Petah Coyne is a contemporary sculptor and photographer best known for her large and small scale hanging sculptures and floor installations. Working in innovative and disparate materials, her media has ranged from the organic to the ephemeral, from incorporating dead fish, mud, sticks, hay, black sand, specially-formulated and patented wax, satin ribbons, silk flowers, to more recently, velvet, taxidermy and cast wax statuary. Unafraid to confront a range of subjects, or tackle contemporary themes, Coyne’s innate dualities are transposed in the dichotomous themes of her work: transformation and constancy; life and loss; beauty and darkness. In a 2018 New York Times article by Hilarie Sheets, Amy Gilman, director at the Chazen Museum of Art adeptly describes Coyne’s sculptures as “evocative in the way that great literature stays with you . . . Petah’s work exposes private things without being explicit, these deep wells of memory and meaning and relationship.”
Throughout her oeuvre Coyne derives her inspiration, as with her media, from diverse sources — from literature and film, world culture and the natural environment, and the artist’s own personal biography. Notably celebrated are under-recognized and female authors, and Eastern literary figures. The title of Coyne’s most recent solo exhibition in 2018 at Galerie Lelong & Co., New York,Having Gone I Will Return, originates from an English translation of two Japanese expressions to say goodbye, inspired by Richard Lloyd Parry’s Ghosts of the Tsunami. At the centerpiece of the exhibit Coyne debuted her latest work, Untitled #1379 (The Doctor’s Wife), after Sawako Ariyoshi’s novel of the same name. An imposing floor installation at 16 feet by 8 feet, a mass of whorled folds of endless hand-sewn velvet, of inky blues, blacks, and greens, sultry to the gaze, are mingled with mounds of strategically placed silk-waxed flowers.
Coyne’s work is in numerous permanent museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn; Denver Art Museum, Denver; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati; Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Finland, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal, Canada among others.
Select awards include the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Award, The Rockefeller Foundation Award, three National Endowment for the Arts Awards, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award, The Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, Asian Cultural Center Award, New York Foundation for the Arts Award, Anonymous Was A Woman Award, Augustus Saint-Gaudens Memorial Foundation Award, Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities Awards, and the Art Matters Award.
Coyne has been reviewed by Aesthetica Magazine, Aperture Magazine, Art in America, Artdaily, Artforum, Artnet, ARTnews Magazine, Artspace, Blouin Artinfo, BOMB Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, ELLE Italia, ELLE Taiwan, Frieze, Hyperallergic, Interior Design, Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, Newsday, Sculpture Magazine, Tema Celeste, The Boston Globe, The Brooklyn Rail, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The San Francisco Examiner, The Times (London), The Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, Village Voice, Vogue Magazine, and Washington Post.