The ETSU Department of Art & Design and Slocumb Galleries present RADIANT: Contemporary Encaustic curated by Reni Gower from August 19 to September 20 2013. Encaustic artist Jane Nodine’ will present a lecture on September 12, Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Ball Hall Auditorium with the reception immediately following at the Slocumb Galleries. Nodine will also present a demo for students on September 13, Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
A new program, Art-i-fact is also being launched by the Department of Art & Design and Slocumb Galleries this Fall of 2013. Department of Art & Design Chair and encaustic artist Catherine Murray will discuss encaustic as art form on September 19, Thursday, 6 p.m. at the Slocumb Galleries.
Once an obsolete technique, encaustic (hot wax) is now recognized both for its exquisite beauty and incredible versatility. The artists in the exhibition, namely, Kim Bernard, Kristy Deetz, Peter Dykhuis, Lorraine Glessner, Reni Gower, Heather Harvey, Jeffrey Hirst, and Jane Allen Nodine are among those who helped advance this legendary paint of the Fayum mummy portraits into a mainstream contemporary art medium.
Radiant features the seductive surface, luminous color, and ethereal image layering unique to the encaustic medium. Each artist approaches the process from a distinct perspective that may incorporate scraping, burning, burnishing, incising, dipping, dyeing, or pouring, as well as painting, printmaking, drawing, collage, sculpture, or installation. Curator Gower states, “while diverse in approach, numerous conceptual links connect our interest in this malleable material. Buried images, fragmented hybrids, or hidden codes of natural and industrial order, all translate into works infused with a physically poetic beauty.” She added, “the exhibition resonates with sensual materiality. The aromatic scent of honeyed beeswax is an intoxicating perfume. Tactile surfaces reveal unique traces of the hand, while gleaming color fused with intricate markings orchestrate striking visual chords.”
This analogy to dynamics and sound is perfectly embodied in Kim Bernard’s work who incorporates encaustic in her sculpture as solid moveable forms cast in wax or as batik-like resists on fiber. With background in dance and yoga, her interest in the laws of motion, flight, and gravity, converts physics and kinetics into interactive installations. In Wave Phenomena II she captures images of sound on discs suspended from the ceiling. Like a musical composition, her installation is made up of layered melodies and counterpoints. As the artist/composer, Bernard seeks a magical moment where physics and the sublime collide to create awe.
Kristy Deetz carves, burns, and paints with oil and encaustic on wooden surfaces. She recontextulizes traditional images of drapery by exploring ways it can cover and render or be a barrier between the interior and exterior. While referencing wrinkles and flesh, the drapery becomes a substitute for the body and the spirit. Her images combined with the physicality of wax evoke a skin-like texture that cloaks and conceals the figure or the ground beneath. Drawn from Italian Renaissance references, Deetz's work is the most realistic and narrative in the exhibition. The illusions are achieved through tricks of chiaroscuro, trompe l'oeil, and perspective. With luminous color and exquisite detail, Deetz crafts memorable images that are both emblematic and enigmatic.
Peter Dykhuis also works with narrative, but from a more private perspective instilled with social-political overtones. His newest series begins with personal lists, envelopes, and notes collaged onto clipboards. Maps, templates, and business forms referencing corporate and digital culture are intermixed with the paper ephemera. Instead of using a traditional perspective, Dykhuis modifies the language of computers (repetition, layering, and dissolution) to critique social media. Encaustic is particularly well suited for his means. With bright layers of semi-transparent encaustic, he targets or censors information to create undulating patterns that encourage interpretation. By fusing individual and global ideologies into shimmering images, he examines the contradictions of our culture.
Lorraine Glessner also utilizes natural and manmade systems as metaphor. With the use of satellite-imaging software, she explores the impact of urban / suburban communities on the environment. Echoing cycles of death and regeneration, she is particularly interested in residual marks and repetitive patterning produced by waste, industrial pollution, growth and decay. In her work, the initial "drawing" is generated through destructive processes; such as burning and branding or staining with rust or rotten organic matter. Supplementary layers of distressed, found or printed materials are collaged and submerged within translucent layers of wax. The final addition of stenciled ornamental and geometric forms, primarily the circle, adds architectonic overtones and provides structure and clarity. Other image references include aerial, architectural, agricultural, industrial and urban landscapes, as well as biological organisms and the human body. By noting the fractal similarities, she reveals the intrinsic networks in our world.
Curator and artist Reni Gower’s work uses the circle as a decorative motif, as a metaphor for binary code, and as a symbol of infinity. Using the language of abstraction, she blends fluid improvisation with repetition to create complex images that counter visual skimming. By design, this measured more contemplative experience intentionally offsets a media saturated culture that is increasingly chaotic, fragmented, and impersonal. In contrast, she chooses laborious process and intricate patterning to highlight the redemptive nuance of slow work wrought by hand. She paints, stamps, or scrape away many layers of wax over buried images and texturally collaged surfaces. Ornamental papers, maps, and other recycled materials are incorporated as visual triggers to engage the viewer in moments of quiet reflection.
Heather Harvey's wax and plaster pieces are hybrid forms that reside somewhere between painting and sculpture. The organic softness and bruised coloration of the wax overlaid upon the hard chalky white plaster suggests putrid flesh and bleached bones. Exquisitely beautiful, it is nonetheless as vulgar as an autopsy. She also looks outwards to the heavens and her installation Lost a Dream conjures spiraling galaxies and supernovas. Whether seen as exploding energy or natural decay, her work suggests transformation and the intrinsic order of the universe. Not surprisingly her scientific temperament and background in archeology anchor the work in physical process and empirical exploration, all the while her poetic voice seeks to reveal the transitory and the vulnerable. Ultimately, her objects convey a liminal restraint and purity that expose many of the flaws and frailties of a material world. As a psychic cartographer, she explores physics to bestow meaning on human experience.
Jeffrey Hirst also explores the relationship between manmade and natural environments. Working from a printmaker’s perspective, his approach is both additive and subtractive. Etched lines, wiped plates, and screened image fragments reference his craft and are evident through his use of incised lines, transparent color, poured wax, and collage. He inserts a degree of unpredictability through the use of power tools, which creates a tactile surface or element of chance. For him, discovery through intuition is an active part of his methodology. Working within an asymmetrical modular constraint, he also strives to convey the whole through a summary of fragmented parts. By incorporating microscopic images, natural pattern or fractals, Hirst focuses on the minute to reveal the universal. With an emphasis on water, vast landscapes, or urban decay he also works to capture the spirit of a particular place.
Like many of the artists in Radiant, Jane Allen Nodine is inspired by natural phenomena and she too works with processes such as oxidation (rust), burning, and mono-printing to generate organic marks and natural patterns. Her pieces are comprised of overlapping layers of paper, pigment, and wax top coated with thin veils of lacquer that she ultimately lights on fire. Due to her background in jewelry making and metalworking, she is fearless with a torch. By controlling the burn, she creates tortoise shell like traceries that flow across the surface. Often contained within parallel stripes, these patterns embody subcutaneous cellular forms, vascular structures, and hoarfrost as well as residual stains, mineral striations, and chemical reactions. By addressing beauty and destruction, Nodine’s works synchronize exquisite gem-like tones into lacey webs of fire and ice.
More than seductively beautiful objects, the works in Radiant prove encaustic as an excellent medium to pose questions, convey mystery, and reveal meaning. Conceptually entwined, these artists scrutinize the impact of technology on science and our culture's imprint on the environment. Through a multi-sensory materiality and each expressive trace of the hand, Radiant confirms encaustic’s enduring legacy and appeal.
The Slocumb Galleries’ new operating hours are Mondays thru Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with extended hours on Thursdays until 6 p.m. and during receptions or scheduled tours. All events are open to the public free of charge, located at Ernest C. Ball Hall, along Sherrod Drive, ETSU campus. For more information, email Slocumb Galleries’ Director Karlota Contreras-Koterbay at email@example.com or call (423) 483-3179. Parking and handicapped access are available.