January 26, 2018
6:00 pm
9:00 pm

Mary Lee Adler

Steel Wall Sculptures and Chine Colle Monotypes

What is Recycling but Reincarnation?

The print series called "Reincarnation" consists of re-purposed prints created years ago. Each image is from a monotype original (i.e. an image created directly on the zinc plate transferring onto 100 lb. French etching paper during a single pass through a classical etching press). Most of them incorporated Chine-colle in the original, a process that refers to printing on a sheer surface, like tissue, then applying the image to another more stable surface to enhance the original.

While going through the old prints, some areas were very appealing even though the piece as a whole wasn't. Scissors and scalpel did wonders, focusing on the most desirable areas, rearranging parts, and in later works adding mixed media fibers and color. And everything acquired a new life.

The great lesson to the artist from this is: don't throw old work away. It may not be "there" yet, and it may take years to arrive, but getting there is very satisfying. What a pleasure there is in working with bright colors after years steeped in monotones and subtleties of steel.

I no longer have the huge 800 lb. English etching press, nor the collection of oil-based inks used in the original prints. The 45 year old colors remain in their tins, long past their "use by" dates, richly beautiful and awaiting their own reincarnation.

Materials, Symbolism, and Process

Remains to Be Seen steel wall sculptures are composed of recycled structural steel offcuts welded and lately treated to retain the natural color gradations that develop with age, chosen for its beauty and durability as well as its biodegradability.

Of the various reasons I chose to work with recycled offcuts, one of the most compelling is the adventure involved in finding the materials. I go with a very rough idea of the shapes and sizes needed for the new work and head for pipefitters, fabricators, scrapyards, or dumps. By the end of the day there's always some sort of collection in the buckets to complete a project or stir the imagination for new work.

Many of the abstract geometric designs relate to the symbolism of the number ten, a recurring image in my sculptures. For me it represents many things: the beginning of a new phase, the male and female, the created in the non-created, the binary language of computers, and the beginning and the end; Agrippa called it "the complete number marking the full course of life."