In a gallery exhibition you may occasionally see the media on the label listed as “mixed media.” This may seem obvious to you, as you inspect at the piece; look, there’s string, paper, paint… and you may ask yourself, why not just list the various materials? What is “Mixed Media,” and why is it a category unto itself?
“Mixed media” includes any artwork (2-dimensional or 3-dimensional) in which more than one medium has been employed. This could mean that one uses not only paint, but can include found materials like mud, grass, magazine cutouts, stencils, pennies, charcoal, etcetera. The Saskatchewan Craft Council defines mixed media as “includ[ing] any object which integrates two or more mediums in the structure and design of the object” (SCC). This can include collage, assemblage art, altered objects, altered books, cards and journals (mixedmediaart).
|Anselm Keifer’s famous work Your Golden Hair, Margarete (1981), employs oil paint, emulsion and straw on canvas (Ibiblio).|
Mixed Media is not a strictly contemporary category of art. The term has been present in discussions about art for over a century, since about 1910, popularly associated with mixed media paintings by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Collage in particular, a sub-category of mixed media, increased in popularity among the Dadaists and Surrealists in the 1920’s and 30’s. This work signaled a rebelling against traditional norms, incorporating popular media to create political artwork which aimed to criticize and focus attention on particular issues. For example, Hannah Hoch (1889-1978) was a pioneer of collage and photomontage work, many of her pieces sardonically critiquing the mass culture of the beauty industry, institutional sexism, and racial discrimination by subverting images of fashion and advertising (Wikipedia).
|Cut With the Kitchen Knife by Hannah Hoch, 1919 (source).|
Paula Cooley’s current exhibition explores the use of mixed media with her ceramic work, incorporating non-ceramic elements in a playful and colourful manner. “Mix” runs September 5th to October 18th, at the Saskatchewan Craft Council Affinity Gallery at 813 Broadway Avenue, Saskatoon, SK.