Embryo I

Lynda Benglis
Embryo I, 1967-76
Lynda Benglis (American, b. 1941), Embryo I, 1967-76. Purified beeswax and damar resin on masonite mounted on wood, 35 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles Gibbs, 1991.2

Lynda Benglis’ Embryo I stems from her first series of wax-based objects, which she calls “wax paintings,” begun in 1967. Her artistic process is visible through the layering of a multi-colored beeswax medium onto a vertical panel. With a paintbrush the same width as the Masonite board, she spread coats of a homemade medium from the center to the rounded edges of the panel. Through this technique, she collected textured wax encrustations to form along the borders. Benglis created the sculpture in response to works from the minimalist and pop art movements of the 1960s that, in her words, lacked a “sense of theater.” Her interest in the depiction of more organic forms and in the human body is apparent in the size of the work, which is equivalent to an arm’s length, in the smooth, skin-like quality of the wax, and in its allusion to labial forms. Made during the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Benglis’ work explores women’s self-discovery, sensuality, and sexuality through these figural metaphors, the use of repetitive strokes, and through the juxtaposition of opposites, such as liquid and solid, smooth and sticky, and male and female symbols.

Lia Dawley ’12
Student Curatorial Assistant