Mindy Herrin [b. 1976],  Growth Ring , 2012, Low fire white, copper, bronze, mixed media, encaustic, found object, 5 X 4 X 2.75 inches

Mindy Herrin [b. 1976], Growth Ring, 2012, Low fire white, copper, bronze, mixed media, encaustic, found object, 5 X 4 X 2.75 inches

Describe your work for us.
Over the last few years my work has been expansive in the study and execution of various artistic disciplines.  I use a pool of imagery derived from the figure and forms assumed to be culturally feminine to communicate concepts through the familiarity of narrative.  My designs are inspired by nature and explore themes such as growth, disease, preservation, and fertility.

Tell us about your process.
My process is derived from illustrations that are translated into small sculpture using techniques from multiple disciplines.  Basically, I sketch the designs, build the parts, and put them together using solder and cold connections.  I find metal to be a material that has tremendous strength and flexibility, and can be transformed into almost any form or texture.  I use a traditional approach that combines sheet, wire, and tubing to fabricate organic and mechanical elements. 

In comparison to metal, I find clay to be a somewhat delicate substance.  In order to control the material, smaller forms are sculpted in oil-based clay and reproduced using silicone molds.   The larger pieces are hand-built using slab or coil construction, and the surfaces illustrated with drawing and painting techniques then sealed with encaustic wax.

From where do you draw inspiration?
My inspiration comes from multiple sources…some visual, others psychological.  I look to artists like Frida Kahlo, Marylin da Silva, Adrian Arleo, Richard Mawdsley, and Bruce Metcalf for their work with narrative subject matter.  Each has a very human way of presenting their work, which is visually stunning and comes from a place of personal experience.  My own work derives from the adventures of being female in everyday life.  I have a strong connection with materials, and find the physical engagement of working with them to be meditative. Making art is a way of psychological centering, a place of quiet.

Your works seem to experiment with jewelry proportions and processes. Do you intend the finished pieces to be worn?
 experiment with the scale of jewelry work as a means of poking fun at my field.  Metalsmithing, a very specific and technical area, has infiltrated so far into my making that I cannot help but design with its influence.  I call my pieces wall brooches, due to the inclusion of a pin back that is not truly wearable.

How would you compare metalsmithing with working in clay? What function do you think each serves in your work?
I find metals and ceramics to be diametrically opposed materials.  One is light, rigid, and permanent, the other… soft, easily stressed, but progressively more dimensional.  I use metal for delicate and linear elements, and clay as a means to incorporate the figure.  I’ve sculpted metal figures in the past and found the outcome to be cold and statuesque.  Clay is a warm, fleshy material and as such creates a beautifully tactile result.

Your work highlights the inherently mechanical nature of the body as well as the unexpectedness of seeing a body – or body parts - transformed. Could you speak to those concepts?
I use mechanisms with the body as a means of illustrating the concept of invention with intent.  Invention is a thing or part that is manmade; the inclusion with the body describes a function for the narrative.  A clock is meant to be an example of time, a strap to show hindrance or the aspect of being broken.  The mechanism performs several functions. It is a physical way to combine materials, it acts as an aesthetic counterpart to organic forms, and it provides a forum to incorporate recognizable objects into the work.  The objects I use create paths to personal experience.

The faces in your works appear to be self-portraits.  To what extent is your work autobiographical?
The majority of my work is autobiographical, and the faces serve to link the work to my own experience.  In the past I have chosen not to include hair in order to make the figure more androgynous.  I now use Elizabethan style hair and clothing to introduce delicate feminine elements.  My work explores personal experience with infertility, disease, mortality, and growth.  I feel we place expectations on life outcomes and are sometimes left distraught and confused when challenges emerge.  I make art as a means of divesting the difficulties.

What would you like viewers to learn from your work?
I would like viewers to see something in the work that relates to their own experience.  I want the work to be thoughtful and approachable

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How long have you been working as an artist? 
I have been working as an artist since childhood, but professionally for nearly twenty years.  Experience has given me the material fluency to make work with relative conceptual ease.

How has your practice evolved?
My practice has evolved in that technical efficiency has allowed the narrative concepts to strengthen.  In the past I have spent a great deal of time researching techniques and materials.  Although that will always be ongoing, I am more interested now in exploring the imagery and creating a narrative language.