Sidney Mullis and a Coming of Age

Sidney Mullis - Purple Plant with Potential, 2023

Pittsburg-based sculptor Sidney Mullis constructs uncanny and materially rich sculptures that ruminate on childhood. Her art memorialises the facets of identity and behaviour that are left behind as we grow up. Mullis reimagines adolescent toys, food, and substances with highly original techniques. For example, the artist whisks together colourful construction paper and gravestone dust (collected from a professional carver) to concoct a Play-Doh like pulp with which she builds shapes.

Mullis also applies a playground sand mixture to found items, inserting candles into the resulting art objects. The experimental nature of her process means that some of these works will gradually change and fade – aligned with the artistʼs fixation on the passage of time.

Evocative and eerie, the artistʼs forms would equally arise in a kidʼs daydreams and an adultʼs nightmares. Her practice resonates with that of American sculptors like Robert Gober who in the 1970s began reconstructing and defamiliarising domestic objects to probe the human psyche. Like Gober, Mullis also presents her discrete sculptures in immersive installations.

Sidney Mullis – Footsie Ring on Pointed Pillow, 2020

In those invented landscapes, childlike attitudes and reveries are resurrected. The ways in which Mullis transforms objects parallel mortal transitions: from infancy to maturity; from innocence to intimacy; from birth to death. The artist intermingles the moods – humour and gravity; playfulness and profundity; whimsy and solemnity – that are associated with separate life stages. Mullis wrestles with the coming-of-age traditions that condition us to “tamp down our quirks and stifle our sillies,” in her words.

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Grown Up

Sidney Mullis received an MFA in Sculpture from Penn State University after garnering a BA in Studio Art from the University of Mary Washington. The artist has presented solo shows at organisations such as Bunker Projects, Pittsburgh, PA (2020); Rowan University Art Gallery, Glassboro, NJ (2018); and the Leslie Lohman Museum of Art, New York, NY (2016). Mullis has participated in prestigious artist residencies at the Wassaic Project, NY (2019); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2017); and the Ox-Bow School of Art, Saugatuck, MI (2016), among others. Her work has been acquired by collections including Powerhouse Arts, Brooklyn, NY; University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA; and the Women’s Studio Workshop, Rosendale, NY.

Sidney Mullis, Pizza Tree, 2019
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