x2 3/4"

The Liberation of Jemima is probably Betye Saar's most famous work. Her intention was to "transform a negative, demeaning figure into a positive, empowered woman..., a warrior ready to combat servitude and racism." (quote from Betye Saar). Here Saar has not just assembled found objects but transformed them by painting and attaching them to each other. She has made a Black Power fist from wood or some other painted material and set it in front of the found print of a black "mammy" with white infant. She has probably painted a found doll and painted found syrup labels, then set all the elements into a painted shadow box with fluffs of cotton in the foreground. This is a unified work that clearly speaks its meaning: Jemima has given up her broom for a gun and raised her fist in a Black Power salute. I would define this as bricolage.

Leonardo Drew, section of No. 75 at the DeCordova Museum
(See my post about this show in Art in the Studio here.)

Leonardo Drew is one of my favorite artists, as you may know from Art in the Studio. I saw this work in person at the DeCordova last September. It is choc full of found objects that have been assembled in a grid and painted with rust. What brings together the disparate shapes of the objects is the regularity of the small square blocks within each of the larger squares. This is grid upon grid organization. When the objects break the grid format because of their size and shape, the viewer's eye snaps right back to the grid with the appearance of the next block. Painting just about everything with rust has the effect of pushing everything back, toning it down so that it loses some of its original color and becomes part of the whole. That also gives it more of an old, decayed look. I would define this as bricolage.

When you see a collection of objects like this, is there any question about the meaning of it all?

Another piece by Leonardo Drew, this one hung in the grand staircase at DeCordova

This is a lovely little piece, maybe 2' by 2' or so. Here is a broken grid that still reads as a total grid, but look at how many ways he has disturbed the regularity of the format. 

Suppose you had a series of objects, not all the same shape and/or size, but a few the same, and you brought them together on a panel with a similar organization. Perhaps you would overlap other objects on some of them as Drew has done with things inside the little boxes. Inside=3D and Overlap=2D if you see what I mean. You could unify all the objects by painting them a similar color or colors, maybe hot pink or blue instead of rust. You would be manipulating the elements. You would be making bricolage.

Do I have to think about meaning?, you might ask. You will find your meaning from the objects, I would answer.

Found Object Art 
Yes, bricolage is "found object art," but if you google "found object art," you will get things that look like this:

Fear by Karen Hatzigeorgiou

Work by unidentified artist from Style Hive

Broken Family by Anthony Heywood, from My Modern Met

Found Object Art by Brad (age 5), from Barbara Bianchi

People who are not used to making art mostly tend to make animals, robots or doll scenarios from found objects. This is part of the folk art tradition, but this is not what we are aiming for.

Examples of bricolage from current exhibitions in New York galleries

Lisa Hoke at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, "Love, American Style", April 28-June 11
(thanks to Joanne Mattera for the link)

Love, American Style, Black and Gold, 2011, cardboard, paper, rivets, glue, 144 x  109 x 20 inches

Detail of above work

Panorama of the exhibition

Older work by Lisa Hoke:

Blue, 2007, plastic, paint and hardware, 25 x 27 x 3.5 inches

Zig, 2008, matchsticks, tissue paper, glue on cardboard, 5 1/4 x 6 x 3 1/4 inches

Boxed Sets, 2008, match boxes, paint and rivets, 14 x 12 x 10 inches

Louise Bourgeois at Cheim & Read, "The Fabric Works", May 12-June 25

While it may be stretching it to claim that some of these works are bricolage, look at the way she uses fabric to look like paint. The fabric elements of her compositions have certainly been manipulated, and compositions such as these would easily translate into more dimensional materials. Note the simplicity and clarity of her compositions, the balance between figure and ground and the breathing space in her work.

Addendum: By the way, I read on Altoon Sultan's blog that Bourgeois "found" these fabrics in her own closets, cutting them from clothing and household items. Read the excellent post about the show and see the more intimate photos of the show taken in person.

Eugenie Grandet, 2009, mixed media on cloth, suite of 16, 11 1/4 x 8 1/2 inches each

Untitled, 2006, fabric and fabric collage, 11 x 18 1/4 x 2 inches

Dawn, 2006, fabric book, 12 pages, 12 1/4 x 9 3/4 inches

Untitled, 2003, woven fabric, 34 x 44 inches

The last one is my personal favorite, probably because it has something African-looking about it.


By the way, if you Google "bricolage," you will get a lot of things in French, such as:

This is because the word "bricolage" is apparently used in French to mean "do-it-yourself."


Next and last post before the conference: the wrap up, with emphasis on color, space, line, value, form and the rest of the components to consider in making fine art.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Meaning in Art

Detail of Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?,
Paul Gaugin, 1897,oil on canvas, approx. 55 x 147 inches (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)

Gaugin wanted all the big questions answered, but that kind of heavy pondering is best left to philosophy, or theology if you're so inclined. What I mean by "meaning" in art is the conceptual underpinning for works of art. This would not have been a problem or much of a source for discussion when artists were painting or sculpting religious or history subjects, naturalistic landscapes, seascapes, portraits and other observed objects. In the 20th century, as the subjects of artworks deviated from observed depictions of people, places and events, "meaning" became a topic for examination and discussion. Abstract art brought about heated discussion of meaning and artistic intention.

Philip Guston, Zone, 1954 (Museum of Modern Art)

After World War II, in the heyday of what came to be called Abstract Expressionism, artists and critics for the most part disavowed meaning altogether as art became more the record of the artist's improvisational process or actions exploring and expressing emotions. This gestural period was complemented by color field (organic/chance) and hard-edge (geometric/control) painting. Afterwards, Pop Art, Op Art and Minimalism further removed meaning from art, and Conceptual art left the meaning but took away the art.

21st Century Art

Isa Genzken, Elefant, 2006, from Unmonumental at the New Museum, 2007-08

Kim Deakins, Me-Eat, 2009, Ink on paper, 55 x 36 inches,
from "New American Paintings", July 2010

Jumping over several other movements to arrive at the 21st century, we reach the home of Anything Goes, where many of the trendy galleries and museums are featuring improvisational, random and purposefully amateurish works. At the same time we also have skilled, beautiful and concept-driven work in many, many genres.

The Purpose of My Art History 101
I ran through all the above to reference the fact that contemporary art is full of artists who have historically been trained to decry meaning and defend intuitive process in art making as their unquestionable right. While I am a strong supporter of civil rights and would not send the art police to anyone's studio, I suggest that consciously thinking about and developing the conceptual basis for your work will benefit you by improving your work as well as making it easier and more satisfying to make art. I know this from personal experience and from other artists who have moved their work forward by approaching it from this perspective. (And big thanks to Miles Conrad for his "Moving the Work Forward" class for pointing this out to me.)

Working From the Medium
I think that a medium as seductive and full of technical aspects as encaustic is particularly apt to lead artists into working from process rather than from ideas. The result is lackluster work that doesn't lead anywhere or have anything to say. It's what I call (in my non-diplomatic way) "So-What Art." I look at it and go, "So What."  Why should I be interested in it? Why should I spend my time looking at it? What does it give me back in return for my viewing?

Straight Talk from a Non-Diplomat
Unfortunately, all too many people working in the medium of encaustic consider themselves "encaustic artists" whose work is about "playing with" or "listening to" the wax. Although mastering encaustic techniques requires experimentation and learning by trial and error, unless the work is motivated by some other purpose than "playing with wax," it usually is of interest only to the person who made it (and maybe their mother or best friend).  I have observed that many artists who add found objects to their encaustic works, just place them on a panel embedded in encaustic or use the encaustic as glue and call it a day. The purpose of this blog is to shake up these bad habits and get artists thinking about the work they are making, to develop a reason for making the work and organize it using formal principles.

Working From a Conceptual Framework
The "meaning" I'm talking about can be as simple as an elevator pitch (Per Wikipedia: An elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.). Or it can be as extensive as a formal statement about your work that analyzes several aspects of your intentions and may be based on research you have conducted on a particular topic.

Examples of Work With Meaning

Gregory Wright, Into the Grotto, 2009, encaustic, oil,  pigment
and shellac on birch, 36 x 24 inches

Greg Wright creates fantasy worlds with glowing colors, sinuous shapes and deep spaces that entice the viewer to enter. His statement says that he "works intuitively," but he does that within the framework of making his fantasy creations using "motifs of celestial, aquatic, and microscopic influences with the intent to capture a visual account of the human condition."

Catherine Nash, From the Outside In, encaustic painting in found weathered
wood -worked board with patinaed redwood shingles, 16 x 13 inches

Catherine works poetically and sensitively with found objects and encaustic. She describes her Secret Skies series, which this piece is from, as "paintings of the sky [are] created within a closable wooden box, game board or the like. I am playing with a physical way of bottling up, translating, of trying to comprehend the unfathomable with a bit of humor. Have portable sky, will travel."

Cory Peeke from the Conrad Wilde website.
(No info was given about title or size of this work.)

Cory Peeke's work is about social and cultural conceptions of identify, particularly concerning gender and racial stereotypes. In addition, the subliminal communication of meaning in color is an important aspect of his work and has led to his work with paint swatches that "subtly acknowledges and contends with ideas of sexual, gender, racial and class stereotyping associated with particular colors as well as certain design professions." His statement is a model of how to describe levels of meaning and their influence on an artist's work. (Also note the difference between the statement he uses on the Conrad Wilde website and the statement on the home page of his own site. Both describe his work and its meaning but with a slightly different emphasis.)

Jackie Tileston, Everything in Your Favor, 2006,
oil and mixed media on linen, 60 x 72 inches
Although Jackie Tileston's work looks very different from Greg Wright's, she has in common with him the intention to create new worlds in her paintings. Her statement says: "A medley of sources is orchestrated to create or reconstruct a world within the painting in which a new kind of sense is made - one in which the beautiful, absurd, sacred, and mundane can coexist. I do not find a conflict between meaning and visual opulence, between commercial culture and content, and I often purposefully cultivate an operatic sense of surface and reference." For me, her work epitomizes the sense of "anything goes" in painting today with her mastery of diverse painting styles and genres. Her work is not a hodgepodge but a synthesis built by an accomplished and knowledgeable artist.

Lynda Ray, Cinnabar, encaustic on panel, 40 x 48 inches

Lynda Ray's work has a strong material presence and a real sense of purposeful geometric construction. Her statement says that her work is about time: "Instead of experiencing time in a linear way, as a narrative to be read left to right, bottom to top or top down, I look at time condensed and compressed like a double exposure photograph where one picture is taken on top of another. The end result allows multiple moments to appear at once. It’s as if one is looking through peeled back layers to reveal other stages or development."

Reviewing Artists' Websites
I have shown only five examples of art to be considered in the context of its maker's meaning and intention. I hope that you will visit the websites of these five artists (and others) and notice that when you look at the full bodies of their work, you will see how their work has a consistent look that ties in with their intention. Various series may emphasize certain aspects, but over all you see that their work is recognizable as being made by one person and expressive of unique interests and ways of art making. These artists use a medium (or media) as a means of expression rather than an end in itself.

Next Post: Transcending the Medium and Transformation of Elements

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Methods of Organizing Elements

I am actively collecting materials for the mystery boxes. I picked up the panels Friday
and have some interesting (and challenging) things coming together for the post-con workshops.

How to make a collection of found objects into art? Organize, my friends, organize.

In my last post I showed a list of organizing principles. I'm going to repeat that list here so that you can see the possibilities more easily.

  • Simplification
  • Geometry and symmetry
  • Emphasis or focus
  • Harmony
  • Unity
  • Opposition
  • Balance
  • Variety
  • Depth
  • Meaning

One item you will not see specifically listed is Patterning. I suppose this method could be summed up as repetition and rhythm. I'll show you a few examples. Some are mainly made with paint or line, so you will have to imagine the elements as having three dimensions.

Patterning Examples

Diana Gonzalez Gandolfi, Falling, 2005, encaustic and oil
on wood, 56"x32 "

Here's a piece that mixes three types of patterning. (Bet you thought I was going to say two types.) Let's start at the bottom with the dark checkerboard and those three light-colored stripes that not only break up the regular pattern, but also tie in the color  to the more expansive top of the piece. The top section actually divides nearly in half, with a regular pattern in the section that touches the checkerboard and then the top part where several patterns overlap to the point that in places they stop being patterns. Where is the rhythm on the top part? Disappeared into layering.

If you were going to make a similar piece using 3D objects, perhaps you could paint on the checkerboard with two colors of gesso and then layer over that with clear or a colored encaustic. Or if you had enough small objects such as beads or pieces of fabric or cardboard or metal, you could arrange them in a pattern. Maybe you would paint on the checkerboard and then have dimensional objects where the three white strips are. I hope you're asking yourself what you could do with 3D objects and/or encaustic on the top.

Kristina Bell Di Tullo, Pattern 1: Band Aid, 2009, sheer adhesive
bandages on paper, 22.5" x 15"

Here's an example of very regular patterning using just one type of element..

Kristina Bell Di Tullo, Affect/Effect II (back), sheer and clear adhesive
bandages on a  clear shower curtain

And here is the same idea on a larger scale. Notice how the pattern is disturbed in several areas and disintegrates at the edges. The interruptions actually make the pattern become more observable and make the piece unique in its imperfections.

Fanne Fernow, Prayers for the Earth, diptych, 18"x36", encaustic on panel, 2010

Here's another painting that becomes more distinctive because of irregularities in the patterning. We see the break and we wonder why it is there and what it means.

Laura Wait, Verdant Script, 24" x 24", encaustic on panel with sumi ink
on Japanese papers

Laura's piece has an underneath pattern of squares and rectangles, a pattern of script in a lighter weight through the center of the panel and then top and bottom pieces of larger and heavier script. A method of patterning such as this that emphasizes changes in scale could be used to integrate similar elements in two or more sizes. Underneath rectangles could be painted with encaustic or colored gesso with encaustic layered over.

Nancy Natale, Once Upon a Time, diptych, 2009, 24"x12", encaustic
with rubber, crocheted cord, tacks, beads, soil

I couldn't resist putting in one of my own in because I'm a girl who loves patterning. So this piece has several different kinds of patterning: the crocheted piece at top, the rubber tacked into several kinds of shapes and the tacks themselves forming a pattern, the paint skin painted in a pattern and the drawn black encaustic loops at the bottom. Another pattern that you can't see from the front is the rubber tacked onto the sides in strips.

When I made this piece, I was thinking about giving an effect of mirroring on the two panels. The crocheted piece is mirrored on the bottom panel both by the paint skin pattern and the open loops. The central, beaded area on the top panel is mirrored by the loops at bottom and framed by the raised rubber. I could have substituted textiles for the rubber and the more intricate patterns of the crochet and paint skin could have been made with beads or other objects.

(By the way, in case you don't know what a paint skin is, it is a layer of acrylic paint and medium painted onto plastic, dried and then carefully peeled away from the plastic and adhered to something. I tried this with a bed of encaustic and it worked beautifully. To hold it in place, I applied a thin layer of encaustic over it and fused very lightly with a gun.)

David Collins, In Her Room, oil on linen, 30"x26" 

I saw this image on Lorraine Glessner's blog the other day and thought that something like this could easily be accomplished with three-dimensional objects. I liked the asymmetry of the arrangement and the way that the blue pattern is partially hidden by the other areas that seem to be stacked on top. If you were working in 3D, you could actually stack pieces of paper or textile on top. You could make a pattern with beads or other small objects and perhaps you could have an underneath pattern in metal or wood or even colored gesso such as David Collins has done with the darker brown rectangles. This gives the piece a lot more depth and adds to the illusion of the stacking. The blue squiggly form at top right really works hard with the other blues and pushes back the red. Block it out when you look at this image and you'll see the difference.

Pattern Plus
What does pattern do for an artwork? It imparts a sense of order and becomes a foil for other elements. If you look at the list of organizing elements at the top of this post, you will notice that patterning touches on all of them with the possible exception of Meaning. A case could be made for patterning to have meaning all on its own, outside of the elements from which it is composed. To take an easy example, a checkerboard pattern could infer games or a rigid timetable or geometry in general. In the case of the works pictured above that were made from band-aids, the arrangement into strictly regular patterning seems to say something about the band-aids themselves. If such a pattern had been formed using pieces of fabric, for example, would it have such intensity? What if the band-aids were not arranged into a pattern? Wouldn't we see them more clearly as band-aids.

However, it seems to me that the principle of Meaning in art deserves much more consideration and a post of its own. So that will be the next topic.