As part of our educational series, we’re tackling the question: What is mixed media art?
A: It’s actually one of the most common questions we receive in the gallery! So, let’s discuss. On a basic level, “mixed media” simply means that more than one medium has been used to create the work.
A: Not quite… The surface of the work is deemed necessary, just as, say, a cake needs a vessel; the pan isn’t an ingredient, but it’s part of the recipe and process. To this tune, the two-dimensional surface that the mediums are applied to is not considered part of the mixed media, and so it is common to see a description like “mixed media on paper” or “mixed media on panel.”
A: If more than one medium is applied to that surface, then it is mixed media, even if each “ingredient in the cake” is listed, to continue our baking analogy. Paula Schuette Kraemer is a great example of this. Sometimes her work is listed as a “mixed media print,” and sometimes it is listed as “etching, intaglio, monotype, and drypoint.” Both are true statements, but the latter offers more detail.
A: It’s all about their creative process, style, and vision! Working across multiple mediums requires in-depth knowledge of each medium to be able to apply creative license in combining them. Mediums can react to each other, so it is essential that only mediums that play well together end up on the same surface.
A: Pablo Picasso’s 1912 collage, Still Life with Chair Caning, is considered the first modern mixed media artwork, which used paper, cloth, paint, and rope. Movements like Dada and Cubism contributed to the mixed media’s growth in popularity throughout the 20th century, with the style adapted by artists like Joseph Cornell, Ellsworth Kelly, and Henri Matisse, leading to further innovations like mixed media installations in the late 20th century.
A: Mixed media is not more or less valuable than other works, and we can see by Picasso’s and Matisse’s adaptation of mixed media, that the sky is the limit in terms of value and appreciation. There are even current trends where digital art is selling in the millions. We always think collectors should purchase the art they want to live with!
Donna Howell-Sickles, Paula Schuette Kraemer, Mike Weber, Allison Stewart, and Michael Kessler regularly employ mixed media in their works on canvas, panel, or paper, yet the style and feel of each is wildly different. Sculptors Amy Laugesen, Neil Clifford, and Janet Nelson often incorporate multiple mediums, often with one dominant medium, like ceramic, bronze, or paper cast, complemented by another material in the base, joints, or as a topical texture. Printmaker Joel Ostlind will occasionally color his etchings with watercolor and gouache, and Sabrina Stiles textures her surfaces with oil paint, watercolor, and more, to enhance the application of her dry pastels. We’d love to chat with you about which mediums each artist uses in his or her work.