All posts by Colleen Pendry

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Colleen Pendry: What it means to be a Hybrid Artist

For the artist, the process of “making” may appear aloof. We are independent thinkers, and for the most part are reserved. We pride ourselves in our separateness, however, we, or at least I, find great energy in the overall closeness we have with others through the sharing of our work.

Over the past 50 years, my work has taken on many forms. From copying “how to be an artist” matchbook covers when I was kid, to watercolor painting in the early seventies to oils and pastels in the eighties. In those early years my work was primarily seated in a two-dimensional realm, but, I always thought there was something missing. My aesthetic conversation seemed to be stifled…nothing more to say on a flat surface. The pretty pictures were simply that…pretty…lacking content and an extended dialogue.

Little did I know how growing up in the 1960′s, would truly impact my work. As history continued to repeat itself in the art world, I could see the same happening in my own work. The regurgitation of memory and materials, over and over again, began emerging as a relentless new discourse. Multiplicity, multiplicity, multiplicity.

Testimonial IV (2011) mixed media on acrylic panel

Testimonial IV (2011) mixed media on acrylic panel

Testimonial I (2011) mixed media on acrylic panel

Testimonial I (2011) mixed media on acrylic panel

My work made a significant departure from painting throughout the nineties when I began to merge genres and combine disparate materials and techniques. From a metaphorical standpoint this was the perfect path in pushing not only the making process, but  content as well. “There is a story to be told”, my mother always reminded me, and “you just need to find a way to tell it.”

As painting began to be pushed off the wall and then stripped totally from a traditional gallery installation, the dialogue changed, becoming compelling in both form and intent.

If This Wall Could Talk (2012) mixed media and light

If This Wall Could Talk  (2012) mixed media and light

 A Room with a View (2012) mixed media installation

A Room with a View (2012) mixed media installation

If you visit my studio you will find a great deal of stuff as I continue to embrace this new identity. I have found these collections of nothing a relevant source of material in most of my work and an endless reflection of the stuff in my head. This following series of small narratives, which had been brewing for quite some time, emerged from the studio in a most unexpected way.

In this series titled Where Have All the Flowers Gone, my intent was not to reveal any conclusions, but, force an inquisition, and open ended conversation about concepts relating to objectivity, political correctness, preciousness, humility and humanity. Underlying themes are complex and uncomfortable and meaning is uncertain. This particular work can be described as an intellectual layering by way of circumstance. Captured on shelves and in pristine plastic boxes familiar objects appear tangible yet illusive. Juxtaposed with the silhouette, memory becomes a source of meaning, albeit complicated and skewed. This circumstantial evidence, left to its own devices, has the potential to elicit from viewers the unexpected.

Because You're Worth It (2017) Gelatin capsules, silhouette, Barbie, wire, acrylic

Because You’re Worth It (2017)
Gelatin capsules, silhouette, Barbie, wire, acrylic

In a Heartbeat (2017) Shell casings, pedestal, silhouette, American Flag, toy gun,barbed wire, acrylic

In a Heartbeat (2017)
Shell casings, pedestal, silhouette, American Flag, toy gun, barbed wire, acrylic

First Responders (2017) Ashes, silhouette, Bible, Koran, ribbon, acrylic

First Responders (2017)
Ashes, silhouette, Bible, Koran, ribbon, acrylic

See Jane Run (2017) Doll parts, silhouette, Mary Jane shoes, acrylic *Where Have All the Flowers Gone – photography by Jeremy Leadbetter

See Jane Run (2017)
Doll parts, silhouette, Mary Jane shoes, acrylic
*Where Have All the Flowers Gone – photography by Jeremy Leadbetter

From this series came the work currently in the Small Works Exhibition at Main Street Arts.

Nature/Nurture (2017) Cicadidae shell, paper, beeswax, pedestal, silhouette, gold bands, string, acrylic

Nature/Nurture (2017)
Cicadidae shell, paper, beeswax, pedestal, silhouette, gold bands, string, acrylic

Nature/Nurture - detail

Nature/Nurture – detail

Nature:Nurture (2017) Cicadidae shells, handmade paper, crushed wasp next, baling twine, Swarovski crystal, synthetic pearl (collectively)

Nature:Nurture (2017)
Cicadidae shells, handmade paper, crushed wasp next, baling twine, Swarovski crystal, synthetic pearl (collectively)

As an homage to the wondrous images of Robert Mapplethorpe and the eternal debate of nature vs nurture, these works continue. The juxtaposition of form and content seem contradictory…makes sense I think.

Nature:Nurture IV Cicadidae shell, handmade paper, silver thread, silver beads

Nature:Nurture IV (2017)
Cicadidae shell, handmade paper, silver thread, silver beads

Nature:Nurture V (2017) Cicadidae shell, handmade paper, snakeskin

Nature:Nurture V (2017)
Cicadidae shell, handmade paper, snakeskin

Nature:Nurture VI (2017) Cicadidae shell, handmade paper, snake skin head

Nature:Nurture VI (2017)
Cicadidae shell, handmade paper, snake skin head

Thank you to Main Street Arts for the opportunity to share this work. I am truly grateful.

Colleen Pendry


Three of Colleen’s “Nature:Nurture” pieces are currently on display in Main Street Arts’ fourth annual “Small Works” exhibition (juried by Cory E. Card, former curator at View Arts Center in Old Forge, NY). The exhibition runs through January 4, 2018 and can be previewed onlinestore.mainstreetartsgallery.com

 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Colleen Pendry: Materials, Metaphor & Memory

My name is Colleen Pendry and I am originally from the suburbs of Washington D.C. I live on a small piece of Heaven in Rockbridge County, Virginia with my husband of 32 years and our assortment of furred and feathered friends – four rescue dogs, one cat, three goats and fourteen chickens.  I received a BA in Studio Art (Painting) from Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA and a MFA from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.  I am currently a professor with Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, VA where I teach Drawing, 3-D design, and Art History and Appreciation.

I think I have always been an artist in one capacity or another.  I remember when I was a kid, taking those “art tests” found on the cover of matchbooks. I must have drawn hundreds of those matchbook characters over the years.  My mother was a writer and a folk singer and my father a jazz musician and storyteller. They encouraged creativity very early on, and for that I am eternally grateful!

SONY DSC

fragility ii

SONY DSC

fragility i

My current work fragility, is an ongoing series which began following the death of my mother in March 2008. I remember my mother being in institutionalized in the early 60s when I was about  five years old.  A diagnosis of “tantrums” seemed apt during that time.  She told me once that she had some poems and memoirs for me, but it wasn’t until after her death that I received the faded, nicotine-stained manila folder, stuffed with her past.  A past I never really knew.  Her writings are intense and seem to reveal, in fragments, the taboo of mental illness and her literal way of coping with the silence.  The timelessness of these pages ultimately lead me to a place from her past – the former Western State Lunatic Asylum.

In early February 2010 I was granted access to the sprawling, once iconic campus of Greek Revival style buildings built from 1827–1842. In its inception, the asylum was perceived as a resort-style facility at the cutting edge of rehabilitation and healing for the mentally ill. By the mid 19th century those utopian ideals vanished and the buildings came to be a formidable warehouse for the poor, ill, and transient.

For two years, with camera in hand, I walked the halls, basements,  and attics of the abandoned relic, documenting my steps.  In the winter it was bitterly cold, and I found myself following the light through an endless maze of doors, corridors, and stairways.

East Stairway

Chamber 213

Chamber 213

My Mother, Myself

My Mother, Myself

While painting has always been a foundation in my work, it seemed not enough. Over the next few years I sought out new media and new techniques that would push the work further in an effort to capture the essence of time and space, emotion and memory–bringing the depth of solitude into tangible form.

Testimonial No.2(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel - 24x32 inches

Testimonial No.2(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel – 24×32 inches

Testimonial No.3(2012) mixed media on acyrlic panel - 24x32 inches

Testimonial No.3(2012) mixed media on acrylic panel – 24×32 inches

In early 2013 I had watched a documentary on objects and memory, centered around the building of the 911 Memorial. At the same time, I was reading the Psychoanalysis of Fire by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, and The Female Malady by Elaine Showalter.   Shortly after, I began to strip down works in progress hoping to reflect the emotive and sometimes treacherous process of memory. I asked myself, how do we remember? A face, a song, a verse, a single word, a smell, a taste, a space, a color? An iteration of all the senses perhaps?  And what are the tangible things we hold so dear when experiencing the euphoria and harshness of reminiscence? A stained photo, a tattered poem, a trinket? Then it came to me…

During my final few days of photographing the asylum I filled three paper bags with green paint fragments scraped from the walls of the asylum, later placed in a drawer in my studio.  For months I had recurring dreams of windows, doors and those deteriorating green walls.  I found a strangely comforting familiarity in that specific green.

P1110186   beeswax

After combing through hundreds of images, I chose those imbued with the notion of time and place.  I printed each image on t-shirt transfer material and–after much trial and error–was able to peel the image away from the paper backing, revealing a hauntingly skin-like transparent image, which I then bonded to the paint fragment with beeswax and flames.    These images ultimately became the subject matter of the fragility series and the paint fragments, ironically, the “trinket”.  The copper wire was re-purposed from other works which became not only a base to cradle each piece, but a depiction of the instability of the past.

fragility iv (2014)

Outside of the fragility series, other memory projects include:

 The Plastic Lady-Armor (2014) Mixed media sculpture – silk chiffon, paper, oil, beeswax, copper wire, photo transfer, velvet, resin

The Plastic Lady-Armor (2014) Mixed media sculpture – silk chiffon, paper, oil, beeswax, copper wire, photo transfer, velvet, resin

The Plastic Lady: Transcendence (2014) Mixed media sculpture – poured plastic, wood, ashes, copper wire, 24k gold spray paint

The Plastic Lady: Transcendence (2014)
Mixed media sculpture – poured plastic, wood, ashes, copper wire, 24k gold spray paint

Study for Short Stories

Study for Short Stories

And, as my parents did for me, I am encouraging my grandson to embrace his creativity and have turned him loose with a camera. We are working on a project together titled Below the Horizon Line.  He is four.

Colleen Pendry’s two fragility pieces won an honorable mention in our Small Works exhibition. Stop by the gallery before the end of the year to see Colleen’s artwork in person!

Check out our previous installment of Inside the Artist’s Studio, a post by enamel artist Katharine Wood.