Paige Bradley's (b. 1974) powerful sculptures of dynamically posed figures showcase more than just physical strength and passion – they testify to the inner strength and fortitude woven into the fabric of a person’s soul. Her own personal experiences are the starting point for Paige’s work, and she then uses her skill, intuition, and sensitivity to build these stories out into universally understood creations. The unseen and often unspoken dichotomies one encounters in life – joy and sorrow, dissonance and harmony, weakness and strength, ugliness and beauty – become powerfully alive in Paige’s sculpture, as she is an artist who has the rare ability to turn abstract feeling into three-dimensional form.
Working in the figurative genre, Paige’s sculptures are anything but relics, antiques, or pastiches of figuration past. Rather, her works combine iconic media and uncommon skill with modern thought, philosophy, and psychology, speaking in the currency of our contemporary culture. Paige is also known for eschewing stylistic rules and parameters of any kind, which has kept stagnation far from her studio. In looking at the variety of thought-provoking work she has produced over her 25-year career, one can see how this mindset continues to serve her creative diversity: some of her figures sit strong and grounded in outdoor spaces; others float delicately in suspended compositions; others are sturdily wrapped in silk while stretching toward freedom. Although she primarily casts in bronze, Paige’s artwork also encompasses painting and charcoals, woodcuts, iron-bonded resin, aluminum, mixed media, or any other material she feels helps communicate her message.
Within this portfolio of visionary artistry are such standout pieces as Surrender Containment, a work exploring the consequences of containment, which sold at Christie’s auction house in New York City. Freedom Bound and Soaring found Paige experimenting with new materials and techniques to recreate tension, freedom, and movement to figuratively defy gravity. The artist’s Vertigo series in aluminum, faux glass, and bronze have placed the traditional figure squarely within the contemporary milieu by incorporating innovative materials and novel forms of presentation, specifically aerial installation. In works such as Aspire, Madelyn in Red and Lauren in Blue, we see Paige’s craftsmanship and attention to detail dovetailing seamlessly with her ability to sculpt swiftly, as the figures required the artist to work in limited time from live models in order to capture both an accurate likeness and an energetic pose.
One of Paige’s most ambitious and internationally lauded pieces to date is Expansion, a 28-x-35-x-17-inch seated bronze sculpture lit from within by electricity. The subject is a woman in a meditative state of self-empowerment and liberation, realizing her full potential and identity beyond her physical exterior. Combining abstract and contemporary sensibilities, the sculpture was first installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York and proceeded to become collected worldwide after going viral through print and social media. In response, Paige created a second version in 2019 titled Expansion Rising, which further expands on the strong feminine aura found in the original, while speaking specifically to our times through metaphoric meaning and symbolism. The artist explains that Expansion Rising is "a harbinger for the feminine spirit of our age, a fractured heroine rising from the flame."
As a successful female sculptor in the 21st century – a time that is seeing women joining together, speaking out, and standing up in unprecedented numbers – Paige remains an artist of singular self-assurance and conviction, choosing to focus on feminine strength, empowerment, and the ability to overcome.
"I did not struggle in the same way that my ancestors did, but I'm still subject to many inequalities and unnecessary hardships," says Paige in the video recently posted on International Women's Day. "And I'm stronger because I learned to fight, overcome, and triumph. My artwork is about this: the hiding and emerging. The trusting, connecting, and then releasing. Allowing vulnerability. The birthing and the nurturing. Learning to love openly and to crack myself open to find the brilliance within. I hope my journey can inspire others and at the least show the world that a woman who is a wife, a daughter, and a mom can still be an artist who can shake preconceived paradigms. Once we find our unique voice in life, it is not complete until we pay it forward."