Mar. 18 Art Minute: Petah Coyne, “Untitled #1176 (Elisabeth–Elizabeth)”

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Petah Coyne (American, born 1953), Untitled #1176 (Elisabeth–Elizabeth). Taxidermy birds, chandelier, candles, silk flowers, chandelier wax, black spray paint, pearl-headed hat pins, black wire, quick-link shackles, cable, cable nuts, chain, silk/rayon, velvet, felt, thread, Velcro, 2007–10. 70 ½ by 62 ½ by 78 ¾ in. Purchased with funds from Rita Barbour Kern, 2012.102. Wolfe Gallery.

Petah Coyne’s work is often called baroque in its sensibility, but it is equally Victorian—both ornate and somber. In many cases, including this sculpture, her works evoke the colors and imagery of mourning regalia. The violet silk flowers dipped in black wax are studded with brightly hued taxidermy Golden and Lady Amherst pheasants. Dusky candles emerge at various points, drawing a direct connection between this suspended sculpture and the covered chandelier at its core. Sculpture is traditionally floor-bound, but Coyne creates a charged line from ceiling to floor, the sculpture hanging low and dripping some of its silk flowers to the ground.

For Coyne, this work references her parents’ long marriage and speaks to the intimate ups and downs of any long-term relationship. “The birds are intertwined but in motion, as one being. It’s about intense companionship through love, loss, triumph, and tragedy.”

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