Sascha Braunig, Stays, 2016
In 2017, the museum held what is likely to be its last Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair (BCPF). The fair ran at the museum beginning in 1990 (the brainchild of Jay Fisher and Jan Howard), and the proceeds generated enabled the purchase of many prints for the collection. From the final fair, we made a handful of acquisitions, including several that I’ve written about previously. Another of those works is this print by Sascha Braunig executed at Wingate Studio, which is headed by Peter Pettengill. Not only is Peter a consummate printer, but also he and son James and daughter-in-law Alyssa are just about the nicest people you will ever meet. The work they brought to BCPF was always timely, beautifully executed, and exciting. And their sales pitches were also on point. I was honored to include them in the fair over the years.
Braunig’s subject is the human body (usually female and usually in paintings and sculpture) portrayed in a reductive but potent manner. In this print, the female figure is formed by metal-looking tubes that mimic a coat rack or corset stays (hence the title). Across the width of the image area is stretched her undergarments, which are delightfully mismatched and totally relatable. But it’s hard to know if the undergarments are effective in any way. They look like they are supporting and shielding the figure but are not really being worn. This confusion fades as one notices that the profile face of the figure is draped over the pink top in a gesture of defeat or resignation. And, just as you begin to make sense of the image, suddenly you notice that the tubes crisscross each other in an impossible way behind her eyes. For me, it comes across as a woman who is dependent on and trying to escape the confines of the stays. The push-pull tension of the piece grows as you spend more and more time engaged with it. In the end, her weariness seems a perfect metaphor for these days of social distancing and this disastrous pandemic.
Sascha Braunig (Canadian, born 1983)
Printed and published by Wingate Studio
Four plate aquatint etching with burnishing, soft ground, and sugar lift
Sheet: 988 × 711 mm. (38 7/8 × 28 in.)
Plate: 733 × 481 mm. (28 7/8 × 18 15/16 in.)
Baltimore Museum of Art: Women's Committee Acquisitions Endowment for Contemporary Prints and Photographs, BMA 2017.69
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Ann's art blog
A small corner of the interwebs to share thoughts on objects I acquired for the Baltimore Museum of Art's collection, research I've done on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17, experiments in intaglio printmaking, and the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.