Petah Coyne, American (1953 - )

Petah Coyne

Petah Coyne is a contemporary American sculptor and photographer. She is known for her large-scale sculptures composed of unconventional, and often organic, materials. Some of her works are in the permanent collections of museums and galleries such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Coyne was born in Oklahoma City in 1953 to a military family that moved several times before settling in Dayton, OH when she was twelve. Coyne was home-schooled and as a teenager took courses at the University of Dayton. She attended Kent State University from 1972-1973 and then the Art Academy of Cincinnati, from which she graduated in 1977.

She lives and works in New York and New Jersey. Her most recent solo exhibition at the Mass MoCA (May 29, 2010) features large-scale mixed-media sculptures along with silver gelatin print photographs. Coyne layers wax-soaked materials such as pearls, ribbons and silk flowers into large sculptural forms, often incorporating taxidermied birds and animals.

"The works in this largest retrospective of the artist’s work to date range from her earlier and more abstract sculptures using industrial materials to newer works made of delicate wax. All of Coyne’s works take inspiration from personal stories, film, literature and political events. Coyne takes these sources and applies a Baroque sense of decadent refinement, imbuing her work with a magical quality to evoke intensely personal associations. Together these diverse yet intimately connected periods of Coyne’s practice make evident an evolution, which highlights the artist’s own blend of symbolism alongside an innovative use of materials including black sand, car parts, wax, satin ribbons, trees, silk flowers, and taxidermy." - Mass MoCA

According to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art,
"Coyne belongs to a generation of sculptors—many of them women—who came of age in the late 1980s and forever changed the muscular practice of sculpture with their new interest in nature and a penchant for painstaking craftsmanship, domestic references and psychological metaphor."

"So that's what I'm trying to do with the white wax pieces I'm doing now - they're about those times that are almost perfect but not quite. You go searching to meet them again, and you're all excited, and it's never quite the same - but you always have the memory. So it's not just about people passing, it's more about friendships that have gone awry or people who have strayed. Just basically, humanity. That's what all these pieces are about.

I wanted to shift away from black, and I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I began to work with Irene Hultman. We did this whole installation, half black, half white, and there was also a performance in which she wore the pieces, or her dancers did. A lot of them come out of hat shapes or chandeliers. The wax is not a normal wax, it's made by a chemist so that it won't melt except at very high temperatures. It can get up to 180 degrees before it melts. In the summer my studio can get up to 120, 125, and in the winter I don't have heat so it's very cold. So these pieces have to be able to freeze."
- Petah Coyne March 24, 1994. In her studio, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

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