Conversation Pieces

Chicago’s landscape influences fiber sculptures
As a mixed-media artist living in Chicago, I am drawn to the innate sense of order and change that can define an urban existence. It is not surprising that I am inspired by the geometric shapes and forms found in modern architecture as well as the texture and energy of the city and the stories and people behind this landscape. Working with the familiar materials of wax, cheesecloth, wood, wire, metal, and twine, my encaustic and fiber sculptures reduce these larger images and concepts into elegant simplified forms that invite the viewer to approach each work, engaging them in a conversation about the physical and mental boundaries of the public and private spaces we inhabit.  
 
You can see the influence of the stories behind Chicago’s urban landscape in the wall-hung sculpture Unfulfilled Dream. This was influenced by the ill-fated Chicago Spire.  This twisting skyscraper was designed by famed architect Santiago Calatrava to evoke an imaginary smoke spiral rising from a campfire built along the Chicago River by Chicago’s earliest residents.  Architect Mies van der Rohe’s influential twentieth century architectural style, noted for its simplicity followed a “less is more” philosophy.   My sculpture Considering Mies exemplifies how he sought structural order and balance between interiors and exteriors through the use of open space.  The Mane and Living-Together-But-Separate Lives speak directly to the evolving changes of Chicago as a tourist destination and as a community of urban inhabitants. 
 
A number of my sculptural installations are collaborative in nature.  The Paths We Choose consists of 500 small individual mixed-media sculptural discs.  I encourage the installer to ‘flex their creative muscle’ by hanging the final work in a design of their own choosing.  It is exciting to see my art through different eyes; bringing to me, an element of surprise to each installation. Infinite Possibilities, which is made up of 30 unique mixed media blocks, and the dozen ceiling-hung sculptural columns of Spaces We Inhabit are also site-specific as well as collaborative in nature.  The first has been installed in entirety in a grid formation as well as separated into parts.  In two exhibitions, the installation Spaces We Inhabit, with its interactive element, was installed in gallery doorways, while the curator in another exhibition, chose only a single column to be hung alone.
 
Pushing the conventional parameters of the use of the encaustic medium by uniting it with fiber has resulted in innovative 3D forms often employing traditional weaving techniques in a way not previously utilized.  Fiber, when married with encaustic, becomes surprisingly malleable allowing for a broad range of sculptural treatments.  Over time, my sculptures have gone beyond their initial traditional forms and have developed into new forms for expression.  Exploring the infinite sculptural possibilities has proven to be a welcome challenge.  I have developed this process for fiber and encaustic and enjoy improving upon it.
 
To learn more visit  www.afboehm.com.
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