Polymer Art: Recent Acquisitions at RAM

Polymer Art: Recent Acquisitions at RAM
Jeffrey Lloyd Dever, Seeking Solace (teapot), 2011, polymer, plastic coated wire, steel wire, 5 1/8" x 10 1/2" x 5 1/2", RAM gift of Acquisition Fund, Photo: Gregory R. Staley

Do you want an uplifting experience viewing polymer art in museums?  If so, then please pay attention to the new exhibition, Polymer Art: Recent Acquisitions at the Racine Art Museum in Racine, WI.    Often RAM shows include art works of multiple mediums, but this show focuses exclusively on polymer art.  Polymer Art: Recent Acquisitions highlights additions made to RAM’s collection since 2011, as well as other examples of polymer art from their  permanent collection.  Much of the polymer art at RAM is jewelry but the collection includes furniture, wall art and sculpture, thus demonstrating the wide range of polymer as an art material.

For museums there are many paths to the expansion of a permanent collection.   These varied means of acquisition have always played an important role in any museum’s holdings.  While PAA intends to examine several of the works mentioned below in greater detail sometime soon, for now, here is a preview of what is new and a bit about how it came to RAM.

Several artists whose work was part of the 2014 RAM exhibition, (In)Organic, donated their pieces directly afterwards.  Maggie Maggio and Melanie West both gave neckpieces which were exhibited at that time.  Wendy Wallin Malinow’s work was featured in (In)Organic Labs and she donated both a neckpiece and a bracelet as well as two watercolors.

Other polymer art arrived via donations from private collectors.   Generous donors and art jewelry collectors Gail M. Brown and Trish Rodimer gifted RAM with pieces by Steven Ford and David Forlano, and Cynthia Toops.


Pier Voulkos and Daniel Peters, Side Table, 1998, wood,  polymer, 24 1/8″ x 15″ D,  photo: Jim Bolton

Works by Pier Voulkos are always notable additions.   Now retired, Voulkos, a major innovator in the early decades of polymer art, explored far beyond the range of wearable jewelry.  Donor, Laura Oskowitz gave RAM a side table by Pier Voulkos and her partner, woodworker, Daniel Peters.  The veneer surface is all polymer and represents a wonderful example of Voulkos’s chatoyant patterning.  In addition, the technique and color scheme of this table relate to a lidded box by Voulkos already extant in the collection.


Sienna DeGovia, Allegorical Deer Centerpiece, 2011, polymer, clay, metal, acrylic paint, 17″ x 16″

Sienna DeGovia is a less familiar name to students and followers of polymer art history.  Her pieces are opulent statements that frequently reference food and play upon a kind of quirky trompe l’oeil, or “fool the eye” effect.  DeGovia’s artwork “Allegorical Deer Centerpiece”, gifted by the artist and her gallery, Klowden Mann, was originally part of another RAM exhibit, Go for Baroque: Opulence and Excess in Contemporary Art.  

One quite recent addition coming directly from artist, is Fran Abrams’s 2014 wall piece, “Warmth of the Fire”.  This 2017 donation marks the first two-dimensional polymer wall piece in RAM’s collection.

Another 2017 acquisition from an artist, is Elissa Farrow-Savos’s figure/sculptural work.  Farrow-Savos almost always addresses issues related to women and in particular the mother daughter relationship.  This piece, like so many of the artist’s works, incorporates text and is part of another current RAM show, Text Message: Words and Letters in Contemporary Art.  (look for a subsequent PAA post on the Text Message exhibition, which includes several  polymer pieces.)

One other very important way for museums to add to their collections is through donor funded purchases.  Jeffrey Lloyd Dever’s teapot, “Seeking Solace” was acquired in this way.  Dever’s work is the first RAM purchase through the “Polymer Art and Care Acquisition Fund”.  This specifically designated fund seeks to tend to the care of extant RAM polymer art and enable the museum to acquire new work in ways that expand the breadth of its holdings.  PAA will be eager to see what the fund at RAM might enable next.

Polymer Art: Recent Acquisitions will be on view from Jan 28, 2018-June 24, 2018

Artists included in the exhibition are:  Fran Abrams, Kathleen Amt, Shellie Brooks, Rachel Carren, Steven Ford, David Forlano, Dan Cormier, Sienna DeGovia, Jeffrey Lloyd Dever, Kathleen Dustin, Lori Feiss, Gwen Gibson, Michael Grove, Ruth Ann Grove, Lindly Haunani, Tory Hughes, Donna Kato, Judith Kuskin, Maggie Maggio, Wendy Wallin Malinow, Sandra McCaw, Karin Noyes, Linda Pederson, Daniel Peters, Nan Roche, Sarah Shriver, Barbara Sperling, Cynthia Toops, Pier Voulkos, Melanie West, and Elise Winters

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.