Lately, I've found myself edging away from using a single process/media e.g.; oil; encaustic; and experimenting with mixed media. As I work, I often think about the nomenclature for paintings that incorporate numerous materials and how to label these paintings. Mixed media sounds so mysterious, and brings up my concern about conveying to a viewer, gallerist, juror, curator, potential collector, or other interested parties that there is a material integrity to the piece. For those of us who work with encaustic, we are often faced with the prospect of reassuring folks that, no, this won't melt during the summer, and no, it isn't toxic, and no, it's not especially fragile with the proper handling that any piece of fine art or craft requires.
I've seen many paintings labeled mixed media that contain what appear to be lots of different media/materials--sometimes more than my fairly informed eye can discern. I am then left to wonder what's there, how might the different materials interact, and what are the implications for conservation. (I do buy art when I can afford to. And I do want to know what's in there.)
Conversely, I sometimes see work that has numerous media listed on a painting's label, and it reminds me of the descriptors used on menus in some restaurants: oil, encaustic, graphite, paper collage, monotype, and xerox transfer on watercolor paper on cradled maple panel. Grilled and jasmine tea smoked muscovy duck breast on cedar plank with organic dried michigan bing cherries and braised black walnuts in a reduced house-made anjou pear and port wine reduction over hand-ground grilled polenta cake. (I made it up in a caffeine-fueled fit, and to be a little over the top to make a point, but now I'm also hungry and thinking...hmmm sounds like it might be worth trying.)
OK...it's nice to know all that, maybe. And it sure would pique my interest and curiosity. Sounds appetizing--and on menus, which are marketing tools--that is the point. But might it not take away a little from the experience of discovery while eating? Or with art, from viewing? Not sure. And it leaves me with the question of how to find a balance...
While participating in J.T. Kirkland's project Artists Review Artists I reviewed a painting by Ken Weathersby that had a great descriptor: acrylic on canvas with removed and reversed area. (You'll have to refer to the review to understand.) When I wrote my review, it did not occur to me that the words used for the labeling of the media could be part of the piece, but that's what I'm thinking now, which opens all kinds of neuro-pathways in my brain.
So readers, I'm wondering what you do in your own studio practice to address the issue of labeling if you use mixed media/mixed techniques. Do you tell all? Or do you mention only the most prominent ingredient(s) when there may be many? Have you developed a specific term that fits for all your mixed-media works? And do you have a specific philosophy or reasoning for your decision? Or maybe it's not an issue for you at all. I'd love to hear your thoughts.