Boulder artist Pattie Lee Becker sees beauty in ropes. Using pen and colored pencils, the artist turns twisted fiber visions into enchanting entanglements of colors and patterns on paper. Becker expands 2-D drawings into 3-D sculptures by combining woodblock printed linen, batting and tubing. Freed from function, Becker’s ropes blossom as art.
“Each rope has a personality. When three ropes crisscross and overlap, there is a conversation,” Becker says during an interview at her downtown Boulder studio.
Ropes is part of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art’s winter/spring exhibition, on view through May 23. The show also features oil paintings by North Carolina artist Beverly McIver and three mixedmedia installations by Denver artist Steve Steele.
Joan Markowitz curates the exhibit.
A film about Becker’s rope art produced by The Studio Project runs in the Ropes space. The Studio Project is a teen-led program organized by BMoCA and local high school students to explore contemporary art and social issues.
Ropes are embedded in Becker’s psyche. As a child growing up in Kansas, Becker remembers the fire escape rope coiled up in her bedroom nook, ready to use for a quick getaway. Nautical knots meander in Becker’s mind when she recalls her sailing days. When Becker thinks about rock climbing, a sport the artist took up a few years ago, she sees lovely ropes.
Last summer, Becker released her rope reflections on paper with “Rope in Celadon on Grey.” That drawing morphed into the series on view at BMoCA. The works explore lines and shapes through complex patterns, lively color combinations and more.
“Ropes in Blue, Green, Tan, & Orange” contains a thick rope with a lime green and blue herringbone pattern intersected by a thin rope with tan and white diagonal lines. Smooth brown and orange ropes wrapped around the patterns add a splash of color to the maze. “Ropes in Aqua, Rust, & Brown” features aqua/brown and rust/brown color patterns accented by a smooth brown rope.
Becker sees length, width and depth as she draws.
She brings this 3-D sensibility to her pen-and-colored-pencil drawings by adding white space to the works. The pieces on paper take on sculptural qualities that seduce the eye to dive into the drawings. The artist’s sculptures are a tactile portrayal of how she draws.
“Rope Pile Triptych,” a 30-inch-by-80-inch penand-colored-pencil drawing, and “Rope Pile,” constructed of handmade ropes, offer viewers a path into Becker’s creative process. The triptych contains a flowing maze of patterned and solid ropes in orange, brown, neon blue, red and manilla colors. The rope pile features ropes of many textures and colors colliding on a platform on the floor. Each version of rope mass empowers the other’s visual force.
“The viewer understands the 3-D space I am seeing when I draw, because I am doing it for them in the sculpture,” Becker says.
Becker’s vision crossed mediums while earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design after studying philosophy and fine art at Colorado College for two years.
“I saw that every chair was designed by an artist and that every magazine had a layout and font. I saw that everyone has a hand in every manmade object,” Becker says.
Becker’s eclectic studio, which spills into her home, reflects the artist’s ability to see drawings as future sculptures, pillows, lamp shades or puppets. The cheery front room contains a bookcase filled with many titles; a soft sculpture of a tall creature; and a drawing table. Drawings ranging from whimsical narratives to abstract botanical art to a piece bursting with color, lines and psychological investigative possibilities adorn the white walls. A small room contains a sewing machine. In the corner, red and white ropes drape over an oval container. A large, soft man sculpture dominates the space. A glass room on the south side of Becker’s studio home features tools, colored pencils and lots of light.
In January, Becker’s residence resembled a quilting bee as friends gathered around a long table to help the artist color “Rope in Blue, Green, Orange, & Brown,” a 51-inch-by-110-inch drawing.
“The intimacy of the space and the meditative quality of coloring provided a safe environment for rich and honest dialogue,” Becker says.
This spring, Becker will be a visiting artist for one month at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, where the artist plans to develop current ideas and possibly do more with ropes.
“Thinking about something in as many ways as I can defines me as an artist,” Becker says.
On the Bill
Exhibits by Pattie Lee Becker, Beverly McIver and
Steve Steele will be on display through May 23 at the Boulder
Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-2122,