In the studio today, all I wanted was stripes, vertical stripes. I always do this. After working with a lot of white space and balance, I just want a rest from all that and come back to stripes. Today my work was reminding me of an artist I really like, Sunny Taylor. She did a series of collages using, *I think*, painted papers cut into strips and sanded. She seems to begin with a structure (rows of stripes) similar to Lance Letscher but moves in such a different direction.
I am fascinated by these pieces because of how they balance unity and variety, or order and disorder. Complete order, just in terms of shape and proportion, would be 3 rows of equal width stripes with nice clean edges. But too much order is boring, right? So how does she mix it up? She varies the width (not wildly, but some), some stripes are two rows long, and the 3rd row is further subdivided into two rows part way through. NOTE: if you rotate the 2nd piece 180deg, the two structures are mostly the same. The second piece goes a little farther, where the upper right gets more chunky and even a splash of horizontal strips are included.
I like this idea of taking a closely defined structure and keep reworking it.
The other thing to notice about these is her color palette which I find very interesting. The colors are analogous, versions of green and blue, and complex hues that have been carefully mixed. These are not colors that immediately go with each other. They fight a little and this adds to the disorder and tension.
So what brings unity? What helps these strangers stay together? First, the presence of a strong structure. Our eye comprehends that immediately. Analogous colors, a pleasing movement of darks and lights. And then a certain sameness to the materials which are textured and sanded in a unifying way.
Here are two more pieces in the same vein. More variety in some ways, more unity in others. The second one here is particularly subtle and intriguing. She really gets you to notice her choices.
Sunny also takes these ideas to sculpture. Here are a couple of more recent works.
The play of order vs. disorder here is a fun dialogue. Colors are playful, the shapes are rectilinear but of different proportions, some surfaces are distressed, some are painted cleanly.
This next piece has so much order, so much sameness, that I cannot believe it works. If I were making this I would be hearing in my head: Use odd numbers, not even. You can’t just have a bunch of perfect rectangles all the same size. You must have more variety in color. Where are the darks and lights??? This is gonna be super boring!
But its not, and that surprise is so delightful. The breaks in the pattern are so slight, but obvious, that somehow it engages your mind just perfectly. Instead of being boring it is calming.
While Lance’s work keeps growing toward complexity and chaos, Sunny is moving more toward simplicity and order. Interesting contrast between the two.
So, following a strong structure like this. How does that mesh with your studio practice? Do you like the more minimal work or the more diverse?
Thanks for reading. Please share you thoughts!