Betty Ann Brown, Art Historian, Critic and Curator
Joan Wynn is a sculptor: she creates insistently physical art. She uses the acetylene torch to cut silhouettes out of heavy steel pipes, adds smaller metal pieces for narrative specificity, then arranges them in dramatic tableaux. Wynn selects the pipes for their patinas, allowing the chemical transformations to "paint" her surfaces.
Wynn's three-dimensional forms give solid embodiment to her lived experiences. Some works relate to her early years. Others address the recent past. And still others investigate human interactions in general. The artist studied ethics at Sarah Lawrence and Yale, and several of her pieces are broadly applicable to human interactions, which is to say, ethical in their reach.
Wynn is the aesthetic heir of Louise Bourgeois. Like the French-born sculptor, Wynn uses her work to grapple with troubling memories of a difficult personal history and the psychological insights of emotional growth. Like Bourgeois, she focuses on the simplified, almost child-like depictions of the human form. Like Bourgeois, she employs both the traditional media of sculpture-metal and stone-as well as unexpected materials-clay eggs, bell jars, cement cylinders. But unlike Bourgeois, most of her materials are distressed industrial cast-offs, such as pipes and washers discarded at construction sites.
As one example, Wynn’s Singularities are welded steel figures tottering on steel rods that are embedded in concrete stands. The figures recall Bourgeois’ Personage series as well as David Smith’s early Totems. Abstracted and attenuated, asserting absence as well as presence, Wynn’s Singularities also point to Alberto Giacometti’s oeuvre.
This is not to say that Wynn's work is derivative. (It's not. Wynn's work is adamantly her own.) But it does continue and extend the psychologically invested, existentially charged dialogue initiated by Giacometti and continued in the work of Smith and Bourgeois. This California artist is in very good company.