Category Archives: Sculpture

The Amour of Armour

My work explores memory and customs examining society, cultural inheritance, and the natural world. Looking back at women throughout history, I see how far we have come in some regards, yet how little has changed in others. My body of work,  Public Debt to the Suffragette, reflects on the times of 1912-15 through the eyes of 2012-15. The very year that the US congress started to limit women’s rights over their bodies is exactly 100 years after Margaret Sanger initiated what would become Planned Parenthood. I was inspired to honor the female body and use it as a statement about seduction, power, and control; and to question social mores of gender.

For Margaret Sanger's Faith

For Margaret Sanger’s Faith c. Mary Coss

Materials bring with them inherent meaning. Bronze traditionally memorialized moments in time. Here I use it to create a frozen narrative. The long history of bronze casting includes the making of protective war implements, in particular body armor. Using bronze to present intimate imagery creates a different context for the material, the armour becomes reflective of its matters, and it matters how the details are treated. An emerging breast shows both its strength and its vulnerability, yet these forms seem to take on any brutality, including a needle and thread and still withstand.


 Inertia c. Mary Coss

 The Unfamiliar Familiar My use of corsets question historical reference and gender roles. It’s written that women donned the first corsets to take a stand, saying no to motherhood and yes to other possibilities. But, mostly we hear the stories of women pursuing the perfect shape, the stories of women who broke or removed ribs to create a body to fit the current ideal. History is storytelling and truth is illusive.

The Familiar Unfamiliar c. Mary Coss

Gilded cAGE (below) reflects on the Gilded Age. It was a time where society lay corrupt under a gilded surface layer. Just as Mark Twain coined this term for the late 19th century, current business and politics have revolved to a similar social condition with the gilding, as a cage for the populace.

2a_Coss_Gilded cAGEI’m interested in working somewhere between the familiar and the uncomfortable. Intimate imagery seduces, but there is more to these stories. I invite you to spend a moment of time to consider the allusions. Just as layers of time encrust our planet, layers of meaning have a way of building up through years and creating something different than what originally existed. In society, these encrustations can propel us forward or move us back. I am betting on our moving forward and hope this work creates a ripple that rolls forward in concert with many others.

Gilded cAGE c. Mary Coss



International Foundation for Women Artists

Thanks for supporting women in the arts and for taking the time to interview me.
The interview is posted on the blog of the IFWA, a new foundation dedicated to support, promote, educate and unite women artists internationally.
Here’s a link to the interview post on the blog.
Visit the website here to learn more about their organization.

Interview / Mary Coss

Posted: January 22, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: + 2014, Interview with Artists | Tags: , , , , , , , |Leave a comment »

“My sculpture explores narratives that are personal, yet globally informed meditations on our cultural landscape”.
-Mary Coss

3 Graces

3 Graces

This week we present Seattle based artist Mary Coss who makes artwork inspired by life’s stories. Read the rest here.

Arte Laguna at the Arsenale Venice

I’m excited to have been chosen as a finalist for the 8th Annual International Art Prize Arte Laguna in Venice, Italy!

Aimed at promoting and enhancing contemporary art, the International Art Prize Arte Laguna is organized by the Italian Cultural Association MoCA (Modern Contemporary Art) in collaboration with Arte Laguna. Artists are chosen by an International Jury. March 22- April 6, 2014. Fingers Crossed!



Back in the Saddle Again

Very excited to be back in the studio and working on my upcoming show at METHOD! The work, Public Debt to the Suffragette, is my attempt at a productive conversation around women’s issues. I know. It’s not a fashionable thingstudioWeb to discuss these days, in fact feminist has become a bad word in many circles. I hope to instigate a conversation by slithering into your sub-conscience sideways, by intriguing you with cascading projections on embellished lingerie made from window screen. Will seductive imagery and poetic humor allow me to share my stories? Are you susceptible to the lure of cast bronze in all it’s glory? Will you be won over by a sharing of the heart and mind? By  the clothed and unclothed? By my naked thoughts? Stretch your mind for a moment to reconsider what just might be meant by She asked for it? Can it have another interpretation? An approach to talk about what women want? I will remain optimistic while witnessing a history of two steps forward, one step back.


Layers of Conversation

My Project Layers of the Hijab resulted in an onionskin of strata. Layers of the complexity of the girls lives, made up of a balance of so much more than initially understood. While navigating their religious Muslim lives and their social lives as American teens, they are also balancing their Somali heritage with their gender roles as young women in all three cultures. Layers undeniably navigated with humor and grace.

The project has fed my soul, and in turn my own artwork. I completed an installation of the girls, based on portraits of five of them. The portraits are three-dimensional drawings of sorts. I took light gauge wire and braised it to create the figures. The pieces where their skin shows, their facial silhouettes and hands, are gold leafed. The images are simplified to just the silhouette outline of their face to respect their religious concerns regarding reproducing, or drawing eyes.

The elongated figures stand on a solid base, a base of balance reflecting their roots in Islam. The girls are a complex rich combination of influences and interests, living out dualities of life on several levels. As such, the yin yang symbol seems appropriate to use, alluding to the contrary yet interconnected worlds they live in. It is used to shape the form of the base. These forms are modified to reference the paisley design, a common form found in Islamic artwork. The base is lit, projecting the imagery of the wire sculptures. It is banded in a colorful pattern based on traditional floral imagery.

I am thrilled to have this work move on with the integration of another layer, an audio component, in it’s remounting at the Wing Luke Museum in the upcoming exhibition Under My Skin: Exploring Race in the 21st Century. The minimal visual weight of the wire is as illusive as the topic of race. In this reinterpretation, there will be an added component of sound. The sound installation will layer conversations with the girls, along with the music that they listen to. The concept of race is a social construct. As such, it is tentative, illusive, an illusion. It is temporal. My work for this show is based on this moment in time. A snapshot. It is a slice of life of five East African teen girls in 2013. The show runs May 10th – November 17th.

The girls will have an artist panel this Thursday, March 14th at 7pm at Columbia city Gallery in Seattle. Join us if you are in the area!