Mixed-media Pantings

Works of art today are created using paints—and much more!

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Traditionally, visual artists reach a point early in their development when they choose one medium through which they primarily decide to express themselves. An oil painter, for example, may enjoy dabbling in watercolors or acrylics but selects only oil paints when it's time to create a painting for show or sale. While the idea of putting oils, watercolors and acrylics together on one canvas was virtually unheard of years ago, it's quite common for today's artists to "mix" paint mediums.

Some contemporary painters are reaching for more than paints when they sit down to create a new work. They are picking up household articles, building supplies, arts and crafts materials and anything else their imaginations desire and adhering these disparate objects to canvases and boards. The reasons for reaching beyond the palette vary from artist to artist. The common thread shared by all seems to be that one medium won't completely convey the artist's ideas, emotions or feelings. Multiple types of paints, and in some cases paints in combination with objects, need to be experienced together by the artist and by the viewer in order to understand the full meaning of the work.

 

Ron Pokrasso

Image: ©2000 Ron Pokrasso
"Scene with a Hidden Tree"
Monotype, collage, acrylic, drawing,
assemblage on paper,
mounted to board
33" x 45" x .5"

The joy, and perhaps the occasional frustration, of working with mixed media is that the artistic possibilities are enormous. Artists attracted to mixed media seem to like the idea that anything is artistically possible as long as the combination of paints with objects works on compositional, aesthetic and emotional levels.

Artist Ron Pokrasso sees all the objects around him as potential "tools" to be incorporated into his work, and any man-made or natural object might be used in his mixed media pieces. A tool might be a nail sitting on his studio floor or a greasy, pink oil rag laying around on the ground outside his door. An article labeled as trash can become high art in a moment's time. The perception of objects, he believes, is in the eye of the beholder.

While objects are sometimes incorporated into paintings for a certain amount of "shock" value, the shock is really intended to wake up the viewer and disrupt the sense of what's visually expected.

Using familiar objects in unfamiliar ways, such as adhering rulers and soap dishes to the frames or surfaces in Marie Najera's work, awakens the viewer to looking at these objects in a different light. Other artists enjoy using such diverse items as beeswax, feathers, press-on fingernails, baby-shoe molds from the Victorian era, egg shells, tin can lids, metal fragments and more. Garage sales, thrift stores and friends are sources for these objects.

Many mixed media artists select objects that mean something to them on very personal levels. Photos, and in particular old photos of living or deceased relatives, evoke strong memories and emotions within the artist and are occasionally inserted into collage-style paintings. While the artist knows that the viewer doesn't have a personal relationship with the exact photos and objects he has selected, he is aware that the audience will bring its own memories and life experiences to the viewing of his work. Familiar objects can stimulate ideas and emotions that are part of the artist's vision. A wide range of reactions are greatly anticipated by artists who look forward to learning more about themselves and their work's impact through viewer comments.

For others, it is the evocative quality of certain materials that provides inspiration. Artist Gregory Deane's abstract expressionism has recently taken a turn toward mixed media. "By including a photograph or words from a newspaper, bits of tissue paper or whatever might be at hand, I can evoke a grounded sense of place, whether it's an African jungle or a Chinese market."

There's a powerful tactile experience involved in picking up an object and working it into the canvas so it seamlessly becomes part of the composition. For some painters, mixed media is close to the work executed by sculptors. In addition to mixing paints, and occasionally applying them with objects other than paintbrushes, these artists are faced with the dilemma and challenge of figuring out how to best glue, screw or nail objects to their works in ways that make the viewer feel that they somehow belong there naturally. The problems inherent in assembling their pieces are adventures to be explored. Artists rely on technical knowledge about how paints behave when put on canvases and boards, how various colors are experienced by the viewer when placed next to other colors and how different materials with varying surfaces affect each other when placed side-by-side. Each artist has his own way of solving these problems, and solutions can vary from piece to piece. There's a constant challenge inherent in functioning as inventors and pioneers and working with an ever-changing array of objects and paints that need to be arranged into a coherent whole.

Combining new and old objects into one piece of art is a favorite technique among artists who are fascinated with history and the process of weathering that happens to objects over time. Many artists, who have either studied other cultures or lived abroad and find certain historical images from around the world imbedded in their consciousness, enjoy blending images and creating a fresh visual experience. Creating "pretty" work is not necessarily the artistic goal. Rusty and cracked objects, or things intentionally aged by the artist himself, convey feelings of the passage of time and of the human experiences that aged these objects. Old, weathered objects inspire both the artist and the viewer to contemplate who owned these things, where they came from and how they were used. They can become the source of conversations about a piece of art that take the viewer on a journey into examining his own life experiences. Perhaps one of the major reasons why an artist will choose to work in mixed media is because these paintings offer creative experiences that start at one point—either with a particular thought, idea or emotion—and end in a direction that often is a complete surprise to the artist himself.

Some artists feel as if they are creating their own language or redefining and reinventing artistic language through their art.

Marie Najera

Image: ©2000 Marie Najera
"Everlast" Mixed media on canvas

There's an important aspect of self-discovery experienced by every artist regardless of the genre in which they are creating. Mixed media art leaves the door of artistic possibilities wide open. Both artist and viewer can savor the freedom that comes with abandoning pre-conceived notions about what art is and how it should be constructed and enjoy a journey into the imagination.


Thanks to Emily Van Cleve who writes frequently about the art and artists of New Mexico.

Ron Pokrasso photo courtesy of the Deloney Newkirk Fine Art pic in Santa Fe.
Marie Najera photo courtesy of Patricia Carlisle Fine Art pic in Santa Fe

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque - Volume 14


Related Pages

Abstract to Zeitgeist: Contemporary Art Terms article
Art Over the Edge article
Contemporary Art in Northern New Mexico article
Glossary of Painting & Drawing Terms article

Glossary of Prints & Original Graphics Terms article
The Multiple Faces of (Big) Wall Art article
What is a Monotype? article
Alternative Sculpture Media article


Collector’s Resources

Albuquerque

Susan J. Zimmerman rem By Appointment in Corrales | 505-280-4755
Leich Lathrop Gallery rem 323 Romero St NW - Suite 1 | 505-243-3059

Elsewhere in New Mexico

Galeria de Corrales 3923 Corrales Road | 505-890-4929
Corrales Bosque Gallery | 505-898-7203

Santa Fe

Pablo Milan Gallery | 505-820-1285
EVOKE contemporary | 505-995-9902
Mark White Fine Art | 505-982-2073
Dominique Samyn-Werbrouck | 505-424-1742
Pippin Contemporary | 505.795.7476
Alexandra Stevens Fine Art | 505-988-1311
Michael Billie rem FireGod Gallery - 217 East Palace Ave | 505-592-4884
Canyon Road Contemporary Art, Inc 403 Canyon Road | 505-983-0433
Castillo Gallery | 505-351-4067
Chuck Chroma rem Firegod Gallery - 217 East Palace Ave | 303-956-9583
Linda Evans 2960 Plaza Azul | 505-474-7223
Jamie Gagan | 505-984-1172
GF Contemporary | 505.983.3707
Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art | 505.986.1156
Hasson Gallery rem 225 Delgado St at Canyon Road | 505-990-2133
Hunter Kirkland Contemporary | 505-984-2111
Carol Kucera Gallery | 505-989-7523
Manitou Galleries | 505-986-0440
Matthews Gallery | 505-992-2882
Kelly Moore | 505-470-3175
Aleta Pippin Studio visits by appointment | 505.795.7476
Barbara Meikle Fine Art | 505-992-0400
Tom Ross Gallery | 505-984-8434
Selby Fleetwood Gallery | 505-992-8877
Turner Carroll Gallery | 505-986-9800
Ventana Fine Art | 505-983-8815
Vivo Contemporary rem 725 Canyon Road | 505-982-1320
Waxlander Gallery | 505-984-2202
Wiford Gallery 403 Canyon Road | 505-982-2403
Zane Bennett Contemporary Art 435 S Guadalupe St | 505-982-8111

Taos

Act I Gallery & Sculpture Garden | 575-758-7831
Suzanne VandeBoom Applauding Rain Studio | 575.776.1481

RESOURCE LISTS UPDATED WHEN VIEWED | ARTICLE CONTENT REVISED October 14, 2009

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