Material Choice

Recently I have given a lot of thought to how material choices factor into the conceptual aspects of my studio practice. As an MFA student I am constantly challenged to defend or at least examine every formal choice I make. Some might say I have a materials obsession, others might call it a diversion, one critic accused me of having a “materials fetish.”


Untitled (three on a rack), 1995, mixed media – skins of acrylic polymers with embedded rust, carbon, and markings (lifted from bakeware), found objects, 21 x 36 x 9 inches by Sally Mankus and Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches, 2009 -2010, Presented on the High Line at West 22nd Street by Valerie Hegarty (images from the artist’s websites)

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Acrylic Skins

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Art Resin

Through the course of this exploratory journey, I have spent countless hours peppering Home Depot employees with  questions, watching DIY videos on YouTube and emailing Golden’s brilliant chemists but these small technical victories brought me no closer to understanding the deeper question, the why? So, I started looking to other artists for help answering that question. Oscar Tuazon, Valerie Hegarty and Sally Mankus are three living artists whose work exists in this space.


Pink Napkin, 1998, mixed media – a translucent acrylic skin (with embedded rust and carbon from charred bakeware), image transfer and found objects, 437 Tea Cakes, 1996, Tower of Pans, 1996 by Sally Mankus

All three artists engage with the effects of life and time on objects or spaces. Sally Mankus combines a multitude of techniques such as photo transfer, acrylic skins lifting carbon & rust deposits, sculpture, assemblage and even audio to create installations that conjure images of domestic life. Incorporating touches like the pink napkin above give her work a sense of tender intimacy.


Oscar Tuazon “Action”, 2012 – Canvases are, “…each a part of a long drop cloth that served as Tuazon’s outdoor working surface” – See more at:

Perhaps it’s because of Tuazon’s background in architecture and urban studies but his work has a cold industrial edge. As with Mankus’s work, there is a familiarity about Tuozon’s sculptures but instead of delicate table linens we get fused desk chairs and shattered glass. In his work the infrastructure is exposed; process is displayed as wall art in the form of stretched drop cloth as paintings.


Left to right: untitled (unmapping, unmaking, unmeaning #1), 2010, Steel, oak post, office chair, 2011 and Wall ,steel, Plexiglas, glass, silicone, paint 243 x 223 x 99.5 cm, 2010 by Oscar Tuazon


While Mankus and Tuazon combine found objects with industrial and fine art materials to create something new, Valerie Hegarty uses unexpected materials to deceive; creating fantastical site specific installations. She manipulates paper, foamcore, paint, wire, fabric and anything else she can to mimic decaying spaces and antiques; paintings drip, wallpaper peels and furniture crumbles. Hegarty uses artifice to create the illusion of substance and age forcing us to reengage with our ideas about the past.


Altered States, April 5 – May 5, 2012: Chinese Wallpaper (Flood Damage) installed in private collector’s kitchen, 2012, Paper, paint, glue, staples – Sinking Ship (Large Clipper Ship),2012, Canvas, wood, paper, fabric, glue, acrylics – Shipwrecked Armoire with Barnacles, 2012, Foamcore, paper, glue, acrylic paint, MagicSculpt, sand, fabric, gel mediums – Valerie Hegarty from the artist’s website

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 11.54.54 PMFor more artists using materials in unexpected ways check out my pinterest board

Post by Elizabeth Ayerle


One thought on “Material Choice

  1. Pingback: Material Choices | Elizabeth Ayerle

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