Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Mixed Media World of Karen Stiehl Osborn

Illustration: Karen Stiehl Osborn. Midpoint.

The mixed media artist Karen Stiehl Osborn works in a range of mediums with a large selection of raw materials that can include canvas, cheesecloth, string, paper, paint, ink, dyes and threads, many of which can and are included within the same composition. This broad use of mediums, materials and working practice is at the heart of mixed media itself.

By its very nature a mixed media artist is one that can take a fairly wide-spectrumed view of both the world around them and the creative aspect in particular. Layering and juxtapositioning of complementary and often conflicting materials and subjects become familiar and creatively inspiring. This is the case with the work of Stiehl Osborn who has taken the natural tendencies of mixed media to a level that she has made her own.

Illustration: Karen Stiehl Osborn. Delmar #5 to 15.

In a series of compositional explorations, the artist has investigated, through her wide-ranging materials base, the interaction due to proximity of colour, texture and depth. These highly original, and by their nature personal explorations, add levels of meaning to a system of collage and layered medium that is infinitely variable even within a sometimes small compositional space.

Through multi-series explorations such as Delmar, TEXtures and Summer Heat, we can see that the process of mixed media is fully open to both interpretation and independent analysis by the individual. The system is so readily and distinctively available for such fruitful exploration that it is no wonder perhaps that this particular discipline has seen such a relatively strong growth within recent years.

Illustration: Karen Stiehl Osborn. Summer Heat #1 to 9.

However, although the discipline can be such a strong attraction, particularly to those creative individuals who prefer to work outside of traditional boundaries and frameworks, this does not mean that mixed media is an easy option. Every discipline takes time and talent to master and mixed media, despite its open-ended policy, is no different. To take the range of materials and mediums, along with subject matter, personal and creative influences as well as compositional harmony and balance into consideration is a tough and uncompromising task that few can do justice to.

Through her mastery of the discipline, Stiehl Osborn makes the whole process seem, if not effortless then at least readily achievable. The artist has produced a whole range of aspects of exploration that are both personal and creative. She fully understands what it is to be a mixed media artist and the particular and peculiar consistencies and indeed inconsistencies of the discipline are her tools in which to encounter and survey the full range of observational and emotional experiences.

Illustration: Karen Stiehl Osborn. TEXtures #1 to 9.

Karen Stiehl Osborn has exhibited across the US as well as internationally. Her work has been published in a number of books and magazines and the work itself has been collected both privately and publicly in North America, Europe and Australasia. The artist has both a comprehensive website where much of her work can be found, along with a frequently updated blog where work in progress can be followed. Both of these sites can be found below in the Reference links section.

All images were supplied with kind permission of the artist.

Reference links:
Karen Stiehl Osborn website
Studio Notes blog

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mixed Media Artist Judith Plotner

Illustration: Judith Plotner. Adirondack Journal I.

Many creative journeys are supremely private; others less so, many are degrees in between. The work of textile and mixed media artist Judith Plotner, although largely falling into the former category, can still be considered purely as an example of the rich world that can be composed from the elements that go to make up a mixed media base.

Illustration: Judith Plotner. Slate Valley.

Plotner uses the broad spectrum of the creative arts, bringing into her compositions the sensibilities of a fine art painting background, as well as that of printmaking, collage and textiles. The great strength of mixed media is the fact that layering and juxtapositioning can be achieved not only with the raw materials available within the different mediums, but also with that of mediums themselves. It is always fascinating to observe how sometimes a medium can complement another, while at other times the opposite can be both the aim and result. This can cause tension within a composition, which can be intentional on one level, but have reactions and unforeseen results, sometimes on more than one level.

Illustration: Judith Plotner. Adirondack Journal III.

The compositions chosen for this article seem reminiscent of small contained packages as if they were enclosed personal observations of the artist themselves. In some respect, that is exactly what they are. These observational diary pages if you will contain information, thoughts and muses, often scattered and seemingly random, though often connected by both the individual and the experience.

There is a sense of confinement that is physically attached to the compositions. The surrounding and inert space of these observational essays can seem to isolate the experience, but in fact, it is much more a case of the outside space allowing the artist to pinpoint an experience. This helps to discover and identify the completed observation and in some ways allow the outsider to study at least some elements of the parameters that contain the thoughts and processes of the artist.

Illustration: Judith Plotner. Autumnal.

Although the outside observer is not privy to the internal creative workings of the artist, whether that be personalised or externalised observations and encounters, they can in some respects be privy to the journey itself. By understanding the practical application of mediums and materials, whether that be through layering, stitching, stamping, dyeing, painting or printing, this functional part of the creative journey can be both observed and admired.

It is said that all creativity is subjective, and in many respects that is true. However, often the practical working journey of materials and processes used by the artist can be objectively followed, sometimes producing profound or at least interesting analogies and discoveries.

These five compositions of Plotner's are finely tuned and specifically composed. They are an interesting example of both the personalised experience of an artist, but also of the sometimes complex procedures that can entail the practical application of a mixed media artist. The compositions are wide ranging in their use of mediums and materials and show the genuine creative scope that can be found within the mixed media world.

Illustration: Judith Plotner. Global Warming.

Judith Plotner has exhibited extensively across the US. She has her own comprehensive website where many more examples of her work can be found. A link to the site can be found below.

All images were provided with the kind permission of the artist.

Reference links:
Judith Plotner website

Monday, August 02, 2010

Contemporary Textile Work of Artist Marlene Cohen

Illustration: Marlene Cohen. Healing.

Marlene Cohen is a British textile artist that has taken her own strong and contemporary attitude towards her chosen medium, and created a distinctive style of composition and layering that is entirely her own. Cohen uses both printmaking and fine art disciplines, along with the usual aspects of textile work such as layering and stitching, to produce work that although technically part of the quilt medium, has managed to stretch that medium farther than most.

Although Cohen works in a wide range of colours, tones and textures, I have chosen instead to concentrate on a series of pieces that she has produced in a much lower and much more minimal colour scheme. Shoah is a series of pieces that, although seemingly stark and severe, are in fact full of the most astounding build up of imagery and text that is strong in graphic, illustrative and fine art techniques.

Illustration: Marlene Cohen. Target Zero.

These pieces, to my mind at least, seem to have a number of reference points that lead to the drawing of similarities to some aspects of the leading edge of European graphic design work in the 1920s and 1930s, particularly those artists and designers who dealt with the exciting photomontage medium. However, Cohen's work could never be said to be derivative of that era. What it does share is that same powerful and uncompromising imagery that places it at the forefront of the senses. This work is not meant to be harmonious with its background, but is meant to make an uncompromising statement and in this it shares a position with so much of the fine art and design work that that was at the forefront of the Modernist movement.

This series of textile pieces is extraordinary in it's focused awareness of what is truly achievable through the textile medium, rather than what is expected or delivered. It is uncompromising and skilful, and although dealing with historical issues that are highly personalised, the compositions can also appeal on a much wider level, those dealing with compositional balance, graphic awareness and strident ambience.

Illustration: Marlene Cohen. Cover Up.

It is artists such as Cohen who are both pushing the boundaries of what is expected and accepted as textile art, and also and perhaps more importantly, expanding the parameters of fine art itself, allowing it to ultimately include aspects of textile work on an equal basis. Cohen's work seems to deliberately cross over various discipline boundaries and so her work can well be appreciated by individuals who have a background and interest in general textiles, quilting, printmaking, graphics, illustration and fine art.

The more expansive and uncompromising textile artists become in both their focus and their range of creativity while at the same time retaining the unique aspects of the textile medium, the more seriously textile art will be taken outside of the immediate discipline. Cohen is an artist that is at the forefront of this movement towards fine art acceptability.

Illustration: Marlene Cohen. Mixed Messages.

Marlene Cohen has exhibited widely, she lectures and writes profusely and has her own comprehensive website where much more of her work can be seen, along with the imagery shown in this article. The website link can be found below in the Reference links section.

All images were provided with the kind permission of the artist.

Reference links: