Freya Jobbins

Ohhhhhh my gosh just look at these dolls sculpture portraits! In this latest series, Freya Jobbins, born in Johannesburg, South Africa and raised in West Sydney, uses dismembered plastic parts from old dolls and  toys to create these unsettling portraits of people and pop culture icons. The result is polarizing to be sure,— you either loved the sculptures or hated them— but regardless they are the byproducts of an  incredible amount of labor and time. Each anatomical amalgamation requires an intense observation of form and color.

But seriously, TOYS. How can you not appreciate the whimsy of toy sculpture? Oh the nostalgia…

For this series, Jobbins drew influence from Guiseppe Archimboldo’s fruit and vegetable paintings as well as Ron Mueck’s oversized humans. The immaculate execution of her work belies Jobbins first love, printmaking; which she prefers and considers to be her true “voice.” She majored in printmaking, receiving her diploma in Fine Arts from South West Sydney Institute of TAFE. Currently she is continuing her studies in printmaking at NAS and Wollongong TAFE while balancing her work with plastic toy sculptures.

You can see more freaky faces in her online gallery and on Facebook.


Michelle Stuart

Niagara Gorge Path Relocated 1975

Michelle Stuart is a multimedia artist working since the mid-60’s, working in every medium from drawing, sculpture, photography, video, installation, to site-specific earthworks. Her diverse body of work is inspired by her lifelong interest in the natural world and the cosmos and desire to connect to it. She has engendered a subtle and responsive dialogue with the natural world, distinct from the epic gestures of contemporaneous Land Art. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in her work, and Anna Lovatt, the 35-year-old British art historian and lecturer in Modern and Contemporary art history at the University of Manchester, UK, has organized a show at the  Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, N.Y highlighting six decades of Stuart’s amazingly diverse body of work. The show titled “Michelle Stuart: Drawn From Nature,” will last through October 27, and features Stuart’s drawings and land art projects made between 1968- 2011, but the exhibition does include more than 50 of her sculptural assemblages, photographs and works on paper.

Ms. Stuart, who is now 80, has immersed herself in the culture, history and archaeology of different regions, transforming six decades of travel into a lifetime of art. She is inspired by archeology, history, earth and the cosmos.  The renowned piece  “Niagara Gorge Path Relocated,” from 1975 illustrates the artist’s take on the history of archeology. The work was an immersive project, the 460-foot-long scroll was perforated by smashing rocks into the paper and then unfurled down an escarpment at a spot where Niagara Falls was situated 12,000 years ago. The piece traces history and links the past with the present, and through contemplation retrospectively connects the viewer to a time long gone. Two more highlights from the show are 12-foot-long paper scrolls from in 1973 in upstate New York, their surfaces covered with intricate marks made by placing the muslin-backed paper on the ground and rubbing pencil or graphite across it.

The curator Cornelia Butler, who has included her work in drawing surveys at the MOMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, said that Ms. Stuart was one of “maybe only a handful of artists of her generation who made a significant contribution during those early moments of land art” around 1970, when mostly male artists like Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson began sculpturing lakes and canyons. Ms. Butler, now chief curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, points out that not only did Ms. Stuart “incorporate the earth into her drawings,” but she also “brought drawing into the landscape,” as with the Niagara Gorge project.

Personally, I am always struck with Stuart’s monumental, labor-intensive scrolls, a series begun in 1970, when she reinvented Surrealist frontage by working with, and against, the earth. THere have been lots of Landscape Artists, and a lot of female landscape artsits put themselves into the work, such as Marybeth Edelson with her “Goddess” photos and Ana Mendieta in series of “Siluettas.” (All from the 60’s-70’s) These kinds of explorations of earth and nature, that subject a woman’s body, are too often unfairly dismissed as “goddess” worship art and primitivism and tossed aside as feminist. unlike their male contemporaries, such as Clemment Greenberg and Carl Andre, are considered to be minimalist and innovative protest against the perceived artificiality, plastic aesthetics and ruthless commercialization of art.Stuart’s photographs, sculptures, assemblages,and scrolls, however, are devoid of a human figure and so escape the feminist stereotype. For some reason her style reminds me greatly of Agnes Martin despite how massive and grand they can be. A lot them are still very thoughtful and I think the quality of her works that appeals to me most is how personal they are despite how far back towards the past, or high towards the stars they reach.

Nazca Lines Star Chart. Nazca Lines Southern Hemisphere Constellation Chart Correlation 1981-82


Baltic Book, 1985


“Nazca Lines Star Chart”

Lee Bontecou

Lee Bontecou. Untitled (detail). 1980–98. Welded steel, porcelain, wire mesh, canvas, wire, and grommets. The Museum of Modern Art

Sputnik 1. 1960’s. Welded steel, wire mesh, wire, and grommets. The Museum of Modern Art

One of my favorite modern sculptors is sadly one of the most under appreciated. Those stuffy academics only briefly describe her work so they can point to her and declare, “But we have examined a female sculptor” and thus the diversity requirements of a text book are met. But I have found that the brevity of textbook discussions of her sculptures are desperately wanting and the singularity of her body of work is overlooked. Most annoying to me is she is rarely credited for pioneering the movement of getting sculpture off the ground. Her entire body of work redefines sculpture by crossing the line separating a sculptural forms from painting.

Essentially, Bontecou uses her skill as a sculptor not only to explore the relationship between 2D drawing and 3D form, but to challenge it. In the 60’s, during the era of space exploration, the artist composed 3D vortexes by stitching together layers of canvas streaked with shades of black onto armatures hung or mounted to a wall.  At this time she also created drawings and lithographs of spherical objects appearing as wayward moons or space capsules or rendered odd creatures and alien plant life. These imposing forms brought together Bontecou’s interest in blackholes, deep space and the relationship between drawing and sculpture. Her early work challenged conventions of sculpture and painting, forcing viewers to consider the boundary between these techniques. At what point does a painting become a sculpture? Or, if a sculpture is mounted to a wall does it become a painting? The massive collages of canvas call to mind the early Cubist collages of Picasso and Braque, which incorporated pieces of torn paper and newsprint. Oddly enough she did not always like sculpting and discovered her talent for the medium while studying abroad. She discovered that while, “You can solve an awful lot of problems with the drawing,” says Bontecou, 73,  you have to do the sculpture to find out it’s not going to work. Lee Bontecou was an artist who throughly enjoyed process as a means of questioning categories and rules of art making.

In the 1970s, after a star-burst of fame, Lee Bontecou vanished from the art world. Curators and scholars do not like to think of artists as being evasive so it often cited that Bontecou was spending the past few decades working in a remote Pennsylvania barn, which she was. But people like to leave out that she was married, had a daughter and also taught at a university at this time. Bontecou defends herself in an interview for The Chicago Reader against accusations that she “dodged” the art world.

“I just went because I wanted to work, and also I was having a child and all kinds of things. My father was living with us at one point. A lot of things change in your life. And then I was teaching. I hadn’t backed away. You can’t be more involved in the arts than teaching. You’re working with other brains, you know. I was right smack in Brooklyn. People say, “You dodged the art world.” Well, heck, they were the art world. I was the art world. I didn’t dodge it.”

Clearly, she had a life outside of art making and I think it is important to consider this when considering her work. Understanding her motivations helps us understand the intention of her art. The isolation allowed her to carefully balance her work as an artist and teacher with her role as a wife and mother.  Her sculptures reflect her life’s balancing acts also by their precarious suspension and tension between sculpture and painting. However, the hiatus did play a part in the lack of enthusiasm of her work.

In 2004, at the request of curator Elizabeth Smith (Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)) Bontecou debuted her latest series of huge, ethereal, wire-and-ceramic sculptures that hang in midair. Bontecou continues  to be inspired space and biology and these new works assault the senses  like exploding galaxies, or unraveling viruses, or alien insects with bulbous eye pods and antennae. Unveiled in a major coast-to-coast exhibition last October, these sculptures are nothing like the massive steel-and-canvas wall reliefs with ominous “black holes” that brought her renown in the 1960s. These huge wall reliefs are constructed of welded steel covered with cut-up sections of canvas and sometimes encrusted with scrap materials, airplane parts, saw blades or other found objects. Three museum curators who worked on the exhibition (Elizabeth Smith (MCA), Ann Philbin, director of UCLA’s HammerMuseum, Lilian Tone of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)) and  all say they felt the same sense of shock when they first saw her new work. “It was an extraordinary moment,” says Elizabeth Smith. Bontecou uses metal as an Abstract Expressionist uses paint. Looking at these works is almost like looking at a 3D rendition of a Pollock painting. Again she threatens the convectional definitions of sculpture and painting. And hopefully this new exhibit will bring Bontecou the fame she deserves for pushing sculpture to its limits. it is high time that Bontecou enjoyed the same level of esteem as her peers Jasper Johns, John Chamberlain, and Robert Rauschenberg. (Notice how these are all men, hmm lets just not open that can of worms yet)

I pasted below an awesome article from the Smithsonian Magazine and an equally awesome interview with Bontecou and Smith from the The Chicago Reader.

And here is a link to the MOMA website where you can look at her amazing works!