In 1976, after studying and teaching art history, I decided to focus on the creation and study of paintings. In graduate school in New Mexico I encountered an area of deadfall timber in the Sandia Mountains that served as subject matter for drawings, photographs, and paintings and continues to inform many compositions. A series of works based on this landscape (i.e. logs) involved flattening and emphasizing diagonal dynamics (“constructs”). I worked “non-objectively” during the 1980’s and the first half of the 1990’s, incorporating more organic forms and often including a simplified head or mask shape (“encounters”).
In 1987 I discovered encaustic and have been using it ever since (I also use oil paint and other mediums). Close-up views of trees have been frequent subjects since the mid 1990’s (“trees”). Many involve syntheses of organic tree forms with geometric forms (“hybrids”), distantly echoing early experiences of prairie landscape configurations of farm buildings and trees.
In these “hybrids,” I apply multiple layers of hot-wax paint and use incising, scraping, collage, glazing and other manipulations unique to encaustic to activate the surface. By combining representational and non-representational form languages, I express the tension between opposing tendencies: the spontaneous, intuitive, and unrestrained (represented by nature) and the rational, ordered, and disciplined (represented by rectilinear geometry). This duality is also reflected in the tension between the painting’s surface and the illusion of depth, between thick and thin paint, between smooth and rough textures, and between naturalistic and non-naturalistic color. The interruptions of the natural world created by colored rectangles or stripes also suggest the incursions of mankind into the environment.
I am particularly captivated by the relationships of positive and negative spaces created by tree trunks and branches. The unique properties of the temperature-based encaustic medium are seen in paintings where lines are melted through layers of paint (“glyphs”). Many paintings include collaged fragments of encaustic monotypes, often including words that reference landscape elements and environmental threats (“hybrids” and “threatened environment”). Non-narrative and non-poetic, the words parallel formal elements in the way they trigger multiple associations, both individually and when assimilated in varying sequences.
I also create encaustic monotypes that echo the paintings. They often involve charcoal drawing transfers or using Duralar as an alternate printing surface. Reflecting on my love of nature led me to express concern for the future health of the environment. And a recent series of monotype prints, called Covid Trees, references the current pandemic.
NOTE: Encaustic painting is an ancient and highly permanent technique in which the vehicle or binder is beeswax. Unlike linseed oil or synthetic resin (e.g. acrylic) binders which dry to harden, the beeswax is heated until molten, mixed with dry pigments to make paint, and, when applied to the painting, cools and hardens instantly. When the painting is completed, the entire surface is reheated to fuse the layers and bond them to the support. This is called burning-in, which is the literal meaning of encaustic. Although the surface is not as tough as an oil film, encaustic paintings do not darken or yellow with age. Portraits made in the Fayoum district of Egypt as early as the 1st century A.D. are as fresh as if they were painted yesterday. The adhesive qualities of wax also make it an ideal medium for collage.
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