Urgent Museum Notice

Untitled #781

Close up of Untitled #781

Myriad layers of melted pink and white wax encrust and obscure the metal armature for this abstract sculpture, which hangs from satin-wrapped chains. Its color and shape, as well as the bumpy, lacy texture, evoke a frilly tutu, lavishly frosted wedding cake, or coral accretions.

Petah Coyne, Untitled #781, 1994; Wax, plastic, cloth and steel, 62 x 35 x 44 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in Honor of the Artist; © Petah Coyne, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Untitled #781
Petah Coyne

Influenced by her personal memories, literature, Catholic theology, and historical art such as European baroque sculpture, Petah Coyne explores distinctions between lushness and decay, beauty and grotesqueness. This untitled work is part of a series of white-and-pink wax sculptures that resemble rococo chandeliers, voluminous skirts, or dresses. It reflects how Coyne imagined womanhood as a girl: beautiful and extravagantly festive, like “floating on air.” After forming the underlying wire structure, Coyne tied satin ribbons to the wire and poured layers of wax over the surface.

Coyne’s diverse, unconventional sculpting mediums—dirt, sand, wax, shredded metal, hair, silk flowers, and taxidermy—evince what she calls the seductive power of materials. She was moved to work with wax in the early 1990s after visiting candle-lit churches during a trip to Italy. Like the dripping candles Coyne observed, this encrusted sculpture is an affecting, yet slightly macabre, embodiment of transcendent experiences.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Petah Coyne
  • Title

    Untitled #781
  • Date

  • Medium

    Cloth, Plastic, Steel, Wax
  • Dimensions

    62 x 35 x 44 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist
  • Photo Credit

    © Petah Coyne, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York; Photo by Lee Stalsworth
  • On Display