Bryn Athyn College has received a generous donation from Lee Bontecou, a nationally renowned artist, in recognition of the inspiration she has drawn from Bryn Athyn.
The whimsical sculpture is a free-form suspension made of welded steel, epoxy, wire mesh, canvas porcelain, and paint. It was first exhibited last year in the FreedmanArt gallery in New York. It now hangs in the lobby of the new Doering Center.
Bontecou cites Bryn Athyn as the birthplace of her concept for suspended sculptures. It was in Bryn Athyn that she developed her first abstracts and models for her suspended works.
Bontecou was born in Providence, Rhode Island, 1931. Artistic from a young age, Bontecou grew up studying literature and eventually joined the Art Students League in New York in her early twenties. There she discovered a mentor in William Zorach. A few years later she won the Fulbright scholarship, allowing her to travel to Rome to continue her studies from 1957-1958. In 1959 she won the Lewis Comfort Tiffany Award, accompanied by a grant that helped her develop her commercial career. Later on she became a professor at Brooklyn College during the 70’s and 80’s.
Among Bontecou’s most famous works are large, canvas and welded steel reliefs surrounding a central absence. Other major works are complex suspensions of thin wire, canvas, porcelain, and welded steel.
Bontecou’s work in the 60’s and 70’s challenged the accepted art world conventions of the time. She sought alternative materials and methods, burning acetylene to draw in soot, melting and casting colored wax, and welding steel forms. She also led an assault on the third dimension, creating reliefs that projected much further off the “canvas” than ever before. Later in her career she brought her imagination off the wall completely with her suspension pieces.
Bontecou’s works have been featured in prestigious galleries including the Hammer Museum of UCLA, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C..
Other origins of Bontecou’s inspiration and influence include Ancient Greek sculpture, the atrocities of World War II, and the launching of Sputnik.