Continuing Education

All in the Mix for Mixed Media

This winter, Continuing Education art instructor Sarah Norsworthy introduces students to one Imageof her favorite art forms: Mixed Media. Sarah took a moment to share her thoughts and experiences about Mixed Media and why she finds it so inspiring both as an artist and teacher.

Q: When did you first discover an affinity for this particular discipline and what keeps inspiring you about it?

Sarah Norsworthy (SN): I got into mixing collage and paint when I was youngI loved how I could use the paint to bring different imagery together.  I did this to a small tabletop and had it in my room. This instinct to combine different materials came into play again in college when I took a sculpture class.  I had already taken quite a few painting classes and that was my declared concentration, so I began bringing a painterly approach to the sculptures I was making culminating in creating a walk-in installation. It was kind of like a cave and felt like walking into a painting.  The walls were made of sail cloth sewn together that I had painted and drawn on, the ceiling was made of fabric covered with joint compound so some light would filter through, the floor was plastered, and there were found objects that were manipulated and incorporated like a mattress I carved into. The whole piece was inspired by an Ann Sexton poem.

Q: What excites you most about your students’ discovery process with Mixed Media?

SN: I like to see how students approach collage and Mixed Media differently.  There are so Imagemany ways to combine materials and make a personal statement. It is refreshing to see the different personalities expressed.  I think it can be a way for students to access an intuitive process-based approach that frees students up and gets them thinking outside of the box. One student could get involved with an abstract painterly construction whereas another could take their work in a more research-based conceptual direction.

Q: How do you encourage students new to this approach to explore creative possibilities?

SN: I try to expose students to many different artists and approaches through art history.  I was inspired by installation artists and process-based artists like Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and Ed Kienholz when I started doing this work. I will show students images, encourage individual research and collecting of materials, and give them readings to get them thinking across disciplines.

Q: Mixed Media involves found materials, will you encourage students to seek out their own materials for inspiration? If so, do you encourage or discourage them to find materials that relate to one another?

SN: This class will involve found materials, although materials don’t have to be found to be Mixed Media. I definitely encourage gleaning materials from a variety of places and think it is essential to be open to experimentation and play with combining different materials.

ImageQ: When working in a discipline where no rules apply, how does an artist know their work is successful?

SN: I don’t actually feel that no rules apply in working across media, in fact I try to hold myself to the rule that the materials need to be necessary to a visual statement.  I value experimentation and openness to materials and approaches as well as questioning and critique that lead a student to creating their own set of rules and criteria for what is successful.

Learn more about Mixed Media.


All artwork pictured courtesy of Sarah Norsworthy.

Palace Pelagic. Installation view at Henry Art Gallery, Found wood, dyed fabric, oil paintings on panel, found objects, plaster, hand-made bricks, scotch broom and found metal, 2015

Laundromat.  Found paper, paint, found materials, 2015

Black Shorts. Dyed paper, fabric, thread, found wood, paint, 2016