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Paige Bradley is an American sculptor known for representative figurative bronzes. Bradley became popularly known for her sculpture concept, Expansion, a work of bronze and electricity depicting a woman's figure in a cross-legged position with light emanating from cracks in her body, originally photographed in 2004 against a Manhattan skyline.
Paige Bradley is a classically trained American sculptor living and working in London, England. Her representative figurative bronzes reveal the beauty of the human form as well as the complex, often contradictory, yearnings of the human spirit. In an era when abstract and conceptual sculpture is often favored over figurative works, Bradley maintains her love of figurative art. She believes that the figure can speak an essential, timeless and universal language, one that powerfully evokes the nuanced elements of the human experience.
In 2001 Bradley was voted into the prestigious National Sculpture Society, as a professional sculptor. In 2006 Ballet International Foundation commissioned her to create a bronze award to be given annually at major international competitions. 2 “Her sculptures demonstrate an ability to fuse human emotion and spirituality into an immediately appealing, yet profound form of communication,” said Andreas Kronenberg, founder and president of Ballet International.
Her piece “Freedom Bound” was installed in the lobby of the new Dance Complex at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, when it opened in 2008.
Much of Bradley’s work emanates from her desire to use art as a medium that is both healing and inspirational. An example is “The Ribbon of Hope and Courage” which in 2012 was donated to St. Cloud Hospital in Minnesota. Suspended approximately 15 feet above the floor in a glass-walled room, the piece features a dancer performing an arabesque and trailing a 50-foot-long bronze ribbon that rises above her and then unfurls across the room.
Speaking in the hospital’s magazine, Bradley said, “My wish is that this sculpture will help inspire those with pain to feel free again, and those with troubles to feel light again. The magic of art, however, is that I can never imagine the profundity of what the viewer can bring to the meaning of the work.”
Early life and education
Born 1974 in Carmel, California, Bradley knew from an early age that she wanted to become an artist. A high school teacher noticed her talent and encouraged her to enter a local competition, for which she cast her first bronze – the winning entry – at the age of 17.
Bradley received a full scholarship to study art at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She enrolled in 1992. But the school’s conservative Christian ethos did not allow students to draw from live nude models, which Bradley had been doing since she was ten years old. Rather, she and her fellow art students had to “learn” anatomy by drawing their teachers fully clothed. This was an obstacle for someone whose passion for figurative art required a thorough grounding in human anatomy.
As part of the Pepperdine curriculum, Bradley spent her sophomore year studying abroad in Florence, Italy. But the program offered no studio art classes, so she took night drawing classes at the Florence Academy to keep her skills sharp. She also traveled throughout Europe in committed pursuit of all things relating to and created by Michelangelo. “I wanted to stand where he stood and see what he saw,” she says.
Upon returning to the U.S. in 1994, Bradley left Pepperdine and entered into what would be a ten-year apprenticeship with sculptor Richard MacDonald. She began by performing the most menial tasks and eventually worked with him on large projects, such as The Flair, which was commissioned for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. During that time, she also enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Her talent earned an invitation to participate in the National Sculpture Society’s “Young Sculptors Competition.” Her work remains in the Pennsylvania Museum of Fine Arts. But even there, at the nation’s oldest classical art school, she encountered bias against the figure. One professor, she recalls, told her, “You’ll tire of the figure when you’ve matured.”
Paige Bradley brings a modern sensibility to a classical art form, creating primarily representational bronze sculptures, paintings and drawings of the human figure that explore the human experience. Frequent themes include self-discovery, renewal, confinement, liberation, freedom, balance, time, evolution, consciousness and spirituality, among others.
Bradley believes that art “has the ability to speak a timeless language that provides a certain order to the chaos of the world.”1 In her view, it can also transcend the isolation and fragmentation of the modern experience, and reveal elements shared by all humanity.
Early works (1996 – 2003) included a series of male and female bronze figures interacting with a sphere – observing it, balancing it, resting upon it – the symbolism of the object shifting with each piece. Among these works are “Blossom,” “Ascent” and “Balance.”
Another early series comprises four figures – “Spring,” “Summer,” “Autumn” and “Winter” – each exhibiting a posture and an expression reflecting Bradley’s metaphorical take on the seasons.
Yoga, dance and meditative postures recur in her work. They reflect her desire to create art that “advocates healing and empowerment for people around the world” citation and is “a forceful voice to help those who suffer from illness, repression, or exploitation.” citation “Liberty,” “The Visionary” and “In Spite of It All” give form to various aspects of those themes.
In “Expansion,” a female figure resembling Bradley, who often serves as her own model, sits in lotus position, her expanding consciousness causing light to radiate from within her but cracking her bronze “skin” as it does. The light escapes through jagged fissures. Her liberation threatens the integrity of the physical container for the self.
Bradley writes, “Would we still be able to exist if we were authentically ‘un-contained’?”
A number of works delve more deeply into the themes of containment and freedom, hiding and revealing.
“From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a container already built for us to fit inside: a social security number, a gender, a race, a profession,” says Bradley. “I ponder whether we are defined more by the container we are in or by what we are, truly, inside of ourselves. Would we recognize ourselves if we could expand beyond our bodies?”
For some of these figures, such as “Into the Light,” “Evolution,” “Freedom Bound” and “Couture,” internal containment is externalized in the form of cast-bronze “fabric.” Bradley writes: “Each figure is contained but struggles to break free from self-inflicted boundaries… to reveal themselves in order to become understood and known.”
“Clarity,” “The Kite” and “Soaring” turn the fabric inside out, transforming it from a confining cloth to a banner of liberation and freedom.
Bradley further explores the theme in her “Containment” series. Each piece features an individual female figure, again seated in the lotus position, atop a Plexiglass box. The box represents the confinement of the individual within set limits. One figure’s pedestal-like container is filled with Barbie dolls; another sits above a box filled with bullets. Both are iconic symbols “that may not be of our choosing” but can hold power over us nonetheless.
“The purpose of this series is to realize that these are in fact only boxes, and that just outside them one can find a world without limitations. That world is, in fact, exactly where you are standing when viewing these works.”
- St. Cloud Hospital, St. Cloud, Minnesota
- Point Park University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, Connecticut
- David A. Straz Jr., Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa, Florida
- Royal Brompton Hospital, London, England
Awards and recognition
- 2011 - Lindsey Morris Memorial Award, Allied Artists of America, Annual Juried Exhibition
- 2009 - Gold Medal of Honor, Allied Artists of America, Annual Juried Exhibition
- 2006 - Third Place Award, 4th Annual A.R.C. Salon, Online International Exhibition
- 2005 - Lindsey Morris Memorial Award, Allied Artists of America Show
- 2004 - Leonard Meiselman Memorial Award, Pen and Brush
- 2004 - Third Place Award, Women Artists of the West
- 2003 - Young Sculptor Award, Viselaya Sculpture Competition
- 1997 - Ramborger Prize, Outstanding Achievement at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
- 1996 - Stewardson Award, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
- 1989-1992 - California Arts Scholars Medal, California State (award to high school talent)
- Alice. "Riveting Story Behind that Striking Sculpture". June 30, 2011. My Modern Met. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
- Cordrey, Katie. "Paige Bradley's Expansion Sculpture Breaks Corporal Confinement". June 19, 2011. Trend Hunter: Art and Design. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
- Naples Academy of Ballet, Naples Illustrated 2009
- Sculpture Installed, The Point Magazine, Winter 2008
- Exhibit at Point Park Gallery Impressive, Pittsburgh Press, PA (Feb 24, 2010)
- The Visible Nude by Ellen Cutler, Sculpture Review, Summer 2008
- Ballet International Award created by Sculptor Paige Bradley
- Top Ten Artists to Watch, Art Business News, February 2004
- Perservance Pays Off, Monterey County Herald, Adventures Magazine, Winter/Spring 2002
- Sphere of Art, Lisa Crawford Watson, Monterey County Herald, May 1, 2001
- Paige Bradley, Lisa Crawford Watson, Monterey County Herald, April 21, 1996