Life Before Wax

By Joanne Mattera

Unlike Athena, who legend has it sprang full grown from the head of Zeus, artists require years to reach their mature selves. The sepia photograph you see here of a young Lisa Pressman at the potter’s wheel inspired an inquiry into the evolution of our creative lives.  This lighthearted throwback to our early work nonetheless underscores the oft-noted idea that our contemporary artmaking comes with a personal history of techniques learned, materials mastered, and ideas explored..

Lisa Pressman, 1978

1. Lisa Pressman 1977 - Copy

Lisa at the wheel,
with a vessel from the same period, below

2. Lisa

“I began doing ceramics in high school and continued the studies in college starting in 1979. Clay offered so many possibilities to me in its ability to transform and cycle through various states. In graduate school . . . I focused on painting with oil (adding wax for texture and body). After seeing the show Waxing Poetic at the Montclair Art Museum [in 1998], I decided to try encaustic. The materiality and transformative qualities of wax feel connected to my past experience with clay.”
. . .

Joan Stuart Ross, 1971

4. Portrait and Self Portrait 1s

“Here I am in my first Seattle studio, where I painted myself painting myself. Oil paint’s viscosity, impasto, and the intense eye contact required to commit to oneself in the mirror is similar to the visual acuity I needed to work with the luminosity of wax. This myopic ‘look’ led me to connect and bond with encaustic painting 25 years later.”
. . .

Paula Roland, 1983


Primal Garden (acrylic on canvas, 41 x 69 inches) was made in my first semester of grad school and was included in the International Women’s Exhibition at the World’s Fair Exposition in New Orleans, 1984. In this early work I interpreted landscape through the senses. Sounds were made visible—mosquitos buzzing and lizards leaping. The large scale allowed my body movements to be captured in the saturated color. The piece spoke to me of primal energies. With this work, I began to aim for ideas, materials, and aesthetics that are deeply integrated. I was able to access intuition because the basics of drawing and painting were ingrained through years of practice.”
. . .

Dan Addington, 1988

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Here’s a look at “some young dude painting in his studio.” Dan was painting in oil in grad school in Jonesboro, Arkansas

. . .

Deborah Kapoor, 1994

5. Through

“This is an oil painting that is seven by seven feet square. I built the stretcher and painted it in my 600-square-foot [Chicago] studio only to discover I couldn’t get it out the door!  I had to take it apart and rebuild it to show it.”
. . .

Howard Hersh, 1984

6. Santa Fe, 1984   6. 1987

“At 36 years old, after a divorce, I decided to move to Santa Fe to dedicate my life to artmaking.  Not at all confident that this would actually work out, I nevertheless dove into my work.  I was a confirmed oil painter, but acquired a growing interest in texture.  (Three years later, in 1987, I saw encaustic paintings at the Chicago Art Fair, and decided to give it a try.)”
. . .

Lynette Haggard, 2007

7. LynetteHaggardStudio
“For many years I painted plein air landscape, and eventually the work became non- representational abstraction. Here’s a studio shot with a wall of work in oil. I also worked with oil monotypes and gouache.”
. . .

Lynda Ray, 1988

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Lynda in her studio in Boston’s South End with Hiber, oil on shaped panel, 60 x 48 inches, on the wall and completed, below

02 Hiber oil on wood, 60x48in 1988

“For this painting  I drew on the wall with my paintbrush. When I got the right shape, I used found wood and cut, shaped, and manipulated the materials, adding and subtracting paint until I had the right color-shape relationship. I used a palette knife and added Dorland’s wax to  create the edges you see here.”
. . .

Elise Wagner, 1993

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In-progress views of Three Months Without Sun, oil and collage on panel, 32 x 96 inches

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“These pictures were taken at a transitional time in my work. I was looking for ways to attain transparency, build layers and use alternate forms of applying the paint. Having been deeply influenced by Joan Mitchell, my early paintings took on an all-over approach to composition and color. I wanted to layer and elicit atmosphere through brisk, active movement and part of that relied upon what I chose to move the paint. I wanted less control, not more, so the extension of something like a broom really suited my intentions. The broom painting lasted well through the Nineties and was even used in some pieces up until about 2008.”
. . . .

Deborah Winiarski, 2007

10. Winiarski_Before_Wax_Pic

Deborah in the studio; below: Arabesque, 2007; acrylic, paper, sand on canvas; 60 x 60 x 3 inches

10. Winiarski_Arabesque_2007

“Before I found my way to encaustic, I painted with acrylic. I would lay the stretchers flat and apply layer upon layer of light washes, soaking the canvas.  My imagery was created with kozo paper which would become soaked as well. As the paint slowly dried, the pigment would settle at the edges of the paper where there had been puddles. I loved how the veils of monochromatic color layered to create a field of depth.  Some papers I would leave in the work and some I would tear off. I had been thinking about how to push the of depth of field idea when I ‘found’ wax. I’m completely self-taught.  I worked in both mediums for about a year before switching my studio over entirely to encaustic.”
. . .

Beverly Rippel, 1994

11. 4Rippel _FFT beginnings oil     12. 5Rippel__Food For Thought_final oil_64 x 42

Food for Thought, oil on linen, in progress, left, and the completed painting, 64 x 42 inches

“Through the years I have gone back to drawing, especially with charcoal or pencil, and find that it is such an immediate medium. One’s thoughts can come down the arm directly onto the paper without stopping to decide on color. After college and the birth of my two sons, I went back to a studio practice when time permitted. I used drawing as a primary medium, but also as a preliminary process for sketching up an idea. Eventually I branched out to a painting practice. Then in 2001, while trying to find a way to paint ‘a veil between now and then,’ I discovered encaustic. Today, I explore many mediums and often combine oil and/or encaustic painting and drawing.”
. . .

Jeff Schaller, 1992


Jeff and friends at dinner; below: Dinner, latex on canvas, 48 x 60 inches


“This is my senior thesis in painting for Beaver College, now Arcadia University, in Pennsylvania. I covered myself and some friends with paint. I ordered Chinese food and painted the bottom of the containers and the bottom of our plates, so as we passed food and put it down, it left a mark. Our arms on the table left a mark. I was all into Fluxus and the happenings movement. The idea of capturing time intrigued me. So here is a picture of me ‘painting’ and the final painting.”
. . .

Catherine Nash, 1987

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Catherine in Japan; below: Shrine, 1989, an environmental installation [first] shown at the Franklin Furnace Gallery in New York City

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“The top photo is me in March of 1987 learning to make paper in the Japanese method. I’d been making paper for about five years and realized that I needed to study in Japan. The experience altered my life on diverse levels.”
. . .

Kay Hartung, 1986

15. KHartung_ WovenPainting
“In the Eighties my work was based on an ongoing exploration of ordered systems. The Woven Paintings used hand-manipulated techniques of construction with the basic structures derived from the simplest forms of weaving. I painted on large sheets of tar paper, cut them into strips and wove them together. The painted patterns were restructured and combined with added elements collaged into the woven surface.”

On the wall: Woven Painting with Diverging Rectangles, 1986; tar paper, acrylic paint, aluminum, wood; 35 x 60 inches. Photo: David Caras
Below: Woven Collage with Red Grid from the same period

. . .

Joanne Mattera, 1979

16. Mattera.1979

Me in my Beverly, Mass., studio; below: a recently framed work from the series I made then

16. photo - Copy

I was making grid-based drawings with thread on paper. I enjoyed the meditative process of hand stitching and loved the materiality and dimension of the line. Initially I called this body of work “fiber drawings,” but while they were getting into fiber shows, they were not getting any traction in the larger art world. I dropped  “fiber” from the description, identified them as “drawings” or “works on paper,” and they started to get the attention I wanted for them.
. . .

Susan Lasch Krevitt, 1979

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“This image was taken in Chicago in 1979, possibly early 1980. I’m leaning against a wall outside the foundry at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I was an undergrad. I worked for Joan Flasch at the school store during the week, made thin, chased gold and silver rings that sold well, and waitressed on the weekends. It was my last semester before receiving my BFA. Both of the large mixed-media pieces you see were made with wood, cotton batting, Rhoplex, and black acrylic paint. The components were created in my storefront live/work studio and transported to school in my 1974 VW Bug (on an angle through front and back  windows!). The grids were bound and assembled on site. Smaller work was made with found branches, cotton batting, and Rhoplex, sometimes pigmented with small amounts of acrylic paint and embedded with found elements.”
. . .

Nancy Natale, 1985

14. NN with Penis of Patriarchy - Copy (2)
“This is me with The Penis of Patriarchy on the roof of a building at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. This was the freshman challenge where we were given a list of materials to use in our piece. The object was to throw the work off the roof and have it land without breaking a whole egg that was contained in it somewhere. I put my egg right in the tip because I wanted it to break—and, sure enough, it did.”
. . .

Anna Wagner-Ott, 1995

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Anna with her sculpture, left, and the sculpture on pedestal

“From the Eighties until 2012, I created sculptures that were influenced by feminist theories. For many years I worked on the Womandala series. Those figurative sculptures were angst- ridden and personal. I used acrylic to paint the plaster surfaces of the bodies.”
. . .

Pat Spainhour, 1978


“I used to be a potter— well, at least during college. Here I was teaching high school art. The photo is from a demonstration on how to throw a pot. It was important to me as a teacher that every advanced-level art student experience the potter’s wheel. Students were required to make at least one pot on the wheel, while I coached them and sometimes held their hands. During my teaching career, I taught all forms of art: drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, fibers.”
. . .

Jane Nodine, 1980

19.Before wax

Jane at the workbench; below: Neckpiece with articulated brass and electroformed copper


“In the photo, I was making a wax model for casting a ring. At that time I was operating a commercial jewelry design studio and teaching metals and design at the Greenville Museum School of Art. In this shot I am wearing several of my designs. Much of my work was fabricated in metal (constructed from sheet and rod) and also castings using the historical lost-wax process. I was trained in metalsmithing to use heat for working the metal–welding, soldering, cutting, and forming. It never occurred to me that I would one day use wax as the medium and not just a byproduct.”
. . .

Helen De Ramus, 1993


Helen on the beach with her 4×5 camera in Savannah, Georgia; below: The Argument, a platinum print

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Art history was my major. I taught school for a short time, then started a commercial photography business since my dad was a photographer. I used my off time to work on platinum photographic prints. Those photographs led to a desire for more flexibility with image making so I started studying painting. The transition took time, but in 1993 I found a studio where I could teach and paint. Oil paint had been my primary medium until I discovered oil sticks and encaustic paint at the time I found my studio. Photographs with encaustic have reemerged from time to time.
. . .

Elena De La Ville, 1970s

21. edlv
“I was a young photographer working with the local music scene in Caracas, Venezuela, and this photo was taken at one of the venues. I photographed musicians for the monthly Mermeladas/Jams.  (Concerts were billed as a “psychedelic experience.”)

Below: Numero #122

22. Numero 122. . .

David A. Clark, 1987

23. DAC at La Scala
“I was an actor from the time I was eight years old until well into my thirties. One of my first big international jobs was performing in Robert Wilson’s production of Richard Strauss’s Salome at La Scala in Milan. This photo is from one of the very, very long lighting rehearsals. I’m pictured there, in the back, long hair dangling, wearing a costume custom made for me by Gianni Versace. My main task in the production was to walk across the stage, from one wing to the other, moving at a snail’s pace while carrying a giant boulder on my back. It would take me almost 30 minutes from stage right to left. Opening night was my 21st birthday and the audience booed us off the stage. It is still, 30 years later, hands down, one of the greatest moments of my professional career.”

. . .

We opened with a potter at the wheel and end with a performance of a long, slow trek with a heavy load. Both images offer apt references to our journey, with plenty in between. Clay, fiber, paper, and metal offered us physical, sometimes visceral, engagement with material and process, but so did conventional painting in oil or acrylic. Ever seeking, we painted with brooms and constructed paintings from industrial detritus found on the street. We etched and printed. We photographed. We beat pulp into paper. Life changes affected our decisions. Feminism influenced our expression. There were many paths to wax. As for the Sisyphean slog, who among us—no matter how successful—cannot relate?

Form and Iteration Across Mediums

By Shelley Gilchrist

Christine Aaron, Murmur, 2013, multiple 36 x 102 inches lithographic monoprints on gampi with multitrack audio (continuous recorded vocal memories, layered with ambient sounds of rain, wind and trees)

“Just rearranging the deck chairs.” An overheard sotto voce criticism such as this can evoke despair, even existential crisis, in the toughest among us. In this case, I heard the remark from a Chicago artist many years ago. Perusing his freshly hung solo show of figurative pastel drawings, he uttered that on-the-spot reaction to seeing them presented together for the first time. Over the past five years, he concluded, he had not made anything new.

He must have brooded about this insight, because less than two years later he showed new work: oil paintings in which he explored the surface with varied brush strokes and used dynamic angles and cropped views in his representation of the figure. By picking up a brush he rescued himself from despondency, jump-started his art and, you could say, mercifully saved the rest of us from another series of centered frontal-seated nudes.

As an artist who has found switching mediums a rejuvenating process well worth the learning curve, I keep those deck chairs in the back of my mind, and try to move on before I find myself moving furniture. In recent years I have shifted sequentially from figurative oil painting on canvas, to gouache on panel, to figurative encaustic paintings on panel, to abstract encaustic painting on shaped panel to—at present—acrylic on 3-D surfaces. But I’m just one of many ProWax artists who find value in switching up their materials, sometimes using distinct mediums to make separate bodies of work concurrently. Here, eight of us talk about fluency in more than one medium, even when that one medium is as beloved for its aesthetic and physical qualities as wax.


Christine Aaron
After taking an encaustic workshop some 10 years ago, Christine immediately expanded her first medium, the inks and plates of printmaking, into mixed media using prints. She enjoys the versatility of wax, especially in combination with other materials, and continues to derive ideas for the future from the concepts and materials of the present, often revisiting earlier ideas with new materials as a means to fresh expression. Regardless of the learning curve for acquiring different mediums (“challenging,” says Christine), she finds the process of inquiry stimulating as it leads to new paths and reveals new ways to explore the inherent qualities of her materials–conceptually and metaphorically—as well as materially. Recent formal explorations have led her to sculpture and installation while she continues to “work back and forth across mediums.” She adds, “Hopefully, my ‘voice’ and artistic viewpoint carry across the work’s various forms and iterations.”

Forest Muse II, 2015, lithograph and encaustic on patinated copper, 24 x 24 inches
What We Keep, 2016, burned and drilled plywood, dimensions variable

What We Keep, 2016, burned and drilled plywood, dimensions variable


Jane Guthridge
Working within the crosscurrents of different media helps Jane move her work forward. “I am continually exploring new ideas and trying to figure out ways to get there,” says Jane. She discovered wax well into her art career, first making monotypes and then discovering that other materials work well with wax as she pursued her enduring investigation of luminosity: “Light itself is now the most important medium I use, and I think that the use of wax has led me to using light as a medium.” Typically Jane makes three to five works in one medium, and then switches (changing studio set-ups) to another. She uses Dura-Lar, sheet metal, and photos embedded with wax in creating her 2- and 3-D pieces, as well as installations–many forms expressing her interest in the “transcendent experience of light in nature.”

Reflected Light (installation detail), 2016, cut Dura-Lar, acrylic, invisible cord

Reflected Light (installation detail), 2016, cut Dura-Lar, acrylic, invisible cord
The Space Between 23, 2012, layered encaustic monotypes and archival inkjet on Asian paper, 19 x 19 inches

The Space Between 23, 2012, layered encaustic monotypes and archival inkjet on Asian paper, 19 x 19 inches


Tracey Adams
Like Jane Guthridge, Tracey was well into her 2-D art practice when her interest was piqued by wax. For her it was a Michael David exhibit of encaustic paintings in New York 20 years ago. Trained in drawing, painting and printmaking in college, Tracey then took an encaustic workshop and proceeded to experiment with wax in combination with her then-primary mediums. She continues to make drawings, prints and collages, both with and without wax, relying on ink, graphite or gouache for complex mark-making. For an exhibit this fall Tracey will show two bodies of work, one complex: collage paintings in mixed media; and one more minimal: a group of encaustic monotypes on panel. She hopes that the distinct bodies of work will dialog. “I’m a restless artist and working with different materials creates an ongoing level of interest, challenge and inspiration, keeping my practice stimulating.”

Balancing Act, 2016; collage, ink, gouache on panel; 40 x 40 inches

Balancing Act, 2016; collage, ink, gouache on panel; 40 x 40 inches
Momentum Transferred, 2015, encaustic and oil on panel, 27 x 56 inches

Momentum Transferred, 2015, encaustic and oil on panel, 27 x 56 inches


Pamela Wallace
Pamela was making prints when, like Tracey Adams, she came across encaustic paintings on exhibit in a New York City gallery more than 15 years ago. She ordered supplies and courageously began to experiment on her own. When she added wax to her collagraphic prints, they “took on a whole new dimension.” Her wax-infused prints have had particular appeal to curators and gallery owners. She continues to work with wax alone and also employs mixed media, including various papers, metal leaf, and cut-up prints in collage, which may or may not include wax. Pamela usually experiments to see what mediums and techniques allow her to express her intentions “optimally,” stating, “my ideas are not medium specific.” While her work in one medium informs her work in others, due to constraints of studio space, she relies on notes and memory, rather than carrying out projects in different mediums simultaneously.

Basics, 2014, collagraph print on Rives BFK, 12 x 12 inches

Basics, 2014, collagraph print on Rives BFK, 12 x 12 inches
Dogwood, 2016, collagraph print under wax and oilstick, 8 x 8 x I inches

Dogwood, 2016, collagraph print under wax and oilstick, 8 x 8 x I inches


Ruth Hiller
A self-taught painter, Ruth first used oil, watercolors and gouache. When she took a wax workshop in 2008, she was immediately smitten and made 200 encaustic paintings the first year. She subsequently used encaustic exclusively for eight years, first with transfers, then more minimally. Wax allows her to work quickly, allowing her to accomplish more work than oil painting. It was a natural step to exploring another fast-drying medium, acrylic. She completed a residency at the Golden Foundation in 2014, exploring acrylic paint’s qualities in depth. Ruth says the residency boosted her confidence about being a painter. “It became clear to me that it was not about the medium, but about how to use it to get your message across.” She has equal opportunities to exhibit both encaustic and acrylic, having created in the different media two series somewhat similar in style. Soft Geometry—encaustic on panel—led to Industrialized Nature, in which she has experimented with acylic on substrates such as linen and plexiglass.

Nehi, 2016, acrylic on plexiglass, 30 x 48 inches

Nehi, 2016, acrylic on plexiglass, 30 x 48 inches
Peterbilt, 2016, encaustic on panels, 48 x 76 inches

Peterbilt, 2016, encaustic on panels, 48 x 76 inches


Joanne Mattera
In an art school elective, Joanne worked for the first time in encaustic. Many years later, she was making acrylic paintings and thread drawings on paper when she felt she had gained the patience and painting ability to bring wax into her practice. Infusing the paper with wax was a natural starting point, and the wax itself eventually became her chief painting medium. Nonetheless, Joanne exhibits work in all of the mediums she uses to explore her chromatic and geometric subject matter. “I identify as the painter I was trained to be, so the exhibition opportunities I’ve cultivated have come to me as an artist, no adjective required.” Her choice of materials is determined by her ideas. The sheen and luminosity of wax define her long-running Silk Road series; for works on the velvety surface of hot-press watercolor paper, she prefers matte gouache or graphite. “There’s an organic development from one series to another, as well as from painting to painting within a series, which advances the oeuvre.”

Soie, installation on studio wall, 2011, gouache on Arches, each 22 x 30 inches

Soie, installation on studio wall, 2011, gouache on Arches, each 22 x 30 inches
Grid of nine paintings from Silk Road, 2014-2015, encaustic on panel, each 12 x 12 inches in a 44 x 44-inch grid installed at dm contemporary, New York City, January 2015

Grid of nine paintings from Silk Road, 2014-2015, encaustic on panel, each 12 x 12 inches in a 44 x 44-inch grid installed at dm contemporary, New York City, January 2015


Corina Alvarezdelugo
Naturally curious about art and sculpture materials, Corina has worked in a variety of mediums. Although encaustic was never mentioned in art school, she discovered its possibilities by examining museum paintings. In 2009 she was inspired to take a wax technique workshop so that she could emulate a particular result in one of the works that was underway in her studio. Since folding wax into her practice, she has continued to experiment further with new materials. Occasionally she sets aside the idea she is pursuing and recharges her batteries by working spontaneously, free of (albeit self-imposed) restrictions and goals. Having multiple skills and materials at her disposal enables her to choose ways to deliver her message. “The ability to work in different mediums gives me that freedom I need, while at the same time it helps me to expand on the story I want to tell.”

Standing Tall IV, 2015; sumi ink, acrylic, charcoal, graphite on Canson; 48 x 48 inches

Standing Tall IV, 2015; sumi ink, acrylic, charcoal, graphite on Canson; 48 x 48 inches
Soul Journey Towards Rebirth, 2013; encaustic, abaca paper, paper clay, indigo on wood; 18 inches diameter

Soul Journey Towards Rebirth, 2013; encaustic, abaca paper, paper clay, indigo on wood; 18 inches diameter


Shelley Gilchrist
Recently I cleared my studio of a few years’ worth of material experiments–acrylic on thermoplastic, wax on epoxy clay, hot-wax-and-marker bleed tests, Duralar practice joints (fail, by the way)–as well as a fair number of samples whose purpose I no longer remember. The neophyte oil painter of 25 years ago would be astonished that so much of my practice now is devoted to exploring materials and solving problems.

Willows 1 (Essex), 2014, encaustic on shaped panel, each 30 x 8 ½ x ¾ inches

Willows 1 (Essex), 2014, encaustic on shaped panel, each 30 x 8 ½ x ¾ inches
Rabbit-Proof, 2016, acrylic on epoxy clay, 29 x 26 x 2 ¼ inches

Rabbit-Proof, 2016, acrylic on epoxy clay, 29 x 26 x 2 ¼ inches

Some of us, like Corina, are curious about materials at the very outset and this can be a fascination that opens the door to artmaking. For others, this interest can unfold as our subject matter changes and, we often feel, demands a new medium. Some of us are restless souls who seek innovation in our practice. Yet, as all of us here attest, investigating different mediums is time well spent. Acquiring the ability to use materials to serve specific artistic purposes has served us well.


Navigating the Real Art World

By Joanne Mattera

“We’re all living in the real world of mid-level galleries and modest artist success, and I don’t think it needs to be a big mystery.”

That’s Wendy Haas responding in conversation to the rarified world of art auctions and museum acquisitions. It’s not our world, as she made clear. With Haas’s down-to-earth comment in mind, our Saturday Morning Panel at the Tenth International Encaustic Conference addressed the professional issues that real-world artists want to know more about. Our panel consisted of Dan Addington, Miles Conrad, Wendy Haas, and Jeff Schaller. All are practicing artists and entrepreneurs, thus with a fully dimensional sense of what it takes to be a dealer as well as an artist in today’s art world. I was the moderator.

Addington Gallery, Chicago: Howard Hersh solo show

Addington Gallery, Chicago: Howard Hersh solo show

We began by addressing how galleries are being forced to respond to current market concerns, because the issues that affect dealers will affect how they select and show artists. First, gallery rents are up, causing many dealers to take fewer chances with new talent, sticking instead with artists who have a track record of sales at higher prices than an emerging artist could ask for. Second, as artists have visibility via the internet, collectors may “shop” for an artist’s work from several dealers. And, third, as more sales are made via the Internet, some dealers question the viability of bricks-and-mortar spaces.

2. Sat am panel.

The Saturday Morning Panel members, from left: Jeff Schaller, Wendy Haas, Miles Conrad, Dan Addington; moderator, Joanne Mattera. Photo: Corina Alvarezdelugo

Dealers, how have you been navigating current market concerns?

Conrad: “I have downsized three times in five years.” He is referring to physical space, but he has also tightened up his operation: “One way for the gallery to reduce risk it to reduce the number of solo shows. Group shows offer something for everyone and help us meet our budget. The economy has affected our program but not our quality.”

Conrad has shown at art fairs in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. “As a gallerist you can’t wait for the client to come to you,” he says. How can he afford art fairs in this difficult time? “The gallery asks artists to share the risk. We ask artists to contribute a couple of hundred dollars. The rewards are great for those who sell.”

Haas: “There has been a high shift to the internet. At one point 50 percent of my gallery sales were made online. Collectors were making purchases without setting foot in the gallery. As a private dealer I depend on the Internet. But I miss having a physical space to show your work. It’s our creative expression, to select, curate and show your work.” In part for that reason, she still sends postcards to her clients. “The physical is never going to go away, but it’s only a small part of a bigger picture.”


At Cervini Haas Gallery, Scottsdale: The physical space before Wendy Haas’s move to online private dealing. Paintings by Tremain Smith installed during Basketry Invitational, 2006

Addington: “Recently there have been gallery closings the likes of which I have seen never before. Retirement has made sense for some older dealers, but financial circumstances have pushed many others out. I have to negotiate with my landlord as if my life depended on it.

“As dealers, we love to walk around our gallery space. We put work up, move a painting, move it again. In the process, a show falls into place. How am I gonna do that on a website? The act of curating an exhibition in real space is an important discipline. When you visit an exhibition, you see work hung in a visually pleasing and meaningful way, with visual logic. When all the strategies go digital, we lose this curatorial component. Instagram, with its one image, offers a tiny remnant of that experience.”

What do your circumstances mean for artists?

Conrad: “It has drastically reduced the wall space for your work. When we’re not doing solo shows, we’re not representing you correctly. And there’s a loss of experienced staff. We now have interns.”


At Conrad Wilde Gallery, Tucson: Laura Moriarty solo, before the scale back to group shows

Addington: “Many dealers are playing it safe. I’ve seen some dealers dump all their artists except for a few of their biggest sellers. Then all of those artists are out looking for new representation. Other dealers are trying to play to the market. That is a losing enterprise, and you can end up compromising your own aesthetic. At the end of the day you’ll be selling no more than you were previously. Over time, one starts to learn what may work and what might not, but it has to be work that I respond to so that I can be enthusiastic about it in the gallery. If I could just predict what people are going to buy, as opposed to what I love and want to sell, I’d be up here in a nicer suit

“In the current climate, I think it is worthwhile to try new artists as opposed to just hunkering down with a few safe bets. I like working with mid-career artists who are professionals and have a handle on what they are trying to say with their work.”

Addington’s advice to artists: “Don’t play to the market. Be one of those artists making a consistent body of work. If you’re represented, keep your dealer in new work, and not just when you’re going to have a show. I’m representing my artists all the time. Make it easy for the gallery–respond to your dealer’s requests, and deliver on time.”

Haas: “We need each other to be more creative and flexible. We’ve got to talk to each other. Perhaps this is an opportunity for more collaboration, as well, on things such as art fairs. I think that continuing to give each other our best—efforts, work, loyalty—is the way to persevere.”

How are artists responding to this new reality?

“You’re in trouble,” Jeff Schaller said to the dealers on the panel. “This is an opportunity for artists to help you.”

Schaller’s solution was to create the Chester County Open Studio Tour, near Philadelphia. In the most recent incarnation, which took place a couple of weeks before Conference 10, some 125 artists showed their work in 53 studios. “The event teaches artists to sell and collectors to collect,” he says. “It gives the public a look at what artists’ work is worth. Local galleries come, consultants come.”

Schaller also competes for and accepts commissions. “I have no gallery representation in Philadelphia so I’m not competing against myself (in a gallery) there.”


The Chester County Open Studio event, founded and directed by Jeff Schaller; below: Schaller walking with a visitor

Conrad: “Jeff’s situation is ideal. As an artist it’s your right and responsibility to sell your work. There’s no one out there to rescue you. Open Studios can be a great training ground for you to learn how to present yourself and your work, how to establish pricing, how to make sales. Nothing attracts a gallery faster than an artist who sells well. But it’s a double-edged sword. Galleries have a more cultivated and regular clientele. If those two things are in conflict—artists selling out of their studio to a gallery’s collector clientele—there’s an ethical problem.”

Addington: “I don’t want to be the dealer who says, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that,’ but there are certain considerations that must stay consistent between artist and gallery. When you deliver work to a gallery, that’s their inventory, and you have to let them work confidently with that inventory. I will work with other dealers to make sales happen, but one gallery’s inventory should not appear on another gallery’s website.“

Haas: “It comes down to integrity. We have to recognize that artists and dealers need to be creative about selling. Maintain an element of exclusivity. If you have work at Dan’s gallery, don’t post it online in five other places or try to sell it yourself.”

Schaller: “Make something you can’t sell at a gallery. Diversify. Create a line for Etsy, sell at outdoor art fairs. Maintain your mailing list. Write a book—a book gives you credence. Artists are competitive. But be good competitive.”

How are galleries finding artists?

Haas: “If one of my artists recommends an artist, I’ll consider—so vet whom you recommend to your dealer.”

Conrad: “I find artists from other gallerists, curators, seeing work at art fairs, and exhibitions. If a collector is behind you, they’ll recommend you to the galleries they do business with. If the work is aligned with my program, I’ll look.”

All agreed that the artist who shows up to talk about “my work” is rarely the one who gets an invitation to show it. Conrad describes a situation he calls “artist fatigue”—the exhaustion dealers feel after meeting so many artists eager, even desperate, to get their attention.

That high desk in the gallery? It’s there because dealers try to protect themselves from the constant stream of artists looking for a way to introduce themselves and their work. Our panelists described the physical barrier—or the invisible emotional one—as “a membrane,” or “a firewall.”

Conrad: “It’s like Gaydar. You’re sitting in your chair, at the computer, and you can tell when someone comes in fishing for an opportunity to tell you about their work, as opposed to engaging you in a conversation about the work in the gallery.”

Addington: “Know when it’s cool to talk about your work and when it’s not. Talk to me about painting—not your painting—but the work in the gallery, or art history. I might then ask you, ‘Are you an artist? What kind of art do you make?’ By all means respond when the gallerist opens that door. And know how to talk about your work. My conversational firewall is moveable, because I’m also trying to approach collectors on behalf of my artists, and I don’t know initially who’s an artist and who’s a collector.”

Surprise: The enduring power of postcards

Haas: “In addition to the social ways of connecting with a gallery, there’s the passive connection: postcards. Have a good image that represents your work well.”

Addington: “If the dealer is interested, they’ll go online to see more.”

Schaller: “Make sure your URL is on the card!”

Haas: “We’re not going to call you to ask for it.”

Addington: “Yes, a cutline under the image is important and website you produce. Do you know how many websites I click on? Information must be easy to locate.”

As for frequency, every six months or so would not be unreasonable. No one on our panel expressed annoyance with receiving postcards. Noted Conrad: “In this digital world, the tactile becomes increasingly pleasurable.”

7. Bringing the Gallery

Bringing the gallery to the collectors: Cervini Haas Gallery at a recent SOFA Chicago fair
(SOFA is the acronym for Sculptural Objects and Functional Art)

Questions from the Audience
We returned after a short break to take questions from the audience. I’ve altered the order of the questions so as to create the best possible narrative.

Myriam Levy: When you follow up from the postcard image, what do you want to see?
Conrad: “The first thing I look for is an artist statement.”

Addington: “Any follow-up experience with the Internet is instantaneous, so I want to get a sense of who you are as a person.”

Deborah Winiarski: What do you look for in an artist’s website?
Conrad: “Easy navigation, readable fonts, a white background. Can you simulate the environment in which the work is shown [i.e. in your studio, in a gallery setting]? Don’t show me too much. If you show me prices, that implies the work is for sale, which would make you in competition with the gallery. If it’s sold, take it off the website”

Haas: “Emphasize your current work. If you show early work, put it in a timeline or some sort of chronological order so that I can follow your development as an artist. I also want to see a list of who else is currently representing you.”

Addington: “Make sure every image is identified with title, date, medium and size.”

Conrad: “I’m not a fan of slide shows. I want to see images at my own pace, and I need to be able to drag and drop images. That’s how I keep a file of artists’ work that I like. If your website is set up so that I can’t drag and drop, I’m not going to be able to put images of your work in my file.”

Are watermarks a viable way for artists to protect their online images?
None of the panelists responded positively to watermarks, citing their visual interference.

Schaller: “Post your images in 72 dpi. No one is going to be able to copy them.”

Dora Ficher asked about showing a variety of work on one website–in her case, pen-and-ink illustrations, which have a commercial application in licensed products, plus her fine art painting in encaustic.
Conrad: “I think it creates confusion. The dealer will ask, ‘What is she really putting her effort into?’ Don’t conflate your commercial work with your fine art. And consider the collector, who will ask, ‘What am I getting behind?’”

PWJ.Issue13.Pullquote_Navigating_Addington_rightSchaller: “Look at the example of the fashion designer [I think he cited Isaac Mizrahi], who has a high-end line as well as the commercial line he does for Target. You have two products that you’re marketing at once. Market the hell out of them—but in separate accounts.”

That might be a divided website for two different genres, many on the panel noted, or a separate website entirely for commercial work. Schaller mentioned his own Etsy project under a different name: Pink Cow Studio, which sells small, affordable works.

Maura Joy Lustig and Anne Wright each asked about creating a “virtual experience” (Maura’s words) or “a short video clip” (Anne’s words) as part of the online presentation to a gallery, curator or collector.
Haas: “Media people tried that 10 years ago and did it poorly. But now we have the technology to do it better and send it out into the world easily. Make a video with your iPhone and post it on YouTube. You can link to it on your website. Just make sure it doesn’t look like a real estate ad.”

Addington: “I like the human interest aspect. It’s a way that many collectors new to the work can personalize it for themselves. When I’m talking to collectors, it’s not just about aesthetics or price but about the artist who makes the work.”

Conrad: “I love the concept, but it can backfire if not done well. Early on the conversation was about ‘What is encaustic?” and ‘How is it done?’ It’s a more sophisticated conversation now.”

What about the artist who is uncomfortable with self promotion?
Haas: “Use the more passive tools, such as email and postcards.”

Conrad: “Become part of an artist community. Not every conversation has to be a sales pitch, but you still get to interact and network.”

Schaller: “Social media is not only for outgoing personalities. Facebook allows you to be part of a community, keep up with friends, network. Instagram lets you show your art. Twitter lets you chat in a short form. Be yourself, whoever you are.”

Facebook vs. Instagram?
Conrad: “There’s always a new platform. I have all I can do to check Facebook. I guess I’ve officially entered middle age.”

Haas: “It’s another way to expand your portfolio.”

Schaller: “It’s important. It’s another way to brand. I just sold a painting on Instagram.”

Addington: “We’re a microcosm of the art world on this panel in terms of how we use social media. And it’s all relative. Miles says he’s entered middle age, but we’re about the same age and I ‘m probably the youngest art dealer in the River North District of Chicago. If you’re using Instagram, your responses are more immediate. On Facebook there’s more conversation. I’ve found artists from Facebook.”

How do I know when to raise my prices?
Addington: “The price question suggests that an artist is early in their career. I’d suggest you look at the work of artists working at a similar level in terms of experience, education, and exhibition level.”

Schaller: “If you’re selling out, raise your prices. Be consistent with your prices across the board, galleries, studio, outdoor shows. When you raise your prices do it in small increments remember once you go up you can’t come back down.”

Do gender and age matter?
Conrad: “They make no difference to me. I have an uncanny ability to pick women artists. I think it has to do with what I like.”

Addington: I prefer working with mid-career artists. I want to work with professionals. I need a level of consistency. For me it’s about the resume, not the age. Don’t be discouraged if you’re emerging.”

Haas: “I think the intense and discouraging fixation on young artists is particular to markets such as New York, and less common to the mid-level gallery/artist world that we’re discussing. Here you’re far more likely to be appreciated, exhibited and purchased based on your work and not on your age and gender. I also tend to largely represent female artists, but it’s simply an aesthetic choice. Age and gender and even geography have never been a part of my selection process.”

Note: I didn’t insert myself much into the panel discussion, but as one who is now up to my chest in the gender and age pool, I feel compelled to say something in this report. By all accounts, women make up a higher proportion of art school students but are consistently underrepresented by most New York and many big-city galleries. This is true for museums everywhere as well. Though I am thrilled to be in the company of dealers here who are so open minded—and I cannot applaud them enough—it is difficult for an unrepresented woman artist over 50 to find representation in New York City unless you live there, and it’s still difficult. Even if you are represented, it will be harder to get your museum solo. And even if you have had your museum solo it will be harder for you to get the kind of attention you need from art historians. If you live long enough—i.e. until your 90s—it’s possible you will be ‘discovered.’ In the meantime, I like what Miles, Dan and Wendy are saying: that is entirely possible for women at any age—and men, too—to have a full and rewarding, even thriving, career outside of New York City.

What about the emerging artist?
Addington: “If you’re an emerging artist of any age, you want your work to be seen, and juried exhibitions are one way of getting out there. But pick your juried exhibitions carefully, otherwise you’re gonna have a collection of a lot of cancelled checks from juried shows you didn’t end up in. Seeking out venues like college galleries and community and suburban art centers is a worthwhile way of gaining experience and exposure. As a dealer I’m investing thousands of dollars in each artist I represent, so I’m looking for a good exhibition track record.”

Schaller: “Non-profits are a good place to start. You get to show without the pressure of having to sell. When you do make some inroads with a commercial gallery, don’t ask for a solo right away. Focus on the group shows. Eventually you can ask, “’When can I get some space on your wall?’”

. . . . . .

Dan Addington

Dan Addington is an artist and gallery owner who has been working with wax since 1989 and exhibiting encaustic work professionally since 1992. In 1996, as director of what is now Addington Gallery in Chicago, Dan curated the first in a series of exhibitions featuring encaustic painting. His own figurative work echoes his interest in history, the stratification of cultures, and the layering of memory.


Miles CoMiles Conradnrad is founding director of the Conrad Wilde Gallery. Since 2005 he has hosted innovative programs in Tucson, Arizona, and at art fairs in Miami, New Yor k City, and Los Angeles. Inclusion in his Annual Encaustic Invitational has been a milestone for many in our community. Miles holds an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. He lectures and consults on professional practices.

Wendy HaaWendy Haass is a Chicago-based private art dealer and curator. As the founder of Cervini Haas Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, for close to a decade she represented international artists—many of whom work in encaustic–and exhibited at art fairs across the U.S. Since moving to Chicago she has worked for the SOFA Chicago art fair and is renewing her own studio practice.


JJeff Schallereff Schaller has shown here and abroad, recently at The Coca Cola Museum in Atlanta. Frequently selected for commissions, he recently completed an installation for Main Line Health at the Exton Mall in Pennsylvania. He received a fellowship from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is the recipient of the prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art Purchase Award. Jeff is founder of the Chester County Studio Tour.

Curatorial Thinking


What does it mean, exactly, to curate an art exhibition? Curating is realizing a vision by means of the art of others, each work advancing the curatorial thesis with depth and breadth. Here’s a good working description of the process by Mary Birmingham, now chief curator at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey in Summit, but at the time of our conversation, curator at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey: “Something stimulates my thinking. Then I start collecting names, which connect to other names. Studio visits follow each round of discoveries until the show develops.” 

Since I do a fair bit of curating and have worked with both gallerists and museum curators over the past decade, I’d like to share some of what I have come to know. The examples that follow are illustrated with links to exhibitions I have curated or been involved with. This is not for self aggrandizement—I do plenty of that on my own blog and Facebook pages and don’t need to do that here—but to offer clear and accessible working examples of the ideas I posit.

Panoramic view of A Few Conversations About Color, my curatorial effort for dm contemporary gallery, New York City, January-February 2015. I wanted to assemble a visual colloquy with the work of a number of artists working in a variety of mediums, all of which engaged color as a primary element. From left: Nancy Natale, Joanne Freeman (in far gallery), Matthew Langley, Ruth Hiller, Julie Karabenick, myself. Photo: the author

Panoramic view of “A Few Conversations About Color”, my curatorial effort for dm contemporary gallery, New York City, January-February 2015. I wanted to assemble a visual colloquy with the work of a number of artists working in a variety of mediums, all of which engaged color as a primary element. From left: Nancy Natale, Joanne Freeman (in far gallery), Matthew Langley, Ruth Hiller, Julie Karabenick, myself. Photo: the author

There are different kinds of curators

Let’s look at the hierarchy of curatorial activity. Typically, museum curators are at the top and artist curators are at the bottom, but with a big-name artist and a small-town museum, that hierarchy would be inverted, so let’s just say that the field of curating is open to many in the art community working at all levels.

Museum curators work for or within an institution. They select themes and artists. To that end, they look locally at open studios, travel to nearby major cities to view exhibitions and events, and annually visit a few art fairs farther afield—New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, maybe Havana, London, Istanbul or elsewhere around the globe—to see what’s out there. While curators at this level have autonomy, they work within the mandate of the museum, whether it’s to embrace art and science, for instance, or to focus on the work of a particular region.

Gallerists curate their own gallery exhibitions. While most don’t typically identify each exhibition as having been “curated by” themselves, the understanding is that a good gallerist is in fact always curating the selection of works that go onto the gallery walls. Occasionally a gallerist will curate for an institution, in which case she would be identified as curator.

Freelance curators may be artists, but often they are entrepreneurs who manage a variety of art-related projects: curating, consulting, private dealing. All are deeply involved in the arts community, seeking, finding and organizing sometimes large numbers of artists, as museum curators do, but typically on a smaller financial scale. A freelance curator operating in a large city such as New York City, might create exhibitions for the lobby of a corporate client (a financial institution, say) or an academic gallery, or perhaps for a commercial gallery. Freelance curators get paid.

Artist curators are newly legitimate. Though there is a long history of artists running galleries—think Alfred Stieglitz and his American Place gallery in New York City in the Thirties, and the genre of artist-run co-op galleries in which artists handle everything from curating exhibitions to sweeping the floor—it is only fairly recently that individual artists have begun to curate on a regular basis and to be respected for the work they do. Some museum curators may look askance at artist curators in much the same way that professional artists might look at Sunday painters—do it, enjoy it, but you’re not in the same league—while others embrace the fresh point of view that artists bring to curating.

A good example of the kind of exhibition that can come as a result of open lines of curatorial energy is the exhibition Doppler Shift, curated by Mary Birmingham for the Visual Art Center of New Jersey in 2014. While the exhibition is Birmingham’s own curatorial effort, the initial concept was developed by artist Mel Prest, who took a small traveling version of the show (the work fit into a suitcase) around Europe several years earlier. ProWax member Debra Ramsay introduced Birmingham to an iteration of Prest’s show in Brooklyn. With Prest’s consent, Birmingham grew it into a multi-gallery effort at her museum.

Installation view of "Doppler Shift" at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey, curated by Mary Birmingham from a concept and early exhibition developed by artist Mel Prest. Photo: Guido Winkler

Installation view of “Doppler Shift” at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey, curated by Mary Birmingham from a concept and early exhibition developed by artist Mel Prest. Photo: Guido Winkler

Most artist curators work for free, curating being an extension of our practice. But I say, if you do the job, ask for payment. It might be a flat fee—anything from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand—or a percentage of sales. Artist curators are typically active in many art communities, and a good artist curator will bring together members of several communities in service to a vision. Indeed, creating community is one of the reasons I curate. One thing artist curators need to guard against is becoming known for putting themselves in every show they curate. Sure, sometimes we include our work, but if that’s the only way we get to show—the community notices—we undercut our own best interests.

What does a curator do?

Now that we understand some of the basic kinds of curators there are, let’s look at what the curator does.

A curator has a vision. A curator conceives and develops an idea for an exhibition. Ideally, the idea is fresh, but even a conventional theme can be infused with new thinking. After much consideration she selects the work, choosing so that each piece illuminates some aspect of the PWJ.Mattera.Issue12.Pullquotes.Rtexhibition theme. Typically, the planning for a curated exhibition will take ten times longer than the run of the show. Studio visits alone are demanding of a curator’s time, and there’s a lot of thinking about how everything she is seeing might come together in a cohesive, well-selected whole.

When the artists have been selected but the work has not—that is, when a person brings together a selected group of artists but leaves the selection of work up to the artists themselves, we call the show organized by rather than curated by.

Installation view of Organic to Geometric: Investigations in Structure and Surface, curated by Carol Pelletier for Endicott College, where Carol is Chair of Fine Arts and Professor of Art. From left: Dawna Bemis, Paul Rinaldi, Howard Hersh, Nancy Natale; foreground, Susan Lasch Krevitt. Carol’s idea was to bring together artists working in encaustic without the result being an “encaustic show.” To that end she developed a working theme, perfectly described by the title, and selected work to sustain and amplify it. Photo: Michael Miller

Installation view of Organic to Geometric: Investigations in Structure and Surface, curated by Carol Pelletier for Endicott College, where Carol is Chair of Fine Arts and Professor of Art. From left: Dawna Bemis, Paul Rinaldi, Howard Hersh, Nancy Natale; foreground, Susan Lasch Krevitt. Carol’s idea was to bring together artists working in encaustic without the result being an “encaustic show.” To that end she developed a working theme, perfectly described by the title, and selected work to sustain and amplify it.
Photo: Michael Miller

A curator typically writes a statement. The visual result of the curator’s (or organizer’s) thesis is the exhibition itself, but a statement allows the viewer to understand more fully what the show is about and why the curator selected the artists she did. A statement might be a short wall text or printed handout. Going a bit further, the text might state the thesis of the show and then discuss each artist’s work. Going yet further, the text might include an image from each artist so that those not visiting the show itself show would see how the curatorial concept came together.

Ideally, the curator produces a document with more heft than a handout because it allows the exhibition to have a life beyond the dates of the show and be available for reference. Brochures, catalogs, websites, or blog posts are all good options, depending on your time and money budget. Given print-on-demand options, the catalog could exist as a document online (ideally, free for viewing) as well as being available for sale as a print book.

As an example, here’s the catalog, designed by ProWax member Ruth Hiller, which I conceived for the exhibition A Few Conversations About Color at dm contemporary in New York City in January-February 2015. Print-on-demand catalogs are a great way to get a good catalog without spending a lot of money upfront.

The catalog for A Few Conversations About Color, organized by me and designed by Ruth Hiller. My essay provides context for the artists, each of whom is represented with a statement and four pages of images, viewable online by clicking image

The catalog for A Few Conversations About Color, organized by me and designed by Ruth Hiller. My essay provides context for the artists, each of whom is represented with a statement and four pages of images, viewable online by clicking image

I had been hesitant to go the print-on-demand route until I started to see galleries publishing such catalogs. Indeed, even museums now publish this way. Here’s Doppler Effect produced by Mary Birmingham for the Visual Art Center of New Jersey. With institutional funding behind her, Birmingham was able to hire an essayist to complement her own curatorial essay and produce a large enough print run to give each artist multiple copies of the catalog. It’s also online and will remain so, allowing the exhibition to exist in cyberspace forever.

Another wonderful example is Organic to Geometric: Investigations in Structure and Surface, curated by ProWax member Carol Pelletier for Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. Designed by ProWax member Karen Freedman, it features a foreword by the curator, who secured professional installation photography, and a spread for each of the 19 invited artists.

The catalog for Doppler Shift, viewable online by clicking image

The catalog for Organic to Geometric, designed by Karen Freedman, with a curator’s foreword by Carol Pelletier and an essay by me, viewable online here

The catalog for Organic to Geometric, designed by Karen Freedman, with a curator’s foreword by Carol Pelletier and an essay by me, viewable online by clicking image


When circumstances do not allow, consider a dedicated blog. With the permission of the curator and participating artists, I created a dedicated blog for Formal Aspects, a five-artist exhibition at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in 2015. If you’re the curator, check with the institution to see if there’s any specific information about the venue that should be included.

If you are curating

• A compelling theme or thesis is the foundation of a strong show

• Come up with an evocative title that conveys your intent

• It’s not enough to secure the venue; consider the physical infrastructure. Is the space set up for an exhibition? Is there access to deliver work? Is there parking?

• Consider the administrative infrastructure. One of the great things about curating for a gallery or museum is that administrative help is available. If you’re curating in a pop-up space, you’re on your own administratively—and it’s a daunting job

• If you’re putting out a call to artists, state all the information up front: who, what, where, when. If artists will be asked to contribute financially to the exhibition, or if they will be expected to cover the cost of shipping their work one or both ways, note that. Be clear about what you’re looking for thematically

• Don’t be afraid to say no. You are the curator. You don’t need to justify your selections

• It is, however, important to remember that artists have opened their studios to you. If you do not plan to include their work, let them know in a timely manner. They may have other projects for the work that had been under consideration

• Once you’ve made your selections, create a reference document that each selected artist can refer to so that you’re not inundated with calls asking about delivery, opening dates and such

• Produce a press release that you distribute to the various media outlets. State the name of the show, the name of the curator, dates, location, hours of the exhibition. Include a short description of the show and a list of exhibiting artists. Media are likely to include a photo or photos if you provide them.

• Provide a copy of the press release to each of your artists, who will be creating their own posts and newsletters to promote the event

• Be clear to your artists that press requests should go through you. This is your curatorial project. You don’t want an artist creating her own press materials to make it sound as if she’s in a solo show, nor do you want the press to focus on one artist

• Additionally, you might create a list of talking points to enable your artists to describe the show cogently and accurately (helpful if they are being interviewed)

• If you cave to pressure to include your friends, even if their work is not right (or not good enough), you are not a curator, you are a wimp

• If you’re working with juried work, you are not a curator. You’re an organizer. Understand the difference. You will still have many or most of the responsibilities previously stated, but without having selected the work, you cannot claim the title of curator (well, you could, but you’ll look like an amateur)

• You’re going to put in a lot of time to conceptualize and curate a show. Select a venue that’s worthy of the effort and the art. Coffee shops, bakeries, laundromats and the like are not worthy of professional effort

• Can’t find the right bricks-and-mortar space? Curate an online exhibition. Online curating—on your blog or in a dedicated website—can be a great way to hone your curatorial thinking, and it’s a mitzvah for the art community, which never has enough visibility

If you are invited to be in a curated show

• Do you know the curator? If not, do your due diligence. Do a Google search, ask your artist friends if they are familiar with the curator or the institution. You want to be part of a project that advances your career and brings something to the community

PWJ.Mattera.Issue10.Pullquotes-2.left• Is the show one of those hybrids
, which seem to be popular in some parts of the encaustic community, that includes invited artists as well as a juried show? Vet it carefully. As an invited artist you are there to make sure the quality of the show is high. But if the juried entries aren’t good, you could be embarrassed by your inclusion. If you’re submitting to the juried segment, know that other artists have been brought in as invited guests, paying no fee. You’re the worker bee

• What’s the title of the show? If it’s yet another “Encaustic Art” of “Wax” show, you will not be served well. Look for themes that go beyond medium, a great way to broaden your professional visibility

. Ask “Who else have you invited? Who else will be in the show?” The two questions are not the same. You want to know who has turned down the invitation as well as who has accepted. If the artists you respect have turned down the invitation, you might contact them to inquire why. Most artists are willing to share this kind of information if you promise confidentiality—and keep that promise

• Priorities change. The exhibition you might have said yes to when you were just starting out may not be the one you want to be in now

• Ask: “How do you envision the installation? How big is the venue?” You labor to make good work. Assuming you are beyond the beginner stage, you owe it to yourself to place your work in the best possible light, both metaphorically and physically. The last thing you want is to be in a poorly lit, overhung show

• You want to be in a show that lifts you up with good work by good artists, not drag you down with the inclusion of hobbyists eager for an opportunity to show

• Respect the curator. Include her/his name in the exhibitions listing on your resume

• If you are contacted by the press, refer requests to the curator

• Remember: You are the lucky recipient of an invitation to show in an exhibition for which you will do none of the heavy lifting. That’s a gift!

So, should you curate?

If you have a great idea that you know you can realize with the very best work of the very best artists available to you, if you are well organized, and if you are willing to work harder than you can possibly imagine, then yes. Curating is a wonderful way to be part of something beyond your studio practice. Done well, your curatorial effort is a gift to the community. You enhance your visibility in the art world with an exhibition that in turn enhances the visibility of each featured artist. But done badly, it’s the very opposite of everything I just said.

Representing the Real and the Imagined


By Nancy Natale

Styles of painting go in and out of fashion. In Western art, representational painting based on observation of the real world and intended to produce an illusion of reality, was once the only style of painting. From the Renaissance until the middle of the 19th century artists painted what they saw, posing models, setting up still lifes, or painting landscapes outdoors. Abstraction or non-objective painting slowly became accepted with the influence of other cultures and schools of thought. Today, abstraction in various modes is the most dominant style of painting. This seems particularly true for artists who use the medium of encaustic.

The Figurative Style
Running counter to this trend, I invited two artists who paint in a figurative style to answer some questions about their work. They are also included in the small fraternity of men that we see in encaustic circles. Before looking more deeply at their work, I want to establish that “figurative” does not necessarily mean that the art must depict the figure; it may simply mean a representational style that is based on observed reality. Also, the term may encompass a spectrum of styles that vary from what may be called “realist,” “naturalist” or “representational” to very abstracted.

In addition to the information about their work that I gathered from email interviews with Kevin Frank and Dan Addington, I am also providing an excerpt from each of their artist statements. This is to demonstrate the formal way that artists may describe their work and how they put forth important and illuminating ideas that their work is expressing.

Kevin Frank, Wendy Whelan, 2000-07, encaustic on panel, 14 x11 inches

Kevin Frank, Wendy Whelan, 2000-07, encaustic on panel, 14 x11 inches

Kevin Frank received a BFA in drawing and painting from Carnegie Mellon University in 1983. Until 2010, he worked as a broadcast graphic designer for NBC Universal. He now lives and paints in Kingston, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley, and shows his oil and encaustic paintings throughout the country. Earlier this year he had a solo show at Fischbach Gallery in New York City. You may have seen his distinctive work in R&F’s Encaustic Works 2012, A Biennial Exhibition in Print or in a couple of other contemporary books on encaustic.

Kevin describes his technique as painting “in a naturalistic way–to represent reality by way of recreating or imitating the effects of light, texture, etc. on a given surface.” Occasionally he does paint abstractly and he also works as a graphic artist. Kevin’s recent work is based on collectible ceramic figurines in well-known styles that he finds on eBay, such as Hummels or those figurines modeled after Norman Rockwell’s magazine covers.

Kevin Frank, Untitled (Hummel), 2015, oil on canvas, 26 x 18 inches

Kevin Frank, Untitled (Hummel), 2015, oil on canvas, 26 x 18 inches

NN: Does your skillful formal painting technique put you at odds with today’s current art trends?

KF: I don’t consciously follow or avoid art trends. I’m concerned with making good work. If one has to look over one’s shoulder while making work, the purpose of painting then becomes something else. With painting, my objectives are clear and do not take into account what anyone else is doing.

NN: In your paintings of Hummels and Rockwell figurines, does the Old Master technique make an ironic comment on the figures? Or are you not thinking irony at all?

KF: What is referred to as the Old Master technique, perfected centuries ago, continues to be a viable way to make paintings. I use this technique for its practicality and unique pictorial qualities. Of course I recognize the irony of using this technique to lavish attention on and heighten the drama of a banal object, but don’t necessarily endeavor to make that the message of the work.

NN: Do you paint the figurines dead on or with emphasis on certain aspects? For example, I notice that some figurines cast shadows while others have solid-colored backgrounds.

KF: The two series involve different concepts. In the case of the Rockwell series, I have taken mass-produced porcelain figurines based on his paintings and used them as models. My objective was to reproduce Rockwell’s original paintings from them. This entailed positioning and lighting the figurine, as close as possible, to match the positioning and lighting as rendered in the original painting. In many cases, Rockwell painted his subjects over nondescript backgrounds which I have carried through in this series.

Kevin Frank, Untitled (Rockwell Clown), 2014, oil on canvas, 33 x 26 inches

Kevin Frank, Untitled (Rockwell Clown), 2014, oil on canvas, 33 x 26 inches

In the Hummel series, I have placed the figurines in a more dramatic setting. I explore the effects of light and shadow on a figure and how that treatment may contribute to the emotional aspect of the image. In this case, the figurines are stand-ins for actual living beings as they possess similar surface qualities such as skin and clothing texture. The fact that these objects were ubiquitous in many homes of my generation, including my own, is another relevant factor.

NN: Has your opinion of the figurines changed after working with them for extended periods?

KF: When I first started using the figurines as models my purpose was—at least on a conscious level—to study Rockwell’s techniques. I wanted to understand how he achieved the effects he did. That’s all I was thinking about. But through the process of returning the three-dimensional object back to two dimensions I revealed an expression of my own subconscious that I wasn’t aware was there. Rockwell’s original intent was to show the America he knew; mine was to study how he made the work. In the end, I think my interpretations pay homage to his mastery but also challenge his American myth

Kevin Frank, The Silver Hour, 2012, encaustic on panel, 16 x 20 inches

Kevin Frank, The Silver Hour, 2012, encaustic on panel, 16 x 20 inches

“Through the layered appropriation, the inanimate ultimately becomes animated, and the narrative shifts to the tangled coexistence of humor and pain, boredom and imagination, truth and fiction. In this newest generation of Rockwell’s characters, the perceived comfort and warmth of his ideal are revealed as a fictional defense against the true complexities in which we exist.”
This is an excerpt from the full artist statement that appears on Kevin Frank’s website.


Dan Addington’s extensive educational background includes an MFA in painting from Illinois State University, a BA with double major in art and theatre from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, and a Master’s in art and art history from Arkansas State University. He exhibits his work in numerous group and solo exhibitions across the U.S., and since 2007, he has owned and operated Addington Gallery in Chicago’s River North Gallery District.

Dan produces work that looks dramatically different from Kevin’s paintings, but the figures that Dan paints are also based on a type of statuary – monuments, in his case. Process and unconventional materials form the technical basis for his work, and he describes his style as being a blend of figuration and abstraction.

Dan Addington, Bracing for Solace, mixed media on panel, 54 x 42 x 5 inches

Dan Addington, Bracing for Solace, mixed media on panel, 54 x 42 x 5 inches

NN: What attracts you to representation as an approach to painting compared to abstraction?

DA: Well, I’m attracted to both. That’s been the conundrum that has driven my work for many years. The first three-quarters or so of the life of a painting in the studio involves abstract processes and considerations, and it isn’t until the end that the image steps into the painting— and then a whole new process of drawing with various tools and materials begins.
Usually, it’s an abstract idea that starts the ball rolling. I don’t believe in creating texture on a surface just for texture’s sake. I want that accumulation to be an organic result of the process. It’s like layers of history; with each “era” of the painting, a new layer appears. So the beginning of the painting starts with broad moves.

Dan Addington, Memory of Higher Thought, mixed media on panel, 24 x 24 x 4 inches

Dan Addington, Memory of Higher Thought, mixed media on panel, 24 x 24 x 4 inches

Often, I begin the composition by collaging elements to a prepared wood panel. That may be sheet music, text from books (often poetry), or patterned fabric. I spend time staining the surface with pigments, then sanding and weathering the surface with sanders and other tools. A lot of this gets buried, but it’s still there and much of it will remain visible through the wax and other layers that will eventually cover it.

NN: Do you generally have an idea of where you are going with a painting or do you let the painting seem to guide you as you proceed—and when do you introduce the figure?

DA: For the majority of the time, I’m feeling my way along, hoping for the piece to speak back to me about what will happen next. I usually have a selection of images in mind, and when an image clicks with what has been happening on the panel, hopefully we get a marriage made in heaven!

Dan Addington, Sing Into Peace, mixed media on panel, 36 x 48 x 4 inches

Dan Addington, Sing Into Peace, mixed media on panel, 36 x 48 x 4 inches

NN: Since history is an important influence on your subject matter, do you do research on foreign trips and/or read history?

DA: The influence of history really started with a long trip to Ireland in the mid 1990s. That experience had a lasting effect on me and my work. At that point I moved from using traditional paint to including other organic materials to make my work. The approach was tentative at first. Then, from over the course of a decade, starting in 2001, I took a number of trips to Europe. A good deal of the imagery in my work is the direct result of drawings and photos from that time.

All the figures in my work depict statuary—not the sculpture of museums, but actual monuments out in public spaces, in parks, on buildings, in cemeteries. The idea of monuments and how they commemorate lives and events intrigued me—especially since the U.S. looks different in this regard. I love reading about history, specifically the places I’ve visited, but I also love reading the poetry produced in those places, too. It all finds a place in the work sooner or later.

NN: What is the significance of birds in your work?

Ironically, I think I started doing the birds because there was less “significance” than the more dramatic, bold, large-scale images I was doing. They were a way to make a small, quiet, whispering statement. But of course, every choice has some level of significance. The birds have come to represent the gentler emotions that I want to express. They also have come to symbolize a transcendent spiritual element present in nature.

Dan Addington, Book of Splendor, side view, mixed media on book, 8 x 6 inches

Dan Addington, Book of Splendor, side view, mixed media on book, 8 x 6 inches

 “The organic qualities of the wood, wax, and tar communicate a feeling of timelessness. The materials and processes used emphasize the paintings as visceral objects with an evocative physical presence. Often, these materials are meant to recall and engage the physical body, and with the accompanying image, evoke a meditational response from the viewer. Through a mixed use of painterly languages, these works explore the nature of mortality, express a sense of loss, and address mankind’s desire to locate spiritual meaning.”
This is an excerpt from the full artist statement that appears on Dan Addington’s website. The Addington Gallery Chicago is found here.

Professional Practices: The Big Picture

How does a curated show differ from an invitational? What is the mission of an academic gallery? When are you ready to show? How do you price your work? Has anyone seen ArtZilla? The Saturday Morning Panel at this year’s International Encaustic Conference answered those questions and more.


For Professional Practices: The Big Picture! I invited a stellar group of six artist-hyphenates
(-curator, -dealer, -professor, -ethicist) to talk with me about career issues. Miles Conrad, Fanne Fernow, Wendy Haas, Timothy McDowell, Jane Allen Nodine, and Carol Pelletier came with impressive resumes and a wealth of practical information. What follows is a synopsis of our nearly three-hour discussion.

Your Exhibition Options: Juried, Curated, Organized, Invitational

We started with the building blocks of a resume: exhibitions. For artists who are not gallery represented—and even for some who are—it’s important to understand how various kinds of shows help artists achieve visibility.PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.Nodine

. As all the panelists noted, the juried show is the best and easiest way for an artist to build a resume. Work is selected by a juror—usually a dealer, curator, or critic—who is named in a prospectus. A well-selected show reflects favorably on all involved. Juried shows are typically held by non-profit entities, and there’s typically a fee to enter. For artists working in encaustic, juried shows offer a way of creating visibility within the community as well as a springboard to show beyond it.

Thinking about entering a juried show? “Pick and choose wisely because they can be costly to your wallet and your work,” said Jane Allen Nodine, director of the Curtis R. Harley Gallery at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She offered these considerations:
.Calculate first what will it cost you in work prep, entry fees and shipping, then clarify, what do you expect to get out of this exhibit?
.Do your homework: What is the venue, who is the sponsor, and especially, who is the judge?
.Will the possibility of this exhibit give you exposure to galleries, curators and collectors?
.Are there significant cash awards, a printed or online catalog, or the possibility of a future solo exhibition?
.Will your work be professionally presented and carefully managed in the process?

. The curated show is an exhibition in which artists are selected by a curator, whether she works for a museum or gallery, or independently, or is an artist or art historian expanding her practice by conceptualizing and realizing a thematic vision. There is no entry fee; indeed, you may not even know you’re being considered until the invitation arrives. A curated show is validation that your work has been sought out to become part of a larger discourse.

For the curator, it’s an opportunity to give physical form to a vision with and from artists’ work, noted Carol Pelletier, who curated the recent exhibition, Organic to Geometric: Investigations in Structure and Surface at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, where she is also chair of the Fine Arts department.

. The organized show gave pause to Wendy Haas, founder of the Cervini Haas Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, now an independent dealer and curator based in Chicago. “How should I describe this?” she mused. Ultimately both she and Miles Conrad, owner/director of Conrad Wilde Gallery in Tucson, acknowledged that like a curated show, selections are made by a curatorial entity working with a thematic idea, but that the exact selection of works may be left up to the invited artists, or juried from artist submissions, or both. Organized shows take place at galleries of all kinds.

. For an invitational show, a dealer or exhibition organizer asks particular artists to participate, usually around a theme. Said Haas, “I’ll often include some artists outside those already represented [by my gallery], as it gives both of us an introduction to working with each other. “

What’s the difference between a curated show and an invitational? Typically it’s the element of trying out a new artist or broadening an exhibition roster, as Haas suggested by her comment.

Your Gallery Options: Non-profit, Academic, Commercial, Co-op, and More

All galleries are not alike, and understanding their differences can help you decide how to approach them—or be approached by them.

. The mission of a non-profit gallery is to serve its community. It may sell work but it typically derives income from other sources, such as grants, fundraising, and donations. It is a good place for emerging artists to start their careers, or for seasoned artists to show experimental work, said Nodine, because the focus is on showing rather than selling.

Unlike PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.Hasscommercial galleries, non-profits don’t work with a roster of gallery artists so the potential for showing is higher, particularly if the mission is to engage the community by soliciting proposals or reviewing artists’ portfolios. Not every professional artist makes a living selling art (some survive on grants and residencies), so this type of gallery provides good visibility.

. The academic gallery serves artists similarly, since showing rather than selling is the priority. But, noted Pelletier, the academic gallery has a specific audience: its own academic community.

“If you are proposing a show, know that many of the academic galleries have planned exhibits one to two years out. Contact the chair of the department to see how your proposal fits into the curriculum,” said Pelletier. She added that artists whose proposals are accepted, or who are invited to show, may also be asked to give a talk or demonstration to the institution’s students, and typically an honorarium will be offered. (If it’s not, request one.)

. A commercial gallery is in the business of selling art. Artist and dealer are in a business relationship. A gallery-represented artist can reasonably expect to have a solo show every two or three years. Timothy McDowell, who has been gallery represented for the length of his long career, noted the needs of artists and dealers may change over time, so it’s not enough to secure gallery representation but to understand the dynamics of the relationship.

“As artists gain recognition and experience, their gallery representation may change from the local or regional gallery to one with a national or even international reputation,” McDowell said. Dealers, too, are looking to trade up, and some may drop artists with lesser profiles for those with greater art world visibility. In short, it’s hard work to get into a gallery and even harder work to remain there.

. Everyone on the panel spoke negatively about the so-called vanity galleries, those scurrilous businesses that troll for artists, offering group and solo shows for a steep price. Nodine said it most clearly: “Do not pay to play.”

. The one exception to paying would be co-op galleries, in which artists are juried into an existing artist-run gallery structure. Yes, artists pay a monthly fee to cover rent and other costs, but they are largely free to show what they wish and they receive a larger percent of sales, often as high at 80 percent. Our panelists noted that the co-op concept has an almost 100 year history and has given many artists their first opportunities to exhibit. This option got a thumbs-up all around.

Changing the Game: Do-it-Yourself

As our gallerists noted in conversation, there are never enough gallery slots for the number of practicPWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.Conrading artists. But while gallery representation may not be possible for everyone, Miles Conrad was clear in saying that every artist working now has options that would not have been possible even 15 years ago. “With the advent of the Internet, we’ve seen a huge upsurge in the DIY ethos,” he sai. “We can now publish our own websites along with our own writing, videos and tutorials. Printing has now been democratized with postcards, brochures and print-on-demand catalogs. We now send bulk electronic newsletters, sidestepping costly printed mailings. All of these activities are game changers for artists.”

. Open studios are ever more sophisticated, and both sales and connections are made. Fanne Fernow, who has often participated in juried Open Studios, attested to their value. “They are great for artists at all levels,” she said. Her reasons:
. You see people experiencing your work
. You get to practice talking out loud about it
. You’re basically curating your own solo show. You get to select work and hang the show. How does it read? Is it cohesive?
. You also make signs, labels and graphics. You learn to promote. It’s a really great way to gain experience.

. Pop-Up Galleries are artist-generated events that take place in apartments, vacant store fronts, and, well, let me share Conrad’s story: “There was a local undergraduate art student in Tucson who had one of those moving pods delivered right across the street from Gallery Row during one of the Art Walk events. She painted the inside white and hung a small but well curated group show. She ran clamp lights powered by a rented generator and hired a DJ. It was such a fun and refreshing event that she drew huge crowds from the mainstream galleries. It was the only time in my gallery’s history that I left one of our own receptions to wander out looking at something else!”

Know When You’re Ready to Show

“Showing your work is a natural step after having made something that you’re pleased with or proud of. Showing ranges from having an open studio to being exhibited by a gallery or museum,” said McDowell.

A metaphor from that oracle, the Internet

A metaphor from that oracle, the Internet

From a practical standpoint, Hass said that being ready means having “a consistent body of work, a sense of where you are in your career, and an opinion on your pricing.” From an emotional standpoint, McDowell felt that being ready to show means developing the ability to face rejection. “Being held responsible for your work and managing the huge range of viewer reactions requires a level of maturity. This comes with the territory,” he said.

Haas suggested this way to proceed: “Before you approach a dealer or curator, I’d recommend building your resume with juried shows and some of the more ‘grass roots’ options to gain both exhibition experience and a sales history.”

PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.McDowellThen there are the other hats you wear. “After mastering your studio practice, be ready to master the requirements of a small business,” said McDowell. Contracts, artist statements, consignment forms, work ethics and consistency, presentation, craftsmanship are just some of what you need to be capable of handling— and handling well— prior to and after showing the work. What good is it to arrive at an artistic level of accomplishment only to fail at the practical components of going public? “

Pricing Your Work
When you’re gallery represented, the selling price is something you and your dealer set together since you will each take fifty percent. It’s not the dealer taking half of your hard-earned money, as so many artists mistakenly see it, but rather you and your dealer each getting what you feel you need to get for the work—mediated, of course, by what the market will bear. Emerging and/or unrepresented artists have a harder time with pricing, which these comments may help to clarify:
. McDowell has a per-square-inch system that allows for consistency when paintings are of many various sizes.
. Others artists (I am one) work with a fairly limited number of sizes and have developed a pricing system, nudged upward over the years, based on those specific sizes.
. I stepped out of my role as moderator to add to the conversation. When I taught Professional Practices at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, I had students go around to the galleries to research the price of a particular size painting, one relating to the general size range in which they worked. Of course the prices from artist to artist and gallery to gallery varied wildly, but what the students came to understand from studying the available resumes was that exhibition history (museum, solo, and curated shows), plus reviews, grants and other distinctions, were essential elements in determining an artist’s prices. Selling history is another factor. And like it or not, a well-known artist can command a higher price, just as a high-profile gallery can command higher prices for its artists.
PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.Pelletier. McDowell, Conrad and Haas all voiced some version of this idea: Be consistent in your pricing, so that the work of a particular size, whether sold out of your studio, or at a gallery anywhere, costs the same amount. The internet allows collectors to comparison shop—and dealers to check—so across-the-board uniformity is in your best interest.
. Haas clarified consistency with this: “Maybe you’ll have a few different series that lend themselves to pricing variations due to the technique or materials used. That’s fine, but make sure the dealer can easily convey to a prospective client the reasons for differences in price.”
. McDowell added, “Your prices can go up, but they can’t come down.” He noted that as you move up in the gallery hierarchy and your prices get set accordingly higher, if you wish to remain loyal to the smaller galleries you started with, you may need to show scaled-down work at a price those galleries can sell, or create a series specifically for them.
. “Don’t sell the work at a price so low that you regret having sold it,” said Pelletier, who has seen this happen with students. Neither should you price your work so high that is has no chance of selling.
. I’d add one more thought here: If you are consistently the lowest-priced artist in a show, raise your prices. And if you are consistently the highest priced, then start showing in venues that better reflect what you feel is the value of your work.

The Artist/Dealer Partnership
When I was in art school, the prevailing idea was, “The dealer is your enemy.” What awful and misleading information to give to students! The artists and dealers on our panel had a much more holistic idea about what it means to work together.

. “The artist/dealer relationship is both a personal and business partnership,” said Haas. “Trust is crucial. Neither the artist nor the dealer wants to work with someone who will operate behind the other’s back.”

. And what about the gallery you start out with? Here’s McDowell: “The smaller gallery relationship may deserve some loyalty for having sold your work for years, providing the venue from which your reputation grew. There is room for both. Work [scale, type of project] can be adjusted to maintain the early relationship. Branching out to bigger and hopefully better opportunities does not necessarily mean that bridges be burned.”

. Here’s something that many artist don’t realize: Most dealers do not come from wealth, and many struggle financially just as artists do. They are in the business of selling art for the same reason we are in the business of making it: Neither can imagine a life without it.

Being a Good Art World Citizen
PWJ.Issue10.Pullquote.FernowIf we’d had another hour, we would have talked more about some of the bêtes noirs in our community: appropriating images and ideas, stepping on toes, inventing “referrals” to get an in with a dealer, and the way situations often blow up out of proportion, especially on social media. I asked Fernow, the only artist on our panel—perhaps in the entire encaustic community—who has a divinity school background, to address some of these issues in general terms. Here is her response:

“If you reside in some sort of artist community, either housing or studio space, it is good to find ways to work together. There is a woman with a studio in the complex where I have mine. She is a Buddhist nun. But when it comes time for an open studio event, she turns into ArtZilla. She wants the most wall space in the hallways. She wants to place things in the hallways that will enhance the journey into her space, not yours. She must have bigger signs than yours. It is not fun to work with her.

“I have known more than one ArtZilla over the years,” Fernow continued. “They are the artists who don’t want to do their fair share of the work, the artists who think they are the only one with something to offer, the artists who are fine with not paying their own way. When given the great opportunity to work with and learn from others, please be a good citizen of your community and leave ArtZilla at the door.”

Fernow concluded our discussion with these thoughts:

“A lot of people will do anything to have their art be seen. Understand the origin of your ideas and why you are making that particular work. Ask yourself if the work is original and what it means. Do you have a chance to help someone with less experience than you? Do you have a chance to invite others to follow you on your path? Do you work and/or play well with others? Can you carry your own weight? Sometimes the desire to have your work seen and recognized blinds you to anything or anyone else. Please think seriously about your behavior. If you have never considered your ethics, please do it now.”

. . . . . . . . . .

–Joanne Mattera is the founder/director of the International Encaustic Conference. She could not have completed this piece without the help of the panelists, who verified and clarified their comments. Read more about the panelists here.

Welcome to the Saturday Morning Panel, Professional Practices: The Big Picture! Photo: Corina S. Alvarezdelugo

Photo: Corina S. Alvarezdelugo

Want to know more about the Saturday Morning Panels? In previous years we’ve discussed A History of Contemporary Encaustic (2014); Raising the Bar: Encaustic in our Practice (2013); Igniting the Spark, Fanning the Flames: Creativity in Our Practice (2012); Mastering Media (2011); Making a Career in Encaustic (2010); Conservators on Conservation (2009); How the Press Views Encaustic (2008); and the very first year: Encaustic: State of the Art (2007). (More year-by-year info can be found in A Brief History of the Encaustic Conference.)

What Powers Abstract Painting?


A passionate connection to the work is what keeps any artist creating. We feel driven to make art, no matter what the genre, by our need to capture something – an idea, a color, an interaction of colors, shapes, forms, lines, a mystery, a feeling, a love of paint, a solution to a problem, a desire to make real what only we can imagine. Abstract art has usually been defined more by what it is not—non-objective, not representational, not depictive—than by what it is. A more positive definition, from the Oxford University Press, says: “What is missing in such qualifications is that ‘abstract’ as applied to works of art is not a merely passive negative characterization, but has a further privative force.“

There are many types of contemporary abstraction, such as conceptual, gestural, geometric, and formalist. In the future I intend to do a series in ProWax Journal of occasional articles about types of art made by Pro Wax Members (including not just abstraction but realism and figuration). To begin this series I have invited two painters to speak in some depth about their work. Both artists paint abstractly: Cheryl McClure, gesturally, and Graceann Warn, compositionally geometric. I wanted to know why each of them had chosen to work in that form of abstraction and also about the emotional connection to her work that each artist felt.

Cheryl McClure

Cheryl McClure, Parallels, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 50 inches

Cheryl McClure, Parallels, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 50 inches

I was particularly focused on emotion since the force driving abstract art has at times been regarded as no more than an intellectual exercise. Yet, if it were only cerebral, would that be motivation enough for artists to keep making the work, painting after painting, year after year? Would the work be aesthetically pleasing and capable of arousing emotion in viewers?

Cheryl McClure is mostly self taught and has been painting for more than 30 years. She shows throughout the U.S. and is represented by five galleries. Living on a ranch in northeastern Texas, she finds influences in nature – the trees, sky, pastures, pond and creek – but is careful to say that she does not try to replicate what she sees. Rather she lets her observations come through as she paints and “has a conversation with the paint and the process.” She is most interested in surface quality, color relationships and formal design.

NN: What draws you to abstraction as an approach to painting?

CMC: I am not sure there is an easy explanation. As a kid, I drew, but I was never really attracted to drawing or painting people and things. I see now in retrospect that I was more interested in the colors and shapes in a work of art.

Cheryl McClure, Gray Day, April, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 inches

Cheryl McClure, Gray Day, April, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 inches (click to enlarge)

NN: Would you comment on the idea of abstraction allowing you to have greater freedom in painting. Do you think that’s true? Or does the “freedom” of not trying to represent something make it more difficult?

CMC: I feel that I have more freedom, more that I can do or say without having to spell out something I would rather keep to myself. Most people would think of me as a gregarious, extroverted person, but I have a side to me that is very private and this is a little bit of protection.

I am invested in the emotional side of things. I don’t always identify it as emotional, but my work does come directly from my own experience, and usually is just an unexpected and unconscious inspiration. I have come to realize that I generally paint from non-objective to abstraction. In other words, I set parameters in my work with formal issues. Then, as I work, relationships in the painting begin to take on meaning that possibly only I will know. It might not be what others will see, but that doesn’t matter to me.

McClure_Feat_RThe emotional involvement to me includes some kind of gesture and a sense of space – probably coming from working less abstractly in the early years. When I am painting, I paint furiously and quickly, then I look and analyze, taking a lot longer than the time I actually spent painting. The brain can get in the way of the hand and the brush and this is my way of trying to avoid that.

NN: How do you begin a painting?

CMC: Sometimes it’s entirely arbitrary because I have set myself up to work with whatever relationships develop as I go along. However, I began a continuing series in 2014 when I started thinking more about intent after reading On Looking, Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. I started looking around me more carefully and then took days at a time just jotting down words or phrases that I thought would be inspiration for paintings. I called the series “Annotation” and also noted the color inspirations.

Cheryl McClure, Annotation: Cobalt Blue-Violet, 2014, encaustic and oil on wood panel, 24 x 24 inches

Cheryl McClure, Annotation: Cobalt Blue-Violet, 2014, encaustic and oil on wood panel, 24 x 24 inches (click to enlarge)

NN: Is struggle a necessary part of painting for you?

CMC: It has become a part of my work. Usually I do not really want to know exactly where I am going when I begin a painting but only have a generalized map of what I intend, when I do have a more fixed intention. I don’t have to think about it much in the beginning because I can do just about anything and make a layer that adds to the richness that I hope to achieve in the final work. I’ve come to believe that the longer you paint, the more you realize how little you know. You become more critical of your work. Hence all those ugly middle layers. That said, I am thankful for the few paintings that come now and then without a lot of struggle, as though someone else painted them.

NN: What effect does changing mediums have on your work? Do you find you work differently in one medium than another?

CMC: I studied watercolor painting when I first began painting since that was the only thing available from teachers in my area. I didn’t love watercolor because it took too much pre-planning, but I learned a lot about negative shapes. I also learned a lot from using pastels and charcoal about the marks I like to make. I like acrylic because I can layer over and over without a problem of compatibility. I find that working with oil and encaustic slows me down a lot, but sometimes slowing down is a good thing. The richness and surface qualities of oil and encaustic are very appealing. I think working back and forth with all these mediums helps me to grow as a painter.

Cheryl McClure, Pier, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 60 inches

Cheryl McClure, Pier, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 60 inches

NN: Are you ever inspired by particular places?

CMC: Pier is an example of my being inspired by a place. I’ve made several trips to Provincetown, Mass. for the annual International Encaustic Conference. I have been struck by the color and the shapes of the piers, boats and buildings there. Not being a coastal person, I didn’t start out to paint this, but I found myself making these marks with large brush loads of paint on the canvas. It just developed and somewhere in the process it became Pier. More than likely others do not see it this way, but this is Provincetown to me.

Graceann Warn

Graceann Warn, Sugar Factory Painting #2, 2014; oil, beeswax and pigment; 30 x 40 inches

Graceann Warn, Sugar Factory Painting #2, 2014; oil, beeswax and pigment; 30 x 40 inches

Graceann Warn was born and raised in New Jersey and currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in landscape architecture. Later, while pursuing a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan and working as a landscape architect, she visited an exhibition of the last paintings of Mark Rothko. The emotional impact of that exhibition was the catalyst for great change. Within a year she made the decision to devote her life to making art. She has been a full time studio artist since 1985 with work exhibited and collected nationally and internationally.

NN: Why do you think you were drawn so strongly to abstract painting?

GW: Abstraction was always the style of painting that I was moved by as a viewer. Particular artists whose works made my heart beat faster were Tapies, Rothko, Motherwell, Mitchell, and Twombly. These artists made marks and gestures on canvas that seemed like a secret alphabet to me, yet one that I could somehow read. My training in design probably cemented my interest in seeing form and color as being more important than representation.

warn_feat_LIn my expanded story about seeing the last Rothko paintings at the Walker Art Center, I talk about being so overwhelmed with emotion that I had to sit down. I was trembling and possibly tearing up. It was huge. It was so clear in that moment and then later in retrospect that my work life had to change and align more with my emotional life. It was devastating for me because I was on my own, still paying school loans, in grad school plus working full time, trying to be an adult and yet my insides were screaming ‘get outta here!!!!’–totally irresponsible to some but undeniable to me.

NN: Does abstraction allow you more freedom in painting?

GW: It’s a natural way for me to “talk” so it’s freeing and not difficult in that regard. Painting in a representational way, which I did do at one transition point in my career, is frustrating in that it feels constraining. I do believe that successful expression through abstract means is more challenging, especially as regards viewers. When someone clutches their heart or covers their mouth in front of one of my paintings, I know I’ve been successful.

NN: Do you generally begin a painting with an idea in mind?

GW: Paintings generally have their genesis in a word or a line of words. Words connote images very powerfully for me. I have lists of single words or short sentences in journals, post-it notes, and random scraps of paper all over my studio awaiting transformation into a physical entity. I am constantly listening, reading, and looking for the spark of engagement with a word or two. Beginning this way generally gives me a strong sense of the direction in which I want to go with a painting, but sometimes things go awry, frequently in a good way, and I change course.

Graceann Warn, Stonington, 2013; oil, beeswax, pigment on wood panel; 40 x 40 inches

Graceann Warn, Stonington, 2013; oil, beeswax, pigment on wood panel; 40 x 40 inches (click to enlarge)

NN: What are some of the sources for your words and phrases?

GW: Some come from physics textbooks, others are place names or descriptive titles, such as Red Contents and Stonington. I am also fortunate to have a working relationship with the poet Dan Gerber, for whom I provided art for his latest book, Sailing Through Cassiopeia. We collaborate via email by exchanging his words and my art. We inspire each other this way. Most of the poems he writes that I am drawn to center on the mysteries of the cosmos and the wonder of science.

NN: I know that you are also influenced or inspired by particular places. You mentioned the Domino Sugar factory in Brooklyn, where Kara Walker had her well-known show.

GW: I made a series of paintings derived from photographs I saw of the abandoned Domino Sugar plant (Sugar Factory #2 at the top of this section is one of the series). Maybe it’s because I live near Detroit and have an emotional reaction to them, but abandoned factories attract my attention. The very idea of these once mighty structures literally humming with purpose but now discarded and left to ruin makes me want to honor them in their present state. The beauty I see in the scraped and battered walls informs the look of most of my work. In the Domino Sugar plant, the colors and surface textures were made even more lush by the patina of caramelized sugar and that was irresistible to me.

Graceann Warn, Sugar Factory Painting #1, 2014; oil, beeswax, pigment on wood panel; 40 x 30 inches

Graceann Warn, Sugar Factory Painting #1, 2014; oil, beeswax, pigment on wood panel; 40 x 30 inches (click to enlarge)

NN: I also want to ask you about materials. I notice that you usually describe your medium as “oil, beeswax and pigment” and only occasionally use the word “encaustic.” Do you mean that you use just beeswax or that you don’t choose to mention encaustic?

GW: A while back I realized that two things might happen in response to the word “encaustic.” Either people didn’t know what it was or they equated it with some of the truly egregious examples of the medium that are out there in the world. It’s not like oil painting in that there are millions of examples that everyone is familiar with, good and bad. Encaustic is still used by only a small minority of the art world and unfortunately there are too many poor examples of it, in my opinion. Another issue is that I am starting to introduce some oil painting into my work.

NN: Do you view color as a vital component of your work?

GW: Absolutely. I am a synesthete, which means my brain mashes up sensations. In my case I combine color with words and numbers as well as words with flavors. This wonderfully weird condition most likely helps me make decisions in the studio.

Graceann Warn, Red Contents, 2014; oil, beeswax, pigment on constructed panel; 40 x 30 inches

Graceann Warn, Red Contents, 2014; oil, beeswax, pigment on constructed panel; 40 x 30 inches

NN: What do you think is the most important quality about your work?

GW: There is a restraint in the work that, when successful, seems to be on the brink of something without being obvious – an innuendo, the unsaid, or what lies just below the surface.

NN: Because of this apparent simplicity and reticence, your work seems to me to be influenced by a Japanese aesthetic. Would you comment on this?

GW: When I was studying landscape architecture, I was deeply influenced by certain aspects of Japanese design. The editing inherent in that aesthetic is deep within me. I respect its quiet strength and its dignity.

NN: What do you want your work to reflect?

GW: Throughout the process of making it and then later experiencing it in its finished state, I
want to feel that I’ve been true to myself and, by extension, my work.

 Summing Up

Although the final forms of their work may differ from each other, Cheryl and Graceann have in common paintings sparked by words, phrases, or observations and composed with formal arrangements of elements. From there, they proceed in two directions with structure and balance still being necessary to the final compositions’ success in both forms of abstraction. I think they each have a poetic sense of their work in that they are sensitive to beauty and to the feelings their paintings elicit from themselves and from their viewers. While their own personal intention or meaning may not be explicitly stated in the works, the emotional reaction to the aesthetics of their work is important to each of them and something they strive to achieve.

1. – a short video about the Domino Sugar factory project
2. – a cast-sugar statue against a wall at the Domino Sugar Factory
3. – American Abstract Artists – a democratic artist-run organization founded in 1936 in New York City to promote and foster understanding of abstract and non-objective art
4. – Geoform – an online scholarly resource and curatorial project whose focus is the use of geometric form and structure in contemporary abstract art being made by artists from around the world.

Guiding the Creative Process

by Nancy Natale

The Abstract Expressionist movement occurred decades ago, popularizing the idea that spontaneity, improvisation, and process should be the guides in creating art. This kind of expression worked for trained painters such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Joan Mitchell, who approached their canvases with an understanding of color theory, composition, materials, and art history.

Today, many beginning artists seem to have adopted the view that medium and process will generate paintings for them without giving any additional thought to what they might want the work to mean. This notion is particularly prevalent with artists using the medium of encaustic. What generally happens is that they concentrate on effects produced by various techniques or processes achieved with the medium. Although good resolutions may be produced with some individual pieces, such medium-driven works are usually not very interesting over the long term except as sample boards.

Misunderstanding the Way Intention Shapes Art
I have observed that some beginning artists, particularly those who come to art making with no formal training, misunderstand what it means to use a more intentional approach to creating art. They fear that an intention must be so fully formed and strictly adhered to that it will eliminate the joy of creative discovery and the feeling of being in that zone that we all strive to find. Alternatively, if they do decide to use an idea to make a work, the idea is often so personal and idiosyncratic that it requires explanation for viewers to understand what the artist is attempting to depict. In such works, the specificity of the idea prevents the viewer from finding any universal meaning in the work. Some artists even go so far in carrying out their particular idea that they actually label the work with their meaning so that it becomes trite. We have all seen paintings that include clocks labeled with something like, “It’s about time.” Such a limited idea with or without labeling prevents viewers from finding interest in the work.

Intention Shapes Meaning
Creating with intention produces meaning in the work, and meaning in art exists for the artist and for the viewer. The meaning that each sees in the work may not necessarily be the same for both. The artist, of course, has a much more intimate relationship with the work, having created it, but the artist can’t always be sure how viewers will interpret the work. A knowledgeable viewer may find meaning in the work that the artist had not intended or that was overlooked by or hidden from the artist. This makes neither meaning “wrong” but only enriches the work. It’s another aspect of art that makes it so fascinating. To invite viewers to search for meaning, an artist must create work that allows a way in, that does not so direct the viewer to one meaning that it can be realized with a quick glance.

Is the Viewer Necessary?
There are some art theorists who posit that art is not complete without a viewer. Such a theory does not account for the sheer compulsion to create that drives those of us who make work for our own satisfaction, to answer questions or problems we pose to ourselves, or purely as a means of expression. There are always artists who are driven to create despite financial hardship or limited opportunities to exhibit. The creative urge takes many forms and art is not always made for others to find meaning in it. Sometimes it’s just enough for the artist to make his or her own meaningful works and be an audience of one for the art.

PWJ8_Jan_2015_Feat_NN_LDeveloping a Thoughtful Approach
to Creating

However, if artists seek to share their work with viewers and potentially build careers in the world of art, it is important to understand that intentionality in making our work helps rather than hinders the creative process. Thinking critically about what we are creating can simplify the process in many ways and eliminate some of the frustration and wheel spinning that sometimes occur in the studio. Working in series, looking back at works that we have made, receiving critical input on our work, looking at work in galleries and museums, studying art history and particular artists to find a context for our own work, communicating in our Facebook art groups, and attending the annual Encaustic Conference are all ways in which intention and meaning can be developed and implemented.

Influences Affecting Intention
Rather than writing about my own work, I have asked Pro Wax members Lynda Ray and Timothy McDowell if I could include them in this article. I hadn’t realized before inviting them to participate that both artists found so much of the inspiration for their work in nature. What is so surprising and enlightening is the vast difference between their works even though both artists look to aspects of nature as a major influence.

Lynda Ray: Interaction of Patterns in Nature and Human-made Systems

A Massachusetts native who now lives in Richmond, Virginia, Lynda Ray has established herself as a knowledgeable and well-qualified teacher of painting with encaustic in Virginia, California, Massachusetts and other parts of the country. At the Encaustic Conference she is known as the guru of textures. She works abstractly with drawing, frottage (rubbing to transfer textures), direct painting with encaustic and chine collé. She also creates larger works in oil, sometimes with cold wax.

Lynda’s work was included in both iterations of Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence, Transcendence in Contemporary Encaustic at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, Massachusetts in 2013 and then at the Hunterdon Museum of Art in Clinton, New Jersey in 2014. Her painting, Fracture, was featured on the cover of the Hunterdon catalog, and her work, Landmark, was selected for the cover of the catalog of The Elephant in the Room: Contemporary Encaustic Works at Laconia Gallery in Boston in 2013.

Lynda Ray, Talus Unit, 1991, beeswax, wood, found metal, 48” x 16” x 6”

Lynda Ray, Talus Unit, 1991; beeswax, wood, found metal; 48” x 16” x 6”

When we were both at Massachusetts College of Art as returning students majoring in painting in the BFA program, Lynda and I became friends; we reconnected when we met at the Encaustic Conference decades later. The work we had each created during our years apart was parallel in many ways: emphasis on physicality, inclusion of found materials, love of pattern, geometry, texture, and strong emphasis on color. Despite this broad similarity, our work was inspired by entirely different sources.

In an online interview with Julie Karabenick of Geoform, Lynda said that her work was influenced by patterns in nature and by human-made, architectural elements. She also said that her work was experimental and intuitive.

Nancy Natale: Lynda, please expand on these seemingly different descriptions of why you make your work.

Lynda Ray: I work in the studio with a general concept of the visual idea I want to express. I engage with the materials and gradually the work comes into focus. I work intuitively responding to the colors, space, and marks that begin to form. Once there’s enough happening, it starts to become clear, and I organize the direction I want to take as I work towards the resolution of the work.

Many other secondary incidents happen as I paint that enrich the main direction and later may inform other works. I work back and forth between applying the paint and looking. Sometimes I photograph the work and/or move it to another location to see it in another context.

Lynda Ray, Facing East, 2001, oil on canvas, 38” x 64”

Lynda Ray, Facing East, 2001, oil on canvas, 38” x 64”

NN: Are your recent encaustic pieces with built-up texture and overlays of Asian paper still based on patterns from nature?

LR: Yes, I have a general concept which is based on my environment and asks the question of my relationship with the land. This idea came about after many years of looking, thinking, building/sculpting, and painting. I extracted from my environment colors, shapes, textures, and patterns that I felt had a history or story. This has been the consistent theme and interest most of my painting life.

NN: Would you say that when you use frottage to find texture in your previous work, you have become your own reference and personal environment?

PWJ8_Jan_2015_NN_RAY1LR: More recently I have used Asian paper to capture the surfaces of my sculptures or of found materials to make rubbings or frottage. I stash those Asian paper pieces into my flat files and use them as needed for my more recent work.

I am always looking.

Lynda Ray, Random & True, 2014, drawing with pigmented beeswax on frottage and chine collé with Asian paper, mounted on panel, 14” x 14”

Lynda Ray, Random and True, 2014, encaustic drawing on frottage and Chine collé, 14” x 14”

I think about time as expressed in layers, like a multiple-exposure photograph with each new century or event covering over the past but still leaving it somewhat visible. How can I express that in paint? That was and is my challenge.

The sense of building a work through layering can especially be achieved with encaustic painting through scraping back to earlier layers or showing the buildup of paint on a work’s surface or edges. The end result allows multiple moments to appear at once, as if one is looking through peeled back layers to reveal earlier stages of development.

NN: Do you care if the meaning viewers find in your work is not what you intended?

LR: I am hoping to express a universal idea. The work does not have a didactic intent. The best work would be capable of connecting with many experiences of the viewer. It is like experiencing music, without words.

Lynda Ray’s website:

Timothy McDowell: Exploring Images and Systems Within Nature

Originally from Texas, Timothy McDowell received his MFA from the University of Arizona in 1981. He has been a professor of printmaking and drawing at Connecticut College in New London for more than 30 years. For the past 20 years he has been making paintings, prints, and works on paper in encaustic and oil. He has shown widely and his work has been acquired by many major private, corporate, and museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art Print and Drawing Collection, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Timothy McDowell, Dry Planet, 2014, hide glue, beeswax, pigment, 72” x 48”

Timothy McDowell, Dry Planet, 2014; hide glue, beeswax, pigment; 72” x 48”

Timothy’s recent work, Dry Planet, is included in the exhibition Organic to Geometric: Investigations in Structure and Surface at Endicott College, Beverly, Mass., January 20 – March 20, 2015, as well as in the catalog of the exhibition. Works such as this depict what I interpreted as a damaged natural world in danger of disappearing altogether because of environmental damage.

NN: Is my interpretation of your work what you had intended, Timothy?

Timothy McDowell: Your reading of the content is very close to my intention. It is an arid place, the structures are imagined, some future devices are functioning in some possibly futile way to collect moisture. The whole painting is about humanity’s attempt to regulate nature through technology, after ruining nature’s balance. It is a statement about how we disrupt balance and then try to correct it with science but rarely use the science to avoid imbalance.

NN: What is the meaning of the varied content and palette in images shown in the oil painting gallery of your website?

TM: The paintings shown in my oil painting gallery span four to five years of work, so my palette and subject changed over that span of time, even though all the work falls under the heading of exploration of nature and natural studies. I really try not to duplicate a painting once it exists. I try to make each painting an investigation with paint and subject in an attempt to understand the world around me. The whole process is one of visual research. If I don’t fully understand something or I am trying to learn more about something, painting it will help me know it better.

Timothy McDowell, Symbiotic Relationship, 2010, oil on wood, 36” x 36”

Timothy McDowell, Symbiotic Relationship, 2010, oil on wood, 36” x 36”

You mention one painting, Symbiotic Relationship, (I think you call it Day of the Locust, which I like!) and again, close enough on intention to satisfy me. This painting is about the interconnections of agriculture and nature: there is a mule, some oats, tobacco and, of course, the big grasshopper. All are in some way under the management of humans, either directly or not, naturally occurring or not, but nonetheless interconnected as a dark narrative.

NN: What I get from these paintings is a feeling of confused profusion or some portrayal of the extreme variety of things being displayed for some reason. Are these things that are disappearing; things that might disappear?

TM: These works were from an exhibition in 2010 at Marcia Wood Gallery titled Kingdom Come. The overall influence was my reading of accounts by early naturalists such as William Bartram, who explored Florida in the 18th Century. I was struck by the fact that a few of his discoveries were already extinct by the end of his own life.


Visually, I was also influenced by the documentation through rendering of many of the plants and animals catalogued during those explorations. Those influences combined with more contemporary thoughts on chaos and nature and evolution, which led to an imperceptible order inside the compositions. Nature always has order, but sometimes, because of its complexity, we can’t perceive it.

I also incorporated a sense of nostalgia through the color palette, the substrate (many are painted on the back side of National Geographic maps), and the subject matter. There are animals depicted that are becoming more and more rare but are placed within an image of profuse layers to suggest a diaspora of species in the animal kingdom. From profusion to extinction was the commentary.

Timothy McDowell, Wings to Steam, 2012, encaustic on paper (National Geographic map verso side) over canvas, 20” x 16”

Timothy McDowell, Wings to Steam, 2012, encaustic on paper (National Geographic map verso side) over canvas, 20” x 16”

NN: Does the variation in your palette reflect your emotional involvement in the paintings?

TM: These works, and I guess every painting I have ever done, are a reflection on my emotional involvement. I believe I am emotionally involved in painting: the act of painting, the history of painting, and maybe even the slowness of painting. It is a lifetime involvement which progresses at a pace that can’t be hurried. The time in the studio is the process; process is not the medium or the materials used. Of course I am both intellectually and emotionally involved with the content. Otherwise I would be more of a non-figurative painter and more involved with color and form as an intellectual exercise. We are filters and sometimes influences come without conscious awareness, so work changes gradually and doesn’t become apparently different until viewed as a comparative history of detail.

Timothy McDowell’s website:

Developing a Signature Style by Working With Intention
Both Lynda Ray and Timothy McDowell very generously let us look into their processes. They describe a way of working that is at once intentional and intuitive. Within their own general framework of interest, each has left room for exploration and discovery, making each piece unique but still within the range of personal interests. Each artist has a signature style, or what might now be called a brand, that makes his or her work recognizable and personal. Instead of the beginning artist’s misperception that intention is a straightjacket of conformity holding back invention and surprise, we see that working with intention guides these artists on their creative paths.


Not The Sincerest Form of Flattery

By Joanne Mattera

Appropriation, duplication, imitation and, yes, plagiarism, have been increasingly in evidence in the encaustic community. In a recent round-table discussion we addressed the ethical dilemma posed by work that looks as if it’s made by an established artist but is not.

I bet you can identify the artists whose work I’m describing here with an economy of words: Arrows. Formal compositions comprised of linear elements secured with tacks. Geologic sculptures and prints. Fantastical biology. Found photographic portraits used as the basis for paintings with a poetic narrative. Of course you can!

Immediately identifiable: Installation from the 2013 exhibition, Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence,Transcendence at the Cape Cod Museum of Art with, from left: David A. Clark arrow prints, Nancy Natale bricolage with tacked elements, Laura Moriarty geologic sculpture and prints. Photo by the author

Immediately identifiable: Installation from the 2013 exhibition, Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence,Transcendence at the Cape Cod Museum of Art with, from left: David A. Clark arrow prints, Nancy Natale bricolage with tacked elements, Laura Moriarty geologic sculpture and prints. Photo by the author

Unmistakably Rothman: Marybeth Rothman, Correction to the correction: Mattie, 2011, photo collage, encaustic and mixed media, 40" x 40". Complicating the issue here are those purporting to “teach” Rothman’s technique. If it’s an “esque,” it’s not a Rothman. And if it’s not a Rothman, it’s an imitation. (Rothman herself does not teach.) Photo courtesy of the artist

Unmistakably Rothman: Marybeth Rothman, Mattie, 2011; photo collage, encaustic and mixed media; 40″ x 40″
Complicating the issue here are those purporting to “teach” Rothman’s technique. If it’s an “esque,” it’s not a Rothman. And if it’s not a Rothman, it’s an imitation. (Rothman herself does not teach.)
Photo courtesy of the artist

While none of the aforementioned elements are unique in and of themselves, the specific ways these individual artists have developed them into a unique vision and recognizable style, often with specially devised techniques and hanging systems, is most definitely theirs and theirs alone. When those unique elements are copied by another artist so closely as to be identified with the original artist, there’s a problem for both the original artist and the imitator. And this problem presents an ethical dilemma for the entire encaustic community.

Several members of the ProWax group addressed the issue in online conversation recently. What sparked the conversation was seeing work by a few artists whose recent efforts so closely resembled the highly visible and ongoing bodies of work by other artists in the community that the specter of copying was impossible to ignore. Is this a widespread problem? The numbers seem to be relatively small at any one time, but the instances of imitation are jaw-droppingly bold. We’ve seen them online and in galleries. Some teachers have even undertaken to instruct students in the style of certain artists, without permission, thus ensuring a steady stream of imitators. Maritza Ruiz-Kim, editor of ProWax Journal, wrote an essay on the topic in the first issue of our online publication. Here the discussion developed as a roundtable after we saw the most recent round of doppelgangers. An edited synopsis follows.

Pullquote_Schaller_PWJ7Pamela Winegard Appropriation is something being grappled with in the art world all the time. Legally it’s very difficult to do anything about. Ethically it’s a very polarizing issue. You cannot copyright an idea.

Paula Roland There are conceptual reasons to appropriate. An example is using someone’s image as a “found object” in a collage, or Andy Warhol appropriating the image of Campbell’s soup cans. And let’s not confuse being influenced by someone’s work with using their themes, colors, processes, and [creating] the actual “look” of it. That’s copying. Yes there is the school of “something in the air” where people come up with the same discoveries simultaneously, unbeknownst to each other, on different sides of the planet. This is not what we’re talking about.

Pamela Winegard I should preface this with IMHO: If you are teaching workshops and you are freely teaching technique, the idea is that the student will absorb the technique and translate that into their own voice. Teaching the technique puts the technique into the public domain. Hence many exhibition organizers indicate that they don’t want student work, knowing that students often emulate their instructor’s work. They want mature work, work the student creates on their own, developed from study over time from the learned techniques and skills.

Jeff Schaller, Snap, encaustic, 36 x 36 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist

Jeff Schaller, Snap; encaustic; 36″ x 36″.
Photo courtesy of the artist

Elise Wagner The Internet and YouTube have created an “all you can take” mentality. I had a student this past weekend who wanted to know exactly how I do a specific texture. There are things I teach and things I do not. It is vital to be a generous teacher but to protect that which is yours, that which you have developed over time. I’ve already altered my teaching as a result. It is necessary for your work to continue to stand out, and it won’t if all your students are doing the same thing.

Jeff Schaller I think that happens more frequently when people teach a medium or a process rather than the fundamentals of painting.

Nancy Natale My view of copying is that the doppelganger doesn’t have the oomph of the original. However, I purposely do not teach what I do in my own work. Why encourage copycats?

Unmistakably Wright: Gregory Wright, Effervescent Ascension, 2009; encaustic, oil, pigment, shellac on birch; 36″ x 30″
This work is from Microcosm/Macrocosm, a long-running series in an oeuvre that explores the interconnectedness of visceral and cosmic. If it looks like Wright but it’s not a Wright, it’s not right.
Photo courtesy of the artist

Wayne Montecalvo There have been a few times that I’ve made artwork and learned later that it was very close to someone else’s. So I stopped doing it and tried to think where I came up with the idea in the first place. Similar ways of investigation are one thing, but work that looks too similar to another artist’s work can be embarrassing. I think most people would stop once they make the realization. In the end it helps no one.

Mindy Nierenberg It’s a thorny issue when artists share a similar aesthetic, which is not a rare thing. In my opinion, one has to respect the work of the artist who has been there first and back away if one’s own work is too similar. The combination of elements that go into creating a work of art is endless, and when a similarity too close for comfort is discovered it’s time to head in a new direction. There have been times when I’ve seen someone’s work that’s in the sweet spot of “this is exactly my aesthetic, uses materials I use, colors that call to me…and I wish I had done that!!!” And I walk away with a bittersweet feeling.Pullquote_Nierenberg_PWJ7

Or there was a time when I started working on something that excited me and then found out it was a similar path to someone else. That work was never shown and I went in another direction. All of this is a very different thing than someone out-and-out copying someone else’s work and calling it their own.

Graceann Warn, Geo,  2014, oil and encaustic on wood panel,  41 x 31  x 1.5  inches. Photo courtesy of the artist

Graceann Warn, Geo, 2014; oil and encaustic on wood panel;
41″ x 31″ x 1.5″ 
Photo courtesy of the artist

Laura Tyler I wish there was a way to explain to people how appropriation is [also] damaging to the person doing the appropriating. I’ve tried to engage on this topic, but some artists take it poorly. I also agree with Wayne that appropriation is hard to see in your own work. We’re all participating in the same conversation more or less, right? What happens when what’s intended as a counterpoint comes across as mimicry?

Christine Aaron I think the thing that surprises most of us is that a fellow artist would be so blinded by their own recent explorations to not see or identify how it “speaks” another artist’s name (and that’s assuming the borrowing/copying isn’t intentionally done).

Nancy Natale I had the experience of being in a critical workshop with an artist who was making some work that pretty obviously copied recognizable work by another artist in the encaustic community. When the teacher asked the copier during the critique why s/he was making such derivative work, the copier professed ignorance and failure to see the resemblance. We in the class were all aghast that she could be in such denial. I still can’t believe that s/he didn’t know. Did s/he expect us all not to mention it? I guess my point is that such derivative work should be mentioned to the copying artist. Otherwise s/he may keep making it, either out of ignorance or thinking that no one has noticed.

One caveat, however, is that if someone arrives at a similar style or process via an evolution of their work, this could be legitimate and she is not necessarily copying. However, if the work just appears suddenly out of the blue and it looks like a copy, then you can be pretty sure it is just that.

Kate Miller Why would an artist want to imitate work that is “signature ” for a contemporary colleague? I don’t understand that and would find it most disturbing. The encaustic world is still small enough that these “signature” works are readily recognizable so copiers, if they are showing, would be seen outright as imitators. Professional artists know better.

Pullquote_Warn_File_PWJ7Graceann Warn The discussion comes at an opportune time, as I put together the topics for a workshop I’m teaching next month. I had planned to stress the importance of content but will also talk frankly about the “A word” [appropriation], since I’ve been stung a few times myself. The best story: When I was asked to be a juror for a major national show, an obvious version of my work came up on the screen. I later said it was work that looked like I had used my less dominant hand to make. It was made by someone who had taken classes from me—a professed (shudder) fan. It’s a small world we inhabit and what goes around most assuredly comes around.

Jeff Schaller Somebody once said about my painting, “I could have done that.” I replied, “But you didn’t and I did. Now you can’t because that would be copying.”

Joanne Mattera And that brings us back to the crux of this round table, as Graceann’s and Jeff’s comments illustrate. It’s happening, and it’s not flattering.

Laura Tyler So an artist can spend years, decades even, arriving at something spectacular and find that in an instant, practically, it’s become an encaustic meme?

Mindy Nierenberg Ethics are important to uphold in any profession, and as artists we are (or should be) a community looking out for each other and having each other’s backs.


Your voice in this conversation is appreciated. Have you seen the work of artists who imitate others? Have you said anything? If so, what was the result? Has it happened to you? What did you do? Have you used another’s ideas as the basis for your own work but not taken the idea far enough from the source? This is a chance to speak frankly on the topic. The only caveat is that we ask you not call out anyone by name. The point is to discuss, not shame. Thank you.

A few links to recent articles on this issue of copying


Wax at the Miami Art Fairs

Text and photography by Joanne Mattera

I love the week of Post Conference, when I get to slow down and spend time listening to artists. This is what I’ve heard them ask over and over again: Where can I see good work in wax outside of the Encaustic Conference? How come there’s so little figuration in encaustic? Why is there so little sculpture? Where are the men?

1. IMG_1203

Marina Abramovic at ABMB, 2012, showing with Lia Rumma, Milan and Naples: All sculptures are titled The Communicator, dated 2012, black or white wax with embedded quartz crystals on glass pedestals

Visiting a large art fair would answer some of those questions, as I hope this photo essay will. At Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) and the 20 or so satellite fairs that take over the town the first weekend in December, there’s plenty of figuration, a lot of it sculptural. There’s plenty of painting, a good deal of it abstract. There’s plenty of wax! And beyond our hearty band of Conference colleagues, there are many more men working with wax. Indeed, exhibiting at this level there are at least as many men as women, sometimes more.

The artists showing at these fairs—such as Wolfgang Laib, Johannes Girardoni, and Amy Ellingson—do not define themselves by medium as they do not work exclusively in wax. Besides, it’s no coincidence that when the adjective gets chucked the career gets bigger. (I’ve said the same thing about fiber, here and here.) These artists don’t deny the stuff of their artmaking, but they use it as a means to an end rather than a badge of identity. I’ll add that the art fairs are not only chockablock with wax but with a huge number ofunconventional or challenging materials—from foam, concrete and Astroturf to beads, wood scraps, and carpet squares.

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Wolfgang Laib at ABMB, 2012, with Buchmann Gallerie, Berlin: Untitled, 2007, beeswax, wood

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Detail. From the identifying placard: “The triangles refer to the shape of the pollen mountains and together form a landscape.”


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Johannes Girardoni at Pulse, 2013, with Tomlinson Kong Contemporary, New York City: Dripbox-Blue, 2013, beeswax, pigment and wood; 12 x 44 x 6 inches

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Corner detail.

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Amy Ellingston at Art Miami, 2013, solo installation at Eli Ridgway Contemporary, San Francisco: Variation/Mutation (scribble), 2012, oil and encaustic on two panels, 42 x 132 inches.

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Surface detail. Showing image built in layers.

Work at the bigger venues, such as ABMB and Art Miami, is sophisticated and ambitious, typically large in scale or big in idea, because artists and galleries know a viewer may see 10,000 artworks over the course of four days, and they want to stand out. At the satellite fairs—such as Aqua Art, Context, Miami Project, NADA, Pulse, Scope and Untitled—where work is more likely in the low-four to high-five figures (as opposed to six and seven at the bigger blue-chip venues), the scale is typically more modest, but no less interesting. This is where many of the artists and galleries that are not “big names” (and some who are, or will be) get to show.

While there are many ProWax artists whose work has been included in the fairs, large and small—and ProWax gallerists, such as Kenise Barnes, Miles Conrad and Marcia Wood, who have been participating exhibitors—I’ve made a point of mostly going outside our group to show work that you may not have seen before. Here’s a look at a tiny slice of work in wax or encaustic that was exhibited in Miami in 2012 and 2013, plus one impressive piece from the Armory Fair in New York City in 2012.

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Francesco Sena at Pulse, 2013, with Eduardo Secci Contemporary, Florence, Italy; Mille Rivoli, 2011, wax on polystyrene forms slightly larger than life size. The translation of the title into English is A Thousand Streams.

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This sculpture and painting are part of the larger installation, which received the Pulse Prize, one of several annual jury-awarded cash grants “given to an artist of distinction featured in a solo exhibition at the fair,” according to the Pulse website.


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Richard Dupont at the Armory Show in New York City, 2012, with Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art, New York City: Untitled, 2012, cast beeswax, 24 inches high

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Catherine Jacobi at Context, 2012, with the Packer Schopf Gallery, Chicago: Hive, 2012, wax, honeybee carcasses, 28 inches high

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Berlinde de Bruyckere at ABMB, 2013, with Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy: Romeu “My Deer” V, 2010, wax, but no additional information provided

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Domenico Bianchi at ABMB, 2012, with Galleria Christian Stein, Milan; Untitled, 2012, wax and palladium on fiberglass

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Rana Rochat at Art Miami, 2012, with David Lusk Gallery, Memphis: Untitled L804, 2012, encaustic on panel

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Sandra Vasquez de la Horra at ABMB, 2012, with Kewenig Galerie, Berlin; Various titles, graphite and watercolor on paper in wax; various dimensions, installed with straight pins

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  • Photography: Wherever possible I’ve tried to give you an installation view so that you can see how the work was presented and, not incidentally, to gauge scale. The lighting varies wildly from venue to venue, and often there’s daylight in the mix, which confounds my little point-and-shoot camera. While the frames suggest a fair devoid of people, it’s only because I’ve shot in the brief moment between hordes. I’ve cropped and Photoshopped the images to eliminate distracting elements.
  • Additional artist information: Most of the galleries and artists can be found on Google.
  • Art fair information: Eight years of art fair coverage can be found on my blog. If you’re thinking about going, there’s a plenitude of useful information—along with expansive coverage of most venues each year.


ProWax Journal 5: Featured Article

Studio Practice: Working in Series

By Krista Svalbonas

This year I found myself blankly staring at the walls of my studio slightly unnerved and maybe even a little nervous. I had just completed a wonderful collaboration with Lisa Pressman, whose work you will find below, and moved from my urban home in Jersey City minutes away from New York to a very suburban home in rural Pennsylvania, hours away from New York. As I stared at my most recent body of work and looked out of the studio window to see rolling hills instead of rows of buildings, I knew that I needed to start anew. The question was how and where to begin? After a rocky start a new series began to emerge and I found myself asking how other artists start or finish a body of work. What leads them to new territory and to close the door on what is familiar?

Below are excerpts of quotes by various artists in the ProWax Facebook group, as we discussed ending and beginning a body of work.

Pam Farrell : My process is not very linear. I am often working on numerous processes concurrently–for better or for worse. As for the question of doneness, I prefer an ellipse to a period, and think more about pausing in a series than ending it. So much of my work is about ambiguity, and I suppose that extends to the process as well. I’ve become much more comfortable with this open-endedness, though I recognize the very idea could be anathema to some.

David A. Clark : For much of last year I felt that the impulse that had driven much of my previous work was spent and that I was clinging to elements that had passed their usefulness; I was working hard on other things: my health (I had several health challenges last year) and also my work with the museum. With each day that I didn’t fully engage in the studio, I felt like I was moving farther and farther away from the impulses that populated my thoughts until finally one day when I just went in and got to work. I’m glad I got to work. This new stuff I am working on feels like my most organic work. I’m trying to do as much of it as I can. I’m stockpiling supplies, paint and paper. I’m being selfish (the good kind where I take care of myself first) which means blocking out time that is inviolate. And I am working, working, working on recording the impulse that is very fully present now, because I know that it will, at some point in the future, fade. It’s a good impulse, so I want to record as much of it as I can before it goes. It feels greedy and wonderful. The moment when I start to look elsewhere and think, “What’s next?” is the moment when this series will be done, and then it will be time to move on.”


Clark_Ancient Histories68_Encaustic Monoprint on Sakamoto Heavyweight38.5x25

David A. Clark, Ancient Histories 68, Encaustic Monoprint on Sakamoto Heavyweight, 38.5″ x 25″

Clark_Meditation on Trajectory #6Pigment print on Encaustic on Panel28x40

David A. Clark, Meditation on Trajectory #6, Pigment print on Encaustic on Panel, 28″ x 40″

Milisa Galazzi: When I think I am at the end of a series because I have said everything that I thought needed to be said, I stop and step back metaphorically. I really study the work and what I really like about that series or what was particularly successful. Then I take one element from that body of work that I particularly liked or am presently drawn to. Once I sit with that element for a while, I think about a way to ramp up that element: make it bigger, more pronounced, make the work all about that particular element. Sometimes that’s an exciting jumping off point for a new body of work that is still in some ways connected to the last body of work but is new.

Heidi F Beal: I am usually working on a lot of different things at the same time so any of those pieces can take me down a new road. Often themes overlap. I find my themes tend to morph naturally so I don’t find myself planning them out that definitively. But I do know I’m done with a particular series because I just don’t find myself needing to “say it again.” In some cases, I’m so done with it that I’m tired of it. That pretty much lets me know. If I feel I’m in between stuff, I usually use the time to play, putz, putter, edit photography, read, and write. Out of that time, I find myself directed on a new path.

Debra Claffey: For me it’s done when I find myself procrastinating in the studio. If I have to muster up effort to work on the series, it tells me, usually belatedly, that I’m finished and should move on. Then I do as David said, just make something and find out where I’m headed next.

Graceann Warn: I’m in that position right now- ending one big group of works and starting another and this next group will be of a larger scale than usual. I find myself walking around my worktable, staring into space, watching tennis, cleaning and organizing, doing some conjuring. On Saturday, my Paula Roland HotBox arrived and I gave myself the day to play with it. I have no idea where I’m going with it but the surprise elements that came from experimenting somehow loosened my mind up so that now I’m working anew with vigor. I give people this advice (experiment, play) and finally I took it for myself and-wow! That’s been good advice!

Paula Roland: I try to allow myself a period of time to experiment and play without expectations–at least one to two months a year, usually in off-teaching seasons like winter. This time can build on previous series, as well as interests that emerge during the year but are not part of my focused work, or there can be completely new explorations. Most of my series morph one into the other, and the more uninterrupted time I have to work on art, the more the prints and paintings relate even though they are different processes. However, as some have said, when a series is done it is done.

Howard Hersh: I never know how long a series will last. For me, they’ve been anywhere between one and eight years. The current one is always a process of development. Hopefully, new ideas on the backburner will surface as the current series matures. I spend a lot of time staring too, but I do think it’s important to keep making something. In these two paintings, you can see how I’ve transitioned from one series to another.

Hersh_skin-deep-9_40x40x4 _acrylic:birch:basswoodb

Howard Hersh, skin deep 9, 40″ x 40″ x 4″, acrylic, birch, basswood

Howard Hersh, pulse 7, 15″ x 16″ x 2″, encaustic on panels

Cheryl D. McClure: I usually paint something I want to explore more of. It is rare that I plan a series. And when I do, it still evolves as it wishes. I may paint six to eight or into 30-something. I, also, will revisit at a later date.

Joanne Mattera: I like to work in series. My Uttar series lasted for seven years, 2000-2007. I quit at #301. During that period I began another series, Vicolo, which was suggested by the way I scraped the surface of some of the Uttars; it was a smaller series, 65 pieces, but had just as long a run: 2004-2012. About two-thirds of the paintings in both series are 12×12, while the others range from 18×18 to 48×48. Vicolo is finished unless there’s a commission. What kept me at them for so long? Uttar  was extremely successful commercially–it was the series that allowed me to give up freelance writing–but I loved making the paintings. Vicolo has a physicality; I responded to the act of digging into the surface. It was a workout.

Silk Road started in 2005 and is ongoing. All of the paintings are small (12×12, 16×16, with 18×18 the largest). They have to remain small because of the nature of the surface. The paint goes from edge to edge in one swipe. I love making them, and because they are commercially successful, particularly with one gallery, I will keep making them until they stop selling. (I make my living from art.)

The new geometric paintings are theoretically limitless in size, because of the way I make them. I am gearing up for big. And varied. I’m responding to the crispness of the taped line.

I think of my oeuvre as coming from a pool of ideas, and that pool is bottomless. The boundaries of what and when are fluid.

Mattera_Vicolo 47.12x12.2008

Joanne Mattera, Vicolo 47, 12″ x 12″, 2008

Mattera_Uttar 235. 24x24. 2004

Joanne Mattera, Uttar 235, 24″ x 24″, 2004

Karen Nielsen-Fried: I’m very process-oriented and often don’t know that I’m working on a series until I’m well into it and find that there is a strong impulse to continue the same thought process and work path, so a series comes. And then, one day, I will realize as I begin to work that the idea I’ve been exploring doesn’t intrigue me in the same way, and I know I’m done with it, at least for a while, because my ideas seem to circle around and return to me. If I’m lucky, I will get this ineffable feeling about the “what” that I want to start focusing on, and then my work will be about finding out exactly what it is that I’m trying to get to. It sounds murky, but for me it can be a wordless thought process through which I’m trying to get to my most authentic work; it is about feeling and energy and essence more than conceptual thought. Often it takes lots of bad studio days to figure out my next direction. I will have lots of bad starts and that feels pretty disheartening, but I just keep making things. And I can feel rather bereft when I put a series to rest, or if I’ve delivered new work for a show and am left to try to figure out the next big thing. Days of flipping through sketch journals and reading poems, writing, looking at colors (I have an enormous collection of color swatches from various sources), sitting quietly and staring (YES, I agree that staring into space is a VERY important part of studio practice); all of that helps move me forward. It’s not only about ending/beginning a series, but also about process and what moves process.

Lisa Pressman: I have always worked in a series. It dissolves the preciousness of each piece and always leads to growth and conversation between works. After working for so long now I am not sure a series can be called done. For myself, my vocabulary and imagery spirals around and appears years later, sometimes in surprising ways. That being said, I recently having focused my energy on a single image for two years and feel ready to move on or in through the image. In that sense the series may be on pause. However, I pulled out a selection of works that I thought I were finished and decided it might be interesting to make more work for that particular series. It begins again.

That single image that read as a vessel/bag has now become a Cairn (a pile of stones that marks a place, such as the place where someone is buried or a battle took place) I think of it as marking a place along the journey.

Pressman_Shifting Light_8x6_oil and mixed media

Lisa Pressman, Shifting Light, 8×6, oil and mixed media

Pressman_Cairn_38 x24_encaustic

Lisa Pressman, Cairn, 38 x24, encaustic

Tracey Adams: I’ve worked in series for many years, cycling through similar shapes (circles, ovoids, rectangles) finding permutations of each to develop and expand the motif. It’s not so much knowing I’m done with a series. I usually return some time later to do further work on that series. I like what Lisa said about putting it on “pause.” I have moments where I become restless and need to explore elsewhere, to deviate from the path. I don’t have an answer for how I start a new series. Last year, I was invited to be Visual Artist this summer at the Music at Menlo Chamber Music Festival.  My series, Revolution (2006-2008), was chosen for the poster, concert book, preview flyer, etc. I took that opportunity to return to working on that series. It has taken some interesting twists and turns since I began working on it in December. Red Tide is the latest in the series.

Adams_r(evolution) 7 (Red Tide), encaustic and collage on panel, 30x46, 2014

Tracey Adams, r(evolution) 7 (Red Tide), encaustic and collage on panel, 30″ x 46″, 2014

Adams_Revolution 34, encaustic and monoprint on 3 panels, 15x45, 2007

Tracey Adams, Revolution 34, encaustic and monoprint on 3 panels, 15″ x 45″, 2007

Marilyn Banner: I know when a series is done when I am bored or start to repeat myself or things start feeling stuck or stiff. Sometimes a series goes for two years, sometimes six months or so. To start something new I need to have an idea that excites me, makes me eager to get to work.

Deborah Martin: My work has always evolved around issues – and a series for me is the best way to explore. My last series “Save the Elephants” was prompted by what was happening to these beautiful, sensitive, intelligent creatures. I stopped investigating this when I really couldn’t progress any further. I then returned to my “Gulf of Mexico Series” which explores the continuing damage on the Gulf by the 2011 BP oil spill. Viewers still need to be reminded about the fragility of our environment.

Elise Wagner: My work is not always intended as a series but evolves into them as I work. I start with a loose framework, keeping past themes in mind that I reference in the present. In a way I have several series going on at once. I’m currently titling my new work for my July show and just yesterday saw a link between three of the pieces that will be titled “Astral Transits.”

Krista Svalbonas is a mixed-media artist based in Jersey City, NJ. Her studies include a BFA in photography and design from Syracuse University and an interdisciplinary MFA degree in photography, sculpture and design from SUNY New Paltz. Benefiting from her extensive training in a wide range of media, Krista experiments with traditional materials in unexpected ways. She is heavily influenced by her urban environment and focuses on color, composition and materiality when developing her abstract pieces. Currently, she is working with wax mixed media. Krista was recently awarded a New Arts Program Residency and solo exhibition. She has had numerous solo, two-person and group exhibitions throughout the United States. Recently, Krista has had solo exhibitions at the Dairy Center of the Arts in Boulder, Colorado and The Drawing Rooms in Jersey City, New Jersey. She has exhibited at venues including Pocket Utopia, The Painting Center, Trestle Gallery, and BWAC in New York; The Watchung Art Center in New Jersey; Monterey Peninsula Art Gallery in California; Tubac Center For The Arts, Arizona; George Segal Gallery, New Jersey. She was part of a two-year traveling group exhibition in Latvia, where her piece was acquired for the permanent collection at the Cesis Art Museum. She is a recipient of a Cooper Union and a Vermont Studio Center residency and has works in numerous private collections.