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‘RADIANT: Contemporary Encaustic’ on display at Slocumb Galleries

Encaustic images

JOHNSON CITY (September 4, 2013) – Once an obsolete technique, encaustic (hot wax) art is finding new life as a mainstream art medium, and an East Tennessee State University art gallery is making an exhibition of these works available for art patrons to view. 

“RADIANT: Contemporary Encaustic” is on display at Slocumb Galleries through Sept. 20. 

Two free public lectures will be held in conjunction with “RADIANT: Contemporary Encaustic.”

In the first, encaustic artist Jane Allen Nodine will speak during the exhibit reception, which will be held Thursday, Sept. 12, from 5:30-7 p.m.  Nodine will also present a demonstration for ETSU art students on Friday, Sept. 13.

In the second lecture, Catherine Murray, chair of the ETSU Department of Art and Design and an encaustic artist, will discuss encaustic as an art form on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. at Slocumb Galleries.  This talk is part of the new “Art-i-Fact” discussion series, which will feature gallery talks and informative discussions about art every third Thursday during the fall semester.  (The series will continue in the spring 2014 semester on the fourth Thursday of each month, either at Slocumb Galleries or at the Tipton Gallery in downtown Johnson City.)

The works in “RADIANT” feature the unusual surface, luminous color and ethereal image layering that are unique to the encaustic medium.  Artists use such techniques as scraping, burning, burnishing, incising, dipping and dyeing of hot wax, often in combination with painting, printmaking, drawing, collage, sculpture or installation art.

“While diverse in approach, numerous conceptual links connect our interest in this malleable material,” curator Reni Gower said.  “Buried images, fragmented hybrids or hidden codes of natural and industrial order all translate into works infused with a physically poetic beauty.

“The exhibition resonates with sensual materiality,” she continued.  “The aromatic scent of honeyed beeswax is an intoxicating perfume.  Tactile surfaces reveal unique traces of the hand, while gleaming color fused with intricate markings orchestrate striking visual chords.”

Both Gower and Nodine are among the artists whose works are featured in the exhibition.

Gower, who hails from Mechanicsville, Va., paints, stamps or scrapes away many layers of wax over buried images and texturally collaged surfaces in her abstract works that “blend fluid improvisation with repetition to create complex images that counter visual skimming.  By design, this measured, more contemplative experience intentionally offsets a media-saturated culture that is increasingly chaotic, fragmented and impersonal.”

Nodine, a Spartanburg, S.C., artist inspired by natural phenomena, works with such processes as rusting, burning and mono-printing to generate organic marks and natural patterns.  Her pieces are comprised of overlapping layers of paper, pigment and wax, top-coated with thin layers of lacquer that she ultimately lights on fire.  By controlling the burn, she creates tortoise shell-like patterns that flow across the surface of her work.

Six additional artists are represented in “RADIANT.”

Kim Bernard of North Berwick, Maine, incorporates encaustic in her sculpture as solid movable forms cast in wax or as batik-like resists on fiber.  In “Wave Phenomena II,” she “captures images of sound” on discs suspended from the ceiling, layering “melodies and counterpoints” much like a musical composition.

Kristy Deetz carves, burns and paints with oil and encaustic on wooden surfaces, putting into new context traditional images of drapery by exploring ways it can cover and render or be a barrier between the interior and exterior.  The DePere, Wis., resident’s work is “drawn from Italian Renaissance references (and) is the most realistic and narrative in the exhibition.”

Peter Dykhuis of Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada, also works with narrative, but “from a more private perspective instilled with social-political overtones.”  His newest series begins with personal lists, envelopes and notes collaged onto clipboards and intermixed with maps, templates and business forms.  He “modifies the language of computers (repetition, layering and dissolution) to critique social media” and “examines the contradictions of our culture.”

Rockledge, Pa., artist Lorraine Glessner explores the impact of urban and suburban communities on the environment, “echoing cycles of death and regeneration.”  In her work, an initial drawing is generated through such destructive processes as burning, branding or staining, then supplemented with layers of distressed, found or printed materials.  These are collaged and submerged within translucent layers of wax, onto which stenciled ornamental and geometric forms are added to provide structure and clarity.

Heather Harvey’s wax and plaster pieces are “hybrid forms that reside somewhere between painting and sculpture.  The organic softness and bruised coloration of the wax overlaid upon the hard, chalky white plaster suggests putrid flesh and bleached bones, (while) her installation ‘Lost in a Dream’ conjures spiraling galaxies and supernovas.  Whether seen as exploding energy or natural decay, her work suggests transformation and the intrinsic order of the universe.”  Harvey lives in Easton, Md.

Jeffrey Hirst of Richardson, Texas, works from a printmaker’s perspective, using etched lines, wiped plates and screened image fragments combined with incised lines, transparent color, poured wax and collage.  He also “inserts a degree of unpredictability through the use of power tools, which creates a tactile surface or element of chance.”

New fall semester hours for Slocumb Galleries, located in Ball Hall, are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, with extended hours for receptions and scheduled tours.  All events are free and open to the public.

For more information or special assistance for those with disabilities, contact Karlota Contreras-Koterbay, Slocumb Galleries director, at (423) 483-3179 or .