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Artist Interview: Brenda Mallory

Last year Culture Seen introduced you to sculptor Brenda Mallory with her installation “Mechanics of Hither and Yon” at the Portland International Airport. I met with Brenda at her studio in the Northeast Historic Irvington District of Portland to learn more about her and to see what she’s been doing since the airport show.

Brenda’s large studio space is white walled and covered in tools, artwork in various stages of progress and inspiration. Different stations have been created within the space for processes such as sewing, waxing, torching, drilling and hand building. Her artwork is an assemblage of multiples and it is evident in her studio the flow the pieces take in order to be composed in an artwork. It is also insight into her work style, since she likes to work on several different things at once. She even leaves herself notes when she stops working so she knows where she left off.

When I interviewed Brenda she was preparing for her upcoming solo show at Butters Gallery in Portland. She showed me some of the new pieces, which were actually reincarnations of the long, vertical pieces in the airport show. Those really tall pieces were so site specific Brenda knew she had to rework them so they were accessible to most spaces.

Brenda Mallory studio in Portland, Oregon

Brenda Mallory studio in Portland, Oregon

Brenda Mallory studio in Portland, Oregon

How did Brenda start using flannel in her work?

With this question I discovered many things about Brenda and her art background. Brenda was the founder of  GladRags, an environmentally-friendly cotton menstrual pad company she started in 1993. She turned GladRags from a home-based business into a thriving company. After years of owning the business, at 40, she decided she needed a change. Throughout her life Brenda had always dabbled with art so she decided to pursue that passion by going back to art school to get her BFA at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. While owning GladRags Brenda slowly acquired a large amount of natural flannel scraps, which are the offcuts from the GladRag manufacturing process. She held on to those scraps for years and when she was at university she experimented with ways to incorporate them into her art.

Brenda Mallory, Explosion (dark), 2011, Waxed cloth, nuts, bolts, steel, 12" x 12" x 12"
Brenda Mallory, Explosion (dark), 2011, Waxed cloth, nuts, bolts, steel, 12″ x 12″ x 12″

How did Brenda pick her color palette of natural, red, gold and black pigmented wax?

She said she doesn’t do a lot of color because her work is more about form and feels color may bring in too much of a decorative element. If the color isn’t informing the concept she doesn’t use it in the work.

Brenda Mallory, Undulations, 2009, Waxed cloth, nuts, bolts, welded steel, 48" x 70" x 6"Brenda Mallory, Undulations, 2009, Waxed cloth, nuts, bolts, welded steel, 48″ x 70″ x 6″

What is the work about?

Brenda’s work is about the human influence on nature and how we disturb it with pesticides, GMO, etc. She creates frankenstein like organic forms to show how it’s unnatural. She says her work has evolved over time to be a little more optimistic and references rebuilding and self-healing within that theme.

Brenda Mallory, Porous Borders – Red, 2012, Waxed cloth, nuts, bolts, welded steel, 33″ x 33″ x 3″

5 interesting things about Brenda Mallory:

  1. She’s a mentor in the MFA in Applied Craft and Design Program, a collaboration between Oregon College of Art and Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art.
  2. She’s comfortable with a torch. In addition to her main studio space she rents at ADX Portland where she does her welding.
  3. She’ll be teaching a 5-day workshop, Repeats, Rhythms and Rifts at Anderson Ranch from August 5 – 9, 2013.
  4. She has a residency at Anderson Ranch Arts Center this fall.
  5. She is represented by Butters Gallery in Portland, Oregon and Julie Nester Gallery in Park City, Utah.
For more information about Brenda Mallory visit:

  1. Brenda Mallory (Reply) on Tuesday 21, 2013

    Thanks, Lisa.