Petah Coyne is a sculptural artist whose work reminds me of things seen in Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland’. Her work has a magical quality that along with some unconventional qualities is very beautiful. Coyne’s work over all embodies just how different things can be. The difference can be black and white, life and death, innocence and guilt. It was stated once that her work exposes human weakness and the aspects of morality and of redemption. Coyne was born in Oklahoma City and currently lives and works in New York and New Jersey. At 59 years old, she has had work shown in all over the world. Her sculptures and photographs have been shown in over twenty-nine states across the country and have been displayed internationally in at least seven countries including Ireland and the United Kingdom. ‘Everything that Rises Must Converge’ was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Massachusetts until early last year.
Coyne’s photography is what interested me that most when I first looked her up. I found that they are not perfect photographs; they are taken with longer than necessary exposure times and are not always in focus. I realize that Coyne did this on purpose due to the subjects she chose to shoot. Her photos depict dark and almost menacing scenes, especially those in the collection of Monks. Other photographs of hers capture the essence of action shots or movement of the camera itself. This blurred edge of the subject in all of her photos gives them an eerie glow, almost ghostly.
It is Coyne’s more recent works of sculpture that remind me most of the before mentioned Tim Burton film, ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Two works created over the time span of five years, from 2003 through 2008, ‘Black Cloud’ and ‘Beatrice’ , have the same color scheme and magical qualities that are found in such a movie. The dark blacks and maroons contrast the white walls behind where they are displayed, just as the seemingly alive flowers contrast the trapped taxidermy birds in the piece. These pieces tell me of life and how if you are caught up in something bad for too long you will become trapped in that and never be free.
Coyne uses many different elements to create her mixed media art. Her most recent works obviously include taxidermy animals and trees, but others include a larger variety of things. Some of these things are wax, dead fish, sticks, black sand, car parts, ribbons, fake flowers, cages, statues, chicken wire and horse hair. The use of things once alive and now dead adds to her major concepts of life and death and the things that push that idea from one end to the other. This concept gives Coyne’s work a morbid undercurrent and a surreal dynamic. Even though her work has strong connotations it is still successful in making a view think and form conclusions on their own.