Last week I had the opportunity to visit the studio of artist and friend Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak here in Houston. In the recent past when I first moved back to Houston, we were studio neighbor's at Summer-White Studios, an entity that no longer exists due to the rapid "renovation" of older neighborhoods here in this town. Sold, torn down, new structure...BaBing!! New condos! But that is a story for another time.Lydia and her husband did some renovating of their own with their old garage in back of their house. Tore down and rebuilt into a two story wonderful space both up and down. Up is her studio and down is his shop and garage.
In this corner you can see some of the new "mixed media" pieces she has going. Besides me oooing and ahhhing over her great space and the amount of new work she has under way, (and I did plenty of that!) and just having a good visit between friends, (which we did,) we were also getting together to talk about the use of Encaustics with other media in paintings, specifically her paintings. And while our conversation did not include exactly the topic that Deanna broached in her most recent blog entry, (Different Media,) our conversation about Lydia's work, her media and her shift in content from her previous series clearly relates to this issue of being labeled as "a this or that" kind of artist.
Using Lydia as example:
Lydia is primarily a painter. She also makes three dimensional pieces from time to time. She work in oils....sometimes. She works in mixed media....much of the time. Her concern is the stability of the particular media being mixed.
Wax is a medium that Lydia enjoys because it is organic and looks organic. It has a natural translucency that is much different that the translucency produced with oil or acrylic glazes and she was hoping to use Encaustic with these new pieces.
She has used wax in previous paintings and those are holding up well.
So, our conversation revolved around the issue of stability and the specificity of materials that could best be used to get the translucency she desired. If not wax, then what?
My point: Most artists come to a particular medium because of its compatibility with their idea or must eliminate a particular medium because of incompatibility with the substrate or other media used.
I remember Louise Bourgeois speaking to that issue in a film about her and her work. Regarded primarily as a sculptor, Bourgeois makes things in a variety of media....marble, clay, wood, assemblage, bronze, etc. When asked why one piece was in marble and another in bronze, her response was that the form an idea takes often dictates a particular medium, or eliminates media when issues of fragility come into play.
Well, Lydia is not labeled an "encaustic artist" even though she uses wax in some of her paintings. I think most people including her galleries think of her as a painter, even though some of her work is dimensional. I consider her a artist who works is a variety of media. She works through an idea using whatever medium helps to make her statement. When I think of Lydia's work, what comes first comes to mind are strong personal responses related to issues of identity, spirituality, social, and political situations. Not medium!
I agree with both Joanne Mattera and Deanna Wood regarding labeling ourselves so specifically as something to avoid. I see artists using the term "combined media" as well as "mixed media" in reference to descriptions of particular works. Maybe "various media" is more accurate a description for us artists whose visual vocabulary is not limited to one medium.
I am an artist who works in various media; sometimes wax?
I do know that some galleries try to cover all bases...or media. I was told once by a gallery they already had an artist who worked on paper so they weren't interested in my works on paper. Just the paintings on canvas or wood.