There’s something paradoxical about Bruce New’s eloquent mixed media pieces. Employing his own consistent and complex visual language, New conveys symbolic messages that are at once universal and extremely personal. The works share an affinity with the ancient and primordial, yet are decidedly modern. They invite deeper examination, but remain somewhat impenetrable, rewarding the viewer with more questions than answers. They’re inspired by romantic love, yet are hard-edged and mechanical. Solid, monumental figures and objects populate compositions created in the fragile and ephemeral medium of collaged paper. The visual tension in the work is based on the precariously balanced polarity of these opposites, while a restrained, often monochromatic, palette provides unity.
New is a self-taught visionary artist for whom the act of art-making is first and foremost to satisfy a personal need to leave a visual mark of his experiences, and to reveal things that he alone sees. He is led by an impulse to create art as an external manifestation of his innermost visions, or as he describes it, a need ‘to document his existence.’ For New, art is inseparable from life. He explains, ‘I have a compulsive need to make these things, to do this. It ends up going on so long that it just becomes part of your life.’
Born on the fringes of Appalachia, in Somerset, Kentucky, on 1 January, 1970, New was the only child of a Vietnam veteran who worked for a local manufacturing plant and a beautician who took on extra clients at home. He grew up with ‘hair frostings, Virginia Slims 120s, Cosmopolitan magazines, and the smell of perm wave throughout the house.’ Country radio stations provided the soundtrack, with Conway Twitty, Porter Wagoner, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn served up in heavy rotation. New describes his childhood as ‘a typical middle class upbringing, with the adults working hard to provide everything we needed and a lot of what we wanted.’