So let me quickly explain what “mixed media” means to those of you non-painters.
When it comes to art galleries, museums and art publications, an artist needs to very specifically categorize their art. Here are some classic examples. Oil painting, acrylic, pen and ink, gouache, watercolor, pastel, … you kind of catch my drift…
Well “mixed media” is the term the industry has coined for any artwork that uses more than one medium. I don’t know where in my schooling I got this notion, but I was always made to feel like mixed media was a lower, non-purist, uneducated art form. That’s pretty loaded huh? Some artist/teacher/adult taught me that and like Adam, I bit that apple. I think in art there is this “purist” thing which now that I am getting a little older, I would like to re-term an “ego” thing. If you can put people and their work in a category, then you can compete against one another. Then you can have “the best” in show and don’t we all want to work so hard to compete with our peers to be the best???
Ugh, I’m exhausted with this premise and I’m only in my forties.
Now, when you go to art shows and you see “mixed media” near an artwork title, pretty much it’s a lump word that means – more than one medium. Think of all the categories above. If you simply add a tiny bit of charcoal to your acrylic painting, you are – mixed media. If you add a tiny bit of gouache or acrylic to your watercolor painting – you are mixed media. God forbid you glue anything to your artwork, you are mixed media. Of course any type of collageis – mixed media. This leaves all of these artists lumped into the “we don’t know what to do with you category”. For award giving, “purists” are being compared apple, to apple, to apple, to apple…. For mixed media artists, award giving is comparing apple, to orange, to pineapple, to egg…. No one fits per say. Maybe that’s what gives the industry it’s uneasiness. I also think there’s a rich vs. poor thing going on too. Poor people can’t afford the best art supplies nor can they afford the proper education to know the rules. Great industry to be a part of right?
I mention this because for me, wanting to work in “mixed media” obviously has loaded negative connotations. But guess what? I LOVE MIXED MEDIA. I really love artworks that use ALL THE ART MEDIUMS ALL AT ONCE. Why not? Who says you can’t? I want to use charcoal, paint, pencil, gold leaf, and spray paint all in one work of art. Why is that such a bad thing? Why do I feel like I will be judged poorly for doing so?
I think of the most famous mixed media artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat. I am pretty sure he wasn’t thinking “Gee, what are the leaders of my industry going to think about my art and art practice? Hmmm?” Nope. He was a street artist, a gritty-city graffiti artist who used whatever he found on the streets to get his vision across. Racism, poverty, segregation, social inequality. He was feeling it and he was expressing it. When you look at his work, it is raw. It is loaded with power, anger, inquisitiveness and humor. Somehow mixing all the art mediums, packs this visual punch. There’s so much to look at. In this genre, there is a contemporary mixed media artist I love and admire, Mitsi B Kral. Click on her name to see her work. Mitsi has these great YouTube videos. When you watch her, you clearly see she doesn’t give a crap about being a “purist”. She is just blasting music, scribbling, painting, gluing, spray painting, pretty much going nuts on a canvas. Her work again is raw and expresses so much emotion to me.
I love mixed media. It’s crazy and free.
But, Just when I think I am crazy and free, I find that really, I’m not. I have all these rules in my head and I don’t even know where they came from. They’re clearly un-examined. So for me, wanting to be wild and free at least when it comes to painting, is going to take a lot of practice. First I have to challenge every preconception I have. I have to undo every classicly-trained art lesson I’ve ever had. Dump all of it and try to uncover what’s under there. What is my raw unexposed self? Beats me. What do I care so strongly about that I find ways to express it through my art and share it with the world? Beats me. But it sure seems more interesting than painting a still life of some grapes.
So this is a little taste of the mental garbage rolling around in my head. I am such an over-thinker/over-analyzer. My step-father used to ask me how I could even wake up every morning? He’s got a good point. Maybe if I go to a therapist, they can teach me how to stop over analyzing and then I will be the best painter in the world. I’m thinking world-domination good! Mhew Ha Ha Ha Ha <- that’s an evil maniacal laugh by the way.
OK. I think I’m losing it. Something tells me I need to stop. I should step away from the computer and simply just try to make a little more art.
OK… OK … I’m going… I’m going…
I adore mixed media, and collage. Used to do them both together . . .
Mary, thanks for educating me about mixed mediums. Also, now I understand how difficult it must be to just go with your own feelings and not pay attention to the “rules”. Keep going, girl. I really enjoy your work. Thanks for sharing. :)