5 Questions with Carolina Rieckhof Brommer

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Carolina Rieckhof Brommer, Self-portrait 4, 2005; Welded steel, 47 1/4 x 27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Natalia Revilla

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Carolina Rieckhof Brommer
Nominating committee: Peru Committee / Consulting curator: Sharon Lerner, Museo de Arte de Lima

 1. What do you like best about working with metal?

Working with metal allows me to make changes. I can just cut it and weld it again. Because I make wearable sculptures, I like to think about what the material can add to the work. What can a metal apron or jacket say about the body that wears it? There is power in sewing, embroidery, and stitching, and I add a twist by using hard materials.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

I always wear my sculptures. My themes are related to a feminine world. For example, I am currently working with maternal themes. I made an alabaster belly, which I attached to my body with a leather harness. I asked women questions about maternity and it became a shared experience. I am interested in portraying my own ideas, but also seeing how my ideas connect to other people.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

I don’t think I have one essential tool, but a pencil and a camera are useful. With a pencil I can draw and write down my ideas. The camera allows me to compare my ideas with reality. I take pictures of myself wearing my sculptures and I know if something is working or not. I print those pictures, draw on them, and imagine how to finish the work.

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Carolina Rieckhof Brommer, Self-portrait 3, 2004; Metal sponges and metal mesh, 98 1/2 x 47 1/4 x 27 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Natalia Revilla

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Carolina Rieckhof Brommer, Self-portrait 3, 2004; Metal sponges and metal mesh, 98 1/2 x 47 1/4 x 27 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Natalia Revilla

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Carolina Rieckhof Brommer, Self-portrait 4, 2005; Welded steel, 47 1/4 x 27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Natalia Revilla

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Carolina Rieckhof Brommer, Self-portrait 4, 2005; Welded steel, 47 1/4 x 27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Natalia Revilla

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

I need to create something when I am frustrated by reality. There is the sense of impotence that makes me want to make something in order to cope with it. I absolutely love the work of Louise Bourgeois, and how she addresses her subjects with an amazing amount of honesty, intensity, and power.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

Rachel Whiteread’s exhibition at Tate Britain was great. The idea of casting a space and materializing the void is amazing. While I was there I was surprised by a visitor guide for blind people. How do you explain art, especially Whiteread’s work, to someone who cannot see? I love how art can open new connections and engage people in dialogue, and in equality.

I also saw an exhibition in Lima called JEDEQUE: el retorno del Cordero. Artist Miguel Cordero uses dark humor to confront reality and to talk about political issues. Cordero considers his work visual poetry, and I love this idea.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

5 Questions with Paula Castillo

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Paula Castillo
Nominating committee: New Mexico State Committee / Consulting curator: Laura Addison, Museum of International Folk Art

Paula Castillo and Tethered in NMWA’s Heavy Metal galleries; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

You can always come back to it and it is generally still much like it was when you left it. It’s both still and fluid.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

They are similar. These works are generative pieces marked by hyper desire to arrange and weld modest forms to mimic the manic intensity with which we structure our world, like the human agency to arrange and work with nature and culture.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

Suffering. It breaks me down so I that don’t try to contain every experience.

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

Poetry, history, literature, the natural world, and human geography influence me. All are complex and malleable with their hundreds of intersections between the physical and the cultural landscape. The manmade microcosms combined with the expansive natural environment have been the catalyst for my interest in the systems and spaces we inhabit.

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Paula Castillo, Tethered, 2014; Lock washers and hand-cut and twisted wire, 15 x 18 x 11 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © 2017 Paula Castillo

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Paula Castillo, Inverted Star, 2016; 22-gauge mild steel with auto-body finish, 15 x 3 x 18 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © 2017 Paula Castillo

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Paula Castillo, All Those Portions of Small Waves, 2012; Steel byproduct, 3 x 27 x 27 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © 2017 Paula Castillo

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Paula Castillo, The Second Part, 2014; Fencing nails and auto-body finish, 16 x 52 x 52 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © 2017 Paula Castillo

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

It would be Javier Téllez’s Letter on the Blind, For the Use of Those Who See (2008).

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

5 Questions with Rana Begum

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Rana Begum
Nominating committee: U.K. Friends of NMWA / Consulting curator: Caroline Douglas, Contemporary Art Society

Rana Begum; Photo: Josh Murfitt

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

I look to architecture for inspiration, which accounts for my attraction to working with industrial materials. Using metals gives my work a physicality and feeling of permanence, juxtaposed with more abstract, meditative, and contemplative pursuits. Combined with color and light, these materials allows me to push visual boundaries and work on a variety of scales.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

These works are made from extruded aluminum bars, something I use extensively. I like to work with aluminum as a lightweight material that I can physically handle. As material can often inform the outcome in my work, it is essential that I can engage with it in a hands-on manner.

These two works continue the dialogue with light, form, and color. They are part of a series which explores the way in which the viewer may connect with a seemingly static work as light and color are activated by movement.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

Light, because without it neither form nor color can survive. Rather than mixing color by hand, I use light and reflection instead. Light delineates form. As it changes in density, it constantly refreshes the work.

The main challenge I face is how to capture and control light in a way that also allows space for the unexpected.

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Rana Begum, No. 161, 2008; Paint on powder-coated aluminum, sixteen elements, each 98 1/2 in. high; Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London; Photo by Philip White

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Rana Begum, No. 161 (detail), 2008; Paint on powder-coated aluminum, sixteen elements, each 98 1/2 in. high; Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London; Photo by Philip White

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Rana Begum, No. 161 (detail), 2008; Paint on powder-coated aluminum, sixteen elements, each 98 1/2 in. high; Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London; Photo by Philip White

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Rana Begum, No. 546 Chevrons, 2014; Paint on powder-coated aluminum, 77 1/2 x 208 1/4 x 2 in. overall; Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London; Photo by Philip White

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Rana Begum, No. 546 Chevrons (detail), 2014; Paint on powder-coated aluminum, 77 1/2 x 208 1/4 x 2 in. overall; Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London; Photo by Philip White

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Rana Begum, No. 546 Chevrons (detail), 2014; Paint on powder-coated aluminum, 77 1/2 x 208 1/4 x 2 in. overall; Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London; Photo by Philip White

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Rana Begum, No. 546 Chevrons (detail), 2014; Paint on powder-coated aluminum, 77 1/2 x 208 1/4 x 2 in. overall; Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London; Photo by Philip White

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

I draw inspiration from my surroundings and the way light affects them. Just as the light changes each day, so too does everything it touches. When I am out in London or other cities, the majority of photographs I take have light as the focal point. This can be the way light is revealing a specific element or how it is creating patterns through reflection. Capturing these fleeting moments inspires and informs my work.

Tess Jaray has been my mentor and a huge influence on my work. I am also very fortunate to be working with amazing women—those who run galleries I work with and curators such as Diana Campbell, Helen Phyby, and Anne Barlow. These women have been an inspiration to me, encouraging me to keep aiming higher and keep pushing myself and my practice.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

I loved seeing Rachel Whiteread’s exhibition at the Tate. The way she transforms and elevates everyday objects—creating solidity from impermanence—really resonates with me. There is a delicacy and poetry to the way she uses materials, akin to what I am trying to achieve in my own practice.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

5 Questions with Cheryl Eve Acosta

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Cheryl Eve Acosta
Nominating committee: Greater Kansas City Area Committee / Consulting curator: Barbara O’Brien, formerly of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art 

Portrait of Cheryl Eve Acosta with her Tattuage line of jewelry; Photo: Jim Barcus

1. What do you like best about working with metal? 

There is something unique about working with a naturally occurring material such as metal and being able to endlessly transform its raw nature from its original state. Metals have distinct qualities, such as their conductivity, malleability, resiliency, and strength, providing a variety of processes for me to explore.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

The intention behind the title Heavy Metal can be perceived in a variety of ways. My selected sculptural adornments reflect the material, but some also allude to the visual weight they could have. My work’s unique copper–fabric process and combination of materials represent the cycle of life. Brightly colored enamel represents birth, copper captures decay, and fabric-and-metal combinations suggest fossils.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

Besides my hands, fire and electricity play important roles in my work. One allows me to carve, shape, and color metal, while the other permits the fusing of disparate materials.

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Cheryl Eve Acosta, Ericius, 2012; Cuff with copper, enamel, and glass, 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 1 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

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Cheryl Eve Acosta, Palomino, 2015; Cuff with copper and enamel, 3 1/8 x 4 1/2 x 4 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

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Cheryl Eve Acosta, Ciclos, 2015; Brooches with copper and enamel, thirteen works ranging from 5/8 x 1 x 7/8 in. to 1 1/4 x 1 x 7/8 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

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Cheryl Eve Acosta, Palomino, 2015; Collar with copper and enamel, 1 1/4 x 9 x 9 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

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Cheryl Eve Acosta, Open to Heal, 2009; Cuff with copper and organza, 10 x 11 x 5 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Affandi Setiawa

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Cheryl Eve Acosta, Fossilium, 2015; Collar with copper and organza, 4 x 11 x 13 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

Marine life, couture fashion, and architecture continue to be my sources of inspiration. I’m also very driven by the use of technology and how it transforms and redefines art.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

One of my favorite exhibitions was Manus x Machina at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which included Dutch artist Iris Van Herpen and her cutting-edge fashion designs.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

Meddling with Metal: “Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018”

As a medium for artistic production, metal goes back to early human history. Some of the oldest surviving pieces of art include functional and decorative metal objects from cultures around the world. The use of metal has even defined eras of history (such as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age). The 20 artists featured in NMWA’s exhibition Heavy MetalWomen to Watch 2018 employ metal in a myriad of ways to highlight the material’s brilliance, texture, and color.

Cheryl Eve Acosta, Ericius, 2012; Cuff with copper, enamel, and glass, 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 x 1 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist; © Cheryl Eve Acosta; Photo by Gene Starr

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch series, Heavy Metal showcases the ways that women artists have creatively carried this medium into the contemporary era, and how their works belie the traditionally masculine reputation of metalwork. Presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees, the exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms.

Metals can be strong enough to hold up a bridge or a skyscraper, while at the same time intricate enough for fine jewelry. Some catch the eye with gilt and polish, while others are heavy and weathered, speaking to their source—the earth. Featured works by Heavy Metal artists showcase these qualities. Cheryl Eve Acosta’s lightweight cuff bracelets echo the organic shapes of barnacles and coral, but they are made from copper, a malleable metal. In contrast, Summer House (2015) by Leila Khoury contains steel and concrete, traditional metals used in heavy construction. These different uses of metal speak to the innovative methods of artists today.

Alice Hope, Untitled, 2016; Used Budweiser tabs, 6 ft. diameter; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

Although the word “metal” often conjures images of gray or bronze-colored works, some artists in Heavy Metal use striking colors in their sculptures. Blanca Muñoz’s Bujía (2013) is an iridescent stainless steel work that incorporates jewel-toned metal mesh planes. An intricate untitled work from 2016 by Alice Hope appears made out of a metal rope, but is actually made of thousands of used beer can tabs, and shines in a vivid vermillion. Lola Brooks’s sacredheartknot (2015) combines steel and gold with bright, smooth Mediterranean coral in a striking textural and color contrast.

Each work in the exhibition  explores the transformable, tactile, and expressive qualities of metal. The largest Women to Watch show to date, Heavy Metal proves the continuing dynamism of this age-old material, and the surprising ways that today’s women artists give it life.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from some of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

—Nana Gongadze is the 2018 summer publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.