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 Petah Coyne  (1953 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: sculptor-wax installations

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AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for installations that are suspended and hair-like, and for chandelier creations of partially melted white wax embedded with birds and bows hanging from satin-sleeved chains, Petah Coyne is a sculptor fascinated by the bizarre.  Her pieces are usually large, some as big as nineteen feet, and are characterized by great mass and fragility.   Their production is labor intensive, the creations of a very hard-working artist, seldom taking awake time away from her studio. 

In the early 1990s, Coyne made huge pods of bristling wire coated with gritty black casting sand.  Sometimes she supplements her installations with large black and white photographs she makes of figures or vegetation in motion.   She has also done a series of female figures she refers to as "my girls", and describes as extensions of herself---aggressive and vulnerable.   Of her work, she says: "The harder you strive for perfection, the greater the flaws.  What to me is most interesting is being able to open up your overcoat, be totally naked, cellulite and all." (Tillman)

From an interview with the artist for Bomb Magazine,  Lynne Tillman wrote:  "Few artists, or people, generate as much good feeling as Petah does just by existing.  And then there's her expansive work.  Her usually bigger-than-life sculptures might borrow from natural elements-earth, hair, trees, wax-and hang from the ceiling or lie on the floor.  She constructs environments, or habitats, in which single objects act and interact with each other, are entangled in space to compose imagined, fantastic worlds.  Her recent photographs of brides are like dreams: concoctions, fragments of moments, moments already lost as they're lived.  Petah lives and works in frenetic, long moments, with tremendous discipline, slipping in and out of view."

In the Tillman interview, Coyne spoke of the many 'associations' that go into her work such as her fascination with Japanese literature and culture that began as a child when her family lived in Hawaii, her horrific feelings from 9/11 and the World Trade Center attack, the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II, her time in Japan in 1992 when she had an Asian Cultural Council Rockefeller Grant, and her Catholic upbringing.

When Coyne, who was born in Oklahoma City, first moved to New York City in 1979, she worked for Chanel during the day, and went to Boston every other weekend to continue her work for a physician, which involved talking to patients about health issues that their families were unable to deal with.  Of these experiences, she became much aware of death and mourning and religious rituals, issues that became personal when her brother died of cancer.

She was a student at the Art Academy in Cincinnati, graduating in 1977, and she has honorary degrees from that Academy and Kent State University.   From 1988 to 1994, she served on the Board of Directors of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and from 1990 to 1994, she was a member of the graduate faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York City.   Among her recognitions are a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Grant in 1989, a Fellowship in sculpture from the National Foundation of the Arts in 1990, and in 2000, an Artist-in-Residence award from the Sirus Project to work in Cork County, Ireland.  Her studio remains in New York City.

In 1997, the Corcoran Museum in Washington D.C. and the High Museum in Atlanta featured her work in solo exhibitions.

Public collections with her work include Albright-Know Gallery, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Spencer Museum of Art.


Lynne Tillman, Bomb Magazine interview with the artist, (undated)

John Yah, 'Enter the Dragon', ARTnews, September 1999, p. 124

Who's Who in American Art, 2003-2004, 25th Edition.

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