Layering: The art and experience of hot wax
Submissions for Craig Bloodgood
Click name below to see Artist’s Statement
Pamela Dorris DeJong
Dona Mara Friedman
Donna Hamil Talman
Nature, color and climate change inspire my art. By representing the beauty and diversity of the natural world, I hope to inspire viewers to take a closer look at the world around us, and ultimately be more thoughtful and careful stewards of our planet. I bring my background in marine biology and environmental studies and the experience of years spent both on the ocean and in the backcountry to my art. I paint, print and work in wax to represent large and small visions of nature from the earth from space to frogs, DNA and diatoms.
I am self-taught and find a lot of freedom in allowing myself to explore and find my own way. However, like the female painter in Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”, I am terrified of the blank canvas. “Where to begin? …one line placed on the canvas committed her to innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions.” I love that quote. I am interested in the process, the journey. I never know where I’m going when I start a piece. I am willing to experiment, to make mistakes. My best work is often the pieces I struggle with the most. That gives me a sense of aliveness, and I hope the work reflects that feeling as well.
I like to incorporate mixed media, to give myself a starting point. You will often find collage elements in my pieces and I also love working on and with found objects.
We all have hidden yearnings and talents that seek creative expression. Over the years I have explored various media, starting with photography, oil painting, then collage and currently mixed media encaustic
When you are truly absorbed in making art, it becomes a meditation. You are transported beyond the analytical, critical mind. I see the “artist” as a channel, so that if we get out of our own way and let the creativity flow, we can tap into something wonderful, something beyond our limited sense of self.
I love the way beeswax creates both physical and visual depth and translucency to my work. These works are made of many layers, of maps, drawings, gelatin prints, other ephemera, and many layers of wax.
My explorations have been about our relationship to plants. We finally have corroborating evidence of vast intelligences that indigenous and historical cultures were already aware of. I want to make works with beauty that entice us to think about biota as intelligent and worthy of respect and not as disposable commodities.
Layering is an indispensable component in my painting. Surfaces tell too little of the story of what we see and feel. Layers can hide or disguise but can also reveal what lies beneath. And what lies beneath is a marvel of complex interactions creating, compacting, dissolving, combining into new forms.
This series, called Restraint, represents my shift from a noisy world to a much quieter one. In this, the white page holds at its center mark-making with thread and tiny layered drops of encaustic paint. For me, it was a challenge to keep the page intentionally quiet, the space open. The work is intimate. It is intended to draw you – and only you – in to reflect and breathe.
It is a short meditation to honor our individual process of releasing and acceptance.
I discovered encaustics 10+ years ago and immediately felt I’d found my medium, one that challenges and holds a unique appeal for me. The vivid but delicate, enduring but fragile nature of this technique fascinates me. The fluidity of molten wax and resin is inspiring, and encourages work that encompasses both randomness and order, the playfulness of abstraction and the poignancy of vintage snapshots.
A multitude of encaustic layers are required in the execution of my paintings. Work begins with a concept, a drawing, and the design is further built by underpainting. Then encaustic is poured, dripped or painted over the underpainting, following the original design but completely occluding it. Many layers are added, each layer is fused with heat. Some paintings begin with sand and modeling materials. Encaustic is then juxtaposed around those areas. Sometimes a shellac burn process is used. When partly dry but still soft, some paintings are carved with clay tools. Oil paint or stick is rubbed into the carved-out areas and rubbed off. More layers of encaustic are applied with a brush, and fused. Finally, gold and other metal leaf is applied and sealed. When complete, the multilayered paintings present differently in different light. They partially reveal the underpainting and at the same time become sculptural. The translucency of encaustic is meant to draw the viewer’s eye in to look deeper. The multiple layers represent many layers of meaning.
The encaustic medium is so versatile and multifaceted that it begs for experimentation. This is right up my alley! With each additional layer of wax one has the opportunity to preserve something that came before, generate something new upon the surface, and continue to create a history going forward.
My work runs the gamut from a completely open approach with no agenda in mind, to a controlled process, which has been thought out in advance.
Two different approaches which yield two different outcomes. One being imprecise and open to interpretation, the other exhibiting more restraint.
As a visual artist, I admire depictions of the invisible, such as the play-scapes of Paul Klee. My work is often inspired by images that are transitory and overlooked, impressions snatched from the last remembrances of the dream state, the moment just before you wake when you are on the verge, grasping for threads of a dream with uncertainty, mystery and vagueness. Combining this with my fascination of the way vintage papers become worn and aged with the passage of time, I work to control these musings, random thoughts and snippets of information. Orchestrating my world, as if all around me is chaos, finding comfort in creating a state in which everything is in its correct and appropriate place.
Often times, painting is more about the process, the ritual, the act rather than the result. That is one of the reasons I use encaustic as a medium to express myself, encaustic requires a process. There is always a buildup of layers, sometimes just with encaustic paint, other times with other elements. In these paintings, I started with scraps of encaustic monotypes and layered them over each other, then painted additional layers of encaustic on top to both hi-light and pull the separate pieces together.
Look both inwards and outwards. How do our personal and public “collections” grasp, cherish, bury and “weigh” in on our thoughts and movements? Our gestures are a window into these internal loads we carry. Without realizing it, we often construct barriers that separate us from the lives around us. Can you find beauty in your mess, in others? We all carry a carry a full cart. These two works, part of a larger body of works called “What We Carry” draws on our ability to persist when the cart is heavy and to “compartmentalize” heavy burdens so the everyday weighs less.
I first became intrigued with hot wax after viewing Jasper Johns Flags. The visceral surface both rough and smooth, translucent and yet solid sent me to investigate this new material. I soon discovered it was in fact an ancient material with a varied history. It is seductive in touch and smell, and with technical expertise can be incorporated in a myriad of applications.
Encaustic became an addition to my studio where it is used with other materials to layer, create texture and continue to provide an organic, mysterious quality.
The recent work uses layering for the illusion of depth and varied surface qualities. I aim to draw the viewer into these paintings that arise as individual response to my time and place.
2020 has been a frightening year for most of us and being in isolation for the last ten months has been especially trying. My main escape has been working in my studio and, in the process, creating these three paintings. Applying layer over layer of encaustic medium, in itself, became a therapeutic, meditative process.
“Turmoil” and “Entanglement” reflect my feelings during these troubled times. The third painting, “Celebration”, is my hope for the future as we enter 2021
Such a Morning expresses my initial reaction to Covid-19 at its outset: denial. Started exactly when the shutdown occurred and we were stuck in our houses, constrained by masks when we left it, and, in general, fearful, this series provided an escape.
Sunny, bright colors in the upper layers cheered me, and pouring wax conveyed movement and flow. Pouring is an unusual method and a highly risky one, but the challenge appealed to me. Encaustic appeals to me because it is from nature, is less toxic than most other mediums, and this pouring process reflects nature as well. Heated wax flows somewhat like water and the processes of heating and cooling involved resemble those of shifting tectonic plates deep inside the earth.
One layer is poured atop another. This creates subtle changes in the color of the top layer. The visibility of under layers is heightened by choosing to use only those few colors which are transparent.
The dance of these light and colorful works continue to both calm and cheer me at one of the darkest times of our lives.
A fascination with the beauty and complexity of the microscopic world fuels Kay Hartung’s paintings. Working in encaustic and mixed media, she contemplates the potential impact of cellular activity on the visible universe and the human species. The growth, multiplication, and movement of these biological forms is essential to her creative process, as they travel freely or are captured and tangled in sinuous webs.
The imagery, loosely based on observation of biological structures, explores the interconnections of these cellular forms. The process builds layer upon layer suggesting growth, development and movement. Some of the pieces are in more of a static or restful stage whereas others explode with activity. The order and chaos of these biological processes are captured in the imagery.
I call these abstract works “constructs” combining encaustic paint and found objects. I scavenge old, worn, weathered materials from dumpsters, industrial sites, beaches and woods. I assemble these found treasures now on my studio floor moving them about and putting them together with an inner eye focused on meaning. Painterly gesture within structure, rich earthy surfaces within formal shapes describe decades/generations. Process and materials fuse together forming content of family/lineage. As I work I enjoy the procedural; as I finish I wonder about the conceptual; thought and language reveal the title, the spirit of relationships and layers of connections.
My artwork tells a story that often begins with an image or memory”…that was my BEFORE statement, before the world shifted in 2020. I’m reaching into new emotions and discovering a new outlook. I’ve looked back on some of the magnificent places I have travelled to when travel was appropriate. And I have found time to love and honor the world outside my safe but isolated existence.
Though my medium has changed from time to time, my attitude, approach and style seems to be consistent. Encaustic wax allows me to capture and embed some actual photographs that will be in my heart forever.
I strive to be honest, original and hopefully a little unique, both in my artwork and in my life. I admire the works of artists such as Milton Avery, Marsden Hartley, Mary Cassatt and Harold Garde. You might see their influences in my work. My artwork, my perspective and my world has changed. Yours too. All of this only for the better, I trust.
I like to work in transparencies and saturated opaques. I often have as themes windows and doors. I like my imagination create these ideas with geometric shapes.
My abstract paintings explore space, distance, and perception through the natural translucent materials of beeswax and damar resin, which allow the creation of atmospheric as well as sculptural surface refinement. The process of layering, inlay, incising, and scraping, choosing how much to expose or obscure, reflects a sense of inspection and introspection, becoming both method and metaphor for uncovering and connecting with my inner self. This is a language that traces my inner turbulence, exuberance, and complexity. My work is concerned with preconceptions about what we see, and how this might be altered as we become more sensitized to what lies beneath the surface. Through its layered and sensual slowness, my work encourages exploration and a sense of journey.
Geology, global warming and topography -landforms and environmental forces are endlessly fascinating to me. Forms created with paper and wax become stand-ins for places in the environment or the forces of nature. Melting wax becomes a melting glacier, a flowing river or a tidal zone.
Discovering a box of old family letters in my family’s basement would change the way I painted and how I thought about my work. There were stacks of letters bound in twine according to who sent them. They dated back as far as 1919 through 1946. Many of these letters reference the dust bowl days of Texas and the Great Depression. i come from a family of cattlemen and farmers who were dependent on the weather for their survival. Loss of crops due to drought and tough conditions in raising cattle are common themes coupled with money problems. These problems are not mine, but I couldn’t help relate them to obstacles and set backs that we all have.
Encaustic is a medium that can be worked flat or sculpturally. One of its many attributes is it can retain any stress mark or scrape once it cools. It has an innate feature for documentation. These letters;represent a period of suffering, loss and endurance in our country, and for me, the intricately-worked encaustic shrouds became metaphors for struggle and change. Layers of wax literally cover up the past. I peel them back to reveal a potion of what once was. Revealed, exhumed, manipulated, up-ended, exposed-all of these actions give me a sense of freedom, and the ability to step outside of myself. Seemingly destructive to the surface, the peeling plays a positive role in removing a build up and seeing what has been lying dormant. It holds a stratum of time much like the earths core. The depth created working this way is jarring to me, confrontational, alluring and frightening. There is risk involved, but the presence of this relief work conveys a sense of resilience and life which keeps me returning. It speaks with a boldness and beauty that is also fragile. This opposition between image/content and material is the catalyst for the development of my encaustic relief series. This work continues to evolve as I find new ways to shed light on the past that enlightens and informs the future.
I am fascinated by the complexity of the natural world and our own human anatomy. As an artist I have continually explored textures and abstracted forms, negative and positive spaces, light and shadow, linear elements that convey both connectedness and disconnection and, more recently, permanence and fragility. The calligraphic lines and the spaces in between them that I observe in the landscape and in my research about the brain and how we think, process information, and form memories are enigmatic languages to me, unique unto themselves, endlessly exquisite yet tenuous. Using waxes and other art materials I feel I can extend the meaning of my work beyond literal representation by creating layers of meaning, metaphor, translucency, physicality and fragility.
Two of the greatest characteristics of encaustic are plasticity and transparency that ultimately produce layers, the defining trait of this technique. “Cabin” is a literal presentation of layers of human existence. Encaustic is used to sculpt this story as archeology. “Layers” is also a literal interpretation of the word layers, as scraps of encaustic soaked paper are stacked in the translucent encaustic medium. The two memory pieces use the idea of layers of color, each representing a specific memory, stacked, rolled and sliced. Round slices become dimensionally skewed layers that are incorporated into a translucent bed of encaustic. These works recount the complex memories of life.
Works #1, 2 and 3
“De-tri-tus”, definition: waste or debris of any kind. Any yet, debris and decay are the first step to renewal, as matter breaks down to become reformed into something new… the never ending cycle of becoming again, of rebirth. There is beauty in decay, in the fragments of our leavings… the detritus delight us!
The Totem Trio are from a series inspired by African shaman masks, worn to communicate with those who dwell in the spirit world. These were created in recollection of a late miscarriage – to imagine a means for reaching out to our own lost ones.
These works are primarily made with encaustic, which is a form of art dating back to ancient Egypt. It involves mixing beeswax, damar resin and ground pigments and then applying this paint when melted to a surface. The wax starts to harden in seconds and has to be fused with heat to properly adhere to itself. Surfaces are built up with dozens of layers.
My process is a combination of working on an idea that I want to express or just playing with materials, allowing my subconscious to make the decisions. The later is fun because suddenly I ‘awaken’ from a sort of trance or meditation, a place of no thought, to find something! pleasing has been created.
My work often incorporates visual movement. The flow of pigment, the rustle of leaves and the blur between land, water and air call to me.
This last year I have vacillated between nature and humanity in my art. These themes are interconnected as we can’t have humanity without our earth. Marble and I Bleed For You are about the two sides of how we see. One is as an object to admire and the other as the nitty gritty of reality. We look at earth and its splendors this way often. A pretty site on the wall or internet but do we see the aliveness and vulnerability of our water and air?
Light and Layering, rhythm and interruption, pattern and repetition is what I try to express with my paintings. I work on cotton paper fully saturated with hot wax in order to begin with a translucent surface that radiates light. With oil and wax I add layers of color to create more light – and then color creates form. These paintings are simple quotidian images from my close surroundings: fabric on the clothes line, flowers picked at a nearby wetland, trees in my yard, music by Charlie Parker – all backlit in full color.
I create pieces that convey an emotional tone through texture and pattern and use mark making as a way to communicate what I find most lovely, haunting, and curious about the human condition. My work references teachings from Zen Buddhism, Christian mysticism, the poetic traditions, and contemplative practices including yoga and meditation. I am influenced by writings on meditation and quiet by Pico Iyer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, David Hinton, and Gordon Hessler, as well as the minimal work of artists Agnes Martin, Hiroyuki Hamada, and Zarina Hashmi.
The Japanese word jikan refers to the silence between two thoughts. In this vein, my work is an attempt to render temporary, fleeting moments of beauty, balance, and stillness visible. Some of my paintings rely on forms observable in the natural world, which I have distilled to geometric patterns and then further deconstructed. I think of my work as inner landscapes that, when placed together in multiples, engage in a form of communion with one another.
In my recent series of paintings entitled “Handwork”, I have layered vintage linens into the ancient wax medium known as encaustic. When embedded into the wax, the textiles acquire many little wrinkles, and the regularity of their shapes change subtly, giving them a sense of aliveness. As I work on this series, I feel connected to fellow women makers who chose to express their creativity in a craft form, such as weaving, quilting or knitting. We all share the need to keep our hands busy, to express ourselves creatively, and to add beauty to the world. It is exciting and gratifying to see other contemporary artists who are also choosing to use traditional craft work in their artistic expression. The appreciation, recognition and inclusion of handwork in the canon of “Fine Art” is long overdue.
Inspired by the Blue Headed Motmot from the rainforests of Costa Rica, this series is a celebration of birds, of natural life, of all life living freely and in harmony. On the last trip I took before the Covid-19 pandemic, I had the great fortune to visit a nature preserve and meet a bird whisperer named Giovanni who could call birds, uncover wondrous frogs, and spot sloths high up in the canopy. Ten percent of all sales from this series go to support his sanctuary, which has lost all income due to the pandemic.
I explore nature’s vastness and its tranquility. These depict an aesthetic sensation of harmony, the illusion of timelessness, and feelings of inspiration that transcend space and time.
My MetalScape series represents a dialogue between nature’s expansiveness and its simplicity. Color and composition are reduced to a minimalist evocation of stillness so that form becomes the focus. Multiple layers of colored wax on metal beneath coatings of resin do not accurately depict nature; rather, I try to unveil an abstraction of its character, capturing its infinite variations of refined beauty.
I like making stories in my pictures, although I don’t know how they end. Old photos, advertisements and objects fire my imagination. I try to give them new life in wax. Often I draw or paint a picture with watercolor or cut up an old painting, and then affix it to a wooden panel. Then I cover them with encaustic medium and wax paints, adding layers, sometimes adding collage elements, or transferring images into the wax. The proliferation of encaustic supplies and shared techniques makes exploring with encaustic paint so much fun!