Selection from the Collection: Badigeon Beetle

Wendy Wallin Malinow, Badigeon Beetle, 1999,
11″h x 8″w x .75″d
polymer, telephone wire, pearl

Most of us who have marched through the long history of art began that rich journey in exactly the same place: Ancient Egypt. Some of us focused on monumental objects like the pyramids and the Sphinx. Others took delight in the intricate and ornate, like precious amulets and beads fashioned out of faience or stone. Here’s where we might have discovered our earliest artistic renderings of the scarab beetle, which symbolized rebirth.  These amulets were often placed in the tombs of mummified royals, typically over the heart. Thousands of years later now, some of us still have our hearts connected to images of the sacred beetle. Witness the work of Wendy Wallin Malinow.

Wendy’s  articulated sculpture was handformed in pieces and cured in many stages  She carved, incised, and cured the black clay.  Then she used white polymer clay to backfill the carved designs and cured again.  The appendages are hollow and wire runs through the tubes to articulate the joints. The polymer wings are riveted and swing open to reveal multiple pages of vellum decorated with ink imagery.  Spreading the wings uncovers a concave area which houses a white pearl.

Wendy explains her inspiration:

“The piece is inspired by the Harlequin Beetle, a black and white bug  from Ecuador.  The name word “badigeon” is a sculptural term – to fill in crevices, etc., with a particular mortar mix – badigeon.  The pearl is for fertility and cycles of past generations.”

She adds:

“This piece was done when I was first experimenting with polymer clay.  My background in illustration contributed to the decorative style.  I have always worked in pen and ink, so the carvings continued the linear type of drawing that I do.  The pages show pen and ink drawings. My polymer work was mostly black and white at the time.  This piece was made for a show called “Patterns of Nature: Insect Inspiration in Art”, sponsored by the Northwest Polymer Clay  Guild and was exhibited at the  Embellishment conference in Portland, Oregon, 1999.”

I cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn't interested in looking at art, talking about art and the making of art. In 1990 I earned a Phd in art history at the University of Maryland. My first experiences with polymer clay were in 1992, but I consider my real work with the medium to date from 1999.