The artist Petah Coyne refers to her sculptures as “girls”, and who’s to argue with her? At a given exhibition you’ll find the girls suspended from the ceiling or stationed on the floor, their anatomies formed of earth, trees, branches, roots, silk flowers, ribbons, wax, hair, chicken wire, plywood, rubber, tar, hay, sand, taxidermy and….other stuff. Lots of it.
The Oklahama City-born and NYC resident cites as her influences Dutch still lifes, baroque sculpture, her strict Catholic upbringing, Miss Havisham (from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. The artist engineers her sculptures to look delicate but they’re actually behemoths, weighing enough to crush a human if they fell from the ceiling. Some of them are layered in 75 coats of wax. Others resemble wedding dresses. You could easily stare at a Coyne sculpture for two hours and still not exhaust the interpretive possibilities of the work, which can’t be said for most contemporary sculpture—even the best of it.