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 Jackie Winsor  (1941 - )

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Lived/Active: New York / Canada      Known for: sculptor-geometric abstraction

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Ad Code: 3
Jackie Winsor
from Auction House Records.
Burned and Red Inside Out Piece
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jackie Winsor, a sculptor in abstract style born in Newfoundland, is the descendant of three hundred years of Canadian ships' captains and farmers. She and her family moved to Boston when she was an adolescent, and later she earned a M.F.A. in art at Douglass College of Rutgers University in 1967.

Winsor is known for her clear geometric figures. Officially her place is among the post-minimalists, but in her work, Jackie Winsor harks back to classical sculpture such as that of Constantin Brancusi. Her sculptures of rope, brick, saplings, and pine have a certain brute strength and power. Characteristic works are a half-dome of bricks set into cement, a bundle of trees wrapped around the middle with hemp (resembling a new form of haystack), a round coil of rope as thick as a truck tire, and a grid of criss-crossed saplings bound at the intersections with unraveled hemp. Often based on the sphere, the grid, or the cube, her pieces have a density, weight and tautness that grow out of the processes of wrapping and twining materials, or nailing boards in layers until they build up to an inevitable form.

In referring to her work 'Double Bound Circle' (1971, hemp), Winsor's heritage relating to the world of ships is evident in her comment "Rope of this thickness might be used to tie an ocean liner to its dock". She has said people may "relate to my sculptures the way you might relate to a sleeping person, to the potential energy that is manifested in a dormant state." In reference to her work, the artist has been quoted as saying, in "I'm just re-creating myself."

A retrospective of her work was held in Akron, Ohio, in 1992. The sculptures exhibited at the show offered the viewer an opportunity to see a large portion of her mature oeuvre. The twenty-five works in the show comprised approximately a third of her output, spanning a twenty-five-year time period. The cohesiveness of her work and thinking was immediately evident, assisted by the chronological layout within the six galleries used.

Winsor's work is well described by the statement she made during the informal dialogue with the museum director and the attending public:
"The center focus, it is the physical center, it pulls the energy in. It is not asymmetrical -- aim you over here, aim you over there -- the aim is always the center. It pulls you in, and I like that."

Her sculptures have evolved in that direction. The forms are simple: cylinder, sphere, cube, hemisphere, and pyramid. The materials are straightforward, common building materials: wood, cement, brick, sheet-rock, plywood, nails, rope, and paint. With the exception of the oldest piece in the show, Rope Trick (1967-68), the materials are used honestly and possess no structural, visual "tricks." There is a clarity to the relationship of materials that does not leave you questioning the how and why of the fabrication of the forms and leads directly to their more metaphysical properties.

Over time, her forms have become more and more singular. The works become less made up of parts and units and more unitary objects that draw your interest within.

Winsor talked about her interest in the interior space, a theme that runs the length of her work, and, outside of formalist considerations, may be perceived to be the subject she is most drawn to examine. Speaking of a piece comprised of logs bound with rope at the corners composing a large square, she said:

"When I made this piece the part that interested me... were a couple of parts: one is the restatement of the typical human scale, but, actually, my real interest (gesturing to the open center of the square) -- with nothing taking place in.. this is like restating... the outer edge, so that makes the center O.K. and it's countered by forcing on you issues that you can leave your body.... It is a certain size, has like a strand of your hair, of size of your arm, the size of your butt, is sort of the proportions that your body is made with; but, actually, it's sort of empty space.... It's like we all have these bodies we carry around and we're very attentive to them and whatnot. But all you have to do is close your eyes and your body disappears and so the center area is this.... You close your eyes and it all goes away, the aqua space there, or black, as if something's going on inside, and of course, there isn't. It's like what's happening inside, right? and, basically, it's like... when you close your eyes -- nothing's happening there, but something always goes and pops up."

Almost all of Winsor's work since the early 1970s has interior space as an integral part. Usually there are windows or openings created by the fabrication or cutting into the form, which allows the forms to be looked into and through. This makes them appear visually lighter than they perhaps physically are. It is paradoxical that these singular forms, particularly the cubes, have a massive presence, but what most viewers are drawn to observe is the void inner space. The view through these windows provides some information: the structure and composition of the cube; a record of the labor-intensive layering, a history, if you will, of the cube; a sequence of materials, thoughts, previous lives; the original inside in contrast to whatever the outside has become; the true inside which is itself a negative cube -- nothing. So much of this work centers around the cube as a form because, Winsor says, she made a conscious decision to work within a format that was a given, knowing that change would take place, and by controlling the size and form, the change would have to take place where she was interested -- inside the form.

The reintroduction of the sphere into her work in the mid-1980s was still related to the cube. The size of the sphere was determined by the format of the cube -- the sphere was as large as was possible within the cube. In Blue Sphere (1985), the first one after the cubes, the windows are retained along the X, Y, and Z axes, and the interior is a cubic space. This work also signaled the beginning of works made entirely of cement and pigment, materials and processes (with the addition of gold leaf) that have continued to occupy Winsor.

Winsor's earliest works may be formally seen as cylinders, or cylinders combined with spheres. These sculptures are composed of hemp rope, or rope and logs. There is a density of concept here in that the rope may be seen as a cylinder, may be coiled into a cylinder, may be wrapped around joints of cylinders (logs) to form a sphere. The rope is made of cylindrical plies, with the plies composed of cylindrical strands, and so on. Winsor viewed all of this as an extension of drawing:

"Actually the interest in making/using these... I was a painter and I was really interested in drawing. The attraction to this particular material was twofold, one, that there always was lines in each little clump, in the twists, separate, you know, depending on the size rope, had anywhere between thirty and three hundred separate little strands, and those strands come together to make a larger version of each one of the individual ones, they all come together as a large version of it again... (sic). I think of all the lines coming together, and the other one says, you know, that as a painter... when I was in school we all painted from a model and you could walk around at the various kids in the class and over in one corner there'd be a fanciful kind of nude and over in this one there'd be a sinister-looking one and over in mine they'd always look like they were trying out for the Olympics. And it was always the muscularity of them and the kind of convexness of presence that interested me. So when I got around to using the rope it was the fact that those small units looked like biceps and they had a kind of visual muscularity in them."
This muscularity is evident in works using rope and wire units, but disappears with the smoothness of form when Winsor uses cement.

In some of her later pieces, the sphere is made by rounding off the cube with the negative area remaining cubic at first. Circle/Square (1987) is composed of a uniformly truncated sphere. The cuts occur along planes that describe the faces of the cube, as if the sphere existed inside a cube that is only in existence through the virtual planes of these circular truncations. Inset in each circular face are sequences of progressively smaller squares, which form an inverted, stepped pyramid, moving towards the interior of the sphere. The tenth square is open to reveal the interior space, which is appropriately cubic. These openings are at the center of the X, Y, and Z axes of the form. The interior projects warmly through the pyramidic openings because it is stained orange, in contrast to the rather pure gray/white cement of the exterior surface.

Her interest in the interior psychological void of human beings is constantly echoed in her forms. And looking towards the inside is encouraged by the use of openings -- "windows" as she refers to them in the exhibition video:
"Windows are endlessly inviting, they invite you even if you're not looking."
The materials that are commonly used to construct shelters become tools for the expression of ideas: fabrication, wear, catastrophe, reconfiguration, rebuilding, and internal analysis in the hands of Winsor. In her early works there seems to be an ordering of chaos; materials are bound together to form a whole. They are organic and rough. Binding is what glues together the different parts.

Her later works depends on cement and gravity. The reality of the weight of the bricks and cement create solid, dense forms.

Her early cubes are intensely fabricated with wood, nails, and in some cases, sheet-rock. But all of them have windows or pathways to the interior and through them. The later cubes have the residue of kinetic action: multiple paintings and the wear of being dragged; exploded and reassembled, remade; burned and having had the inside physical structure turned into the outside; built and unfolded so that the form becomes a relief, the inside becomes a flat surface.

The cement pieces have only the memory of the cube as the outer constraint of the form, color becoming part of the material, not paint resting on the surface. The organic essence of the earlier work almost disappears in the uniformity of material. A cleanliness of form subverts the evidence of the systemic units used in construction. The hand-built quality is less apparent in favor of a greater sense of wholeness. Seams are less obtrusive than when contrasting materials were used previously.

Winsor's wall pieces address the surface issue more directly. Reliefs project beyond the surface of the wall as well as into the space of the wall itself. They create space in the illusion of the solid, the body of the wall. Their forms are squares and cubes, or pyramids.

Jackie Winsor's work starts on the inside. It is significant that her sculptures retain the interior void out of which they were created. Her pieces are a series of actions which surround an empty space: progressive layers of life and meaning capturing a quiet internal place revealed in part, but, not entirely, by openings. You can see the inside, but you never see all of it. The simple recognizability of the exterior forms allows for contemplation on their inner resonance.

Jackie Winsor, is regarded by many as one of the current leading abstract sculptors working today with natural processes and materials.

Source: "American Women Artists" by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein

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Jackie Winsor is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Women Artists

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