A Heated Exchange at SECAC

 

In early October, I was fortunate enough to leave a rather chilly Philadelphia for sunny Sarasota, Florida to attend and deliver a paper at the SECAC conference. (Southeastern College Art Association Conference) the conference theme was ‘From Handmade to High Tech’, a theme which resonated with me personally. As an artist my history is craft based, yet I have always used digital technology in some way to inspire and create my work. I was one of nine artists asked by moderators, Reni Gower and Kristy Deetz to speak on a panel, the subject of which was how each artist combined the slow process of encaustic painting with relatively speedy digital technologies. It was so interesting to hear how each artist uniquely integrated the two into their work and below is a brief synopsis of each artist’s talk.

Jane Nodine spoke of her elimination of toxic inks and solvents in favor of making marks with natural inks, plant materials and rust, in combination with technological printing aids. Her interesting talk was supplemented by rich images of her garden, studio, her process of creating and her student’s work.

Chris Keinke was the only artist on the panel whose work I was not familiar with and I was intrigued as he spoke about his thoughts and processes. The satellite ‘glitch’ photographed from the the television screen is where the inspiration begins and is then combined with layers of traditional painting materials. Years ago, i was somewhat obsessed with photographing glitches when they occurred on my TV, so i was quite taken with his work and inspired by how he tied these glitch events into contemporary painting ideas and practices. Also fun to see were the images of his studio and his giant, but very cool printer.

Cheryl Goldsleger‘s paper truly spoke to the theme of the panel in that she emphasized that even with the labor intensiveness of the encaustic medium, she has freedoms within the medium that allow her to express her thoughts in ways that no other medium can. Yet, alongside this slow process she utilizes 3D modeling and 3D printing technologies to achieve the desired compositional juxtapositions and effects in her work. Her talk was so interesting as she discussed her thoughts regarding the use of ancient and contemporary art making platforms to create her work.

Heather Harvey‘s work is so intriguing as she intertwines her background in archeology and her current practice in art. Her work is mainly site specific installations that integrate drawing, painting and sculpture and which involve the space between the wall and floor surfaces. Her talk was mainly focused on her new work which entails a fascinating process of the collection of disparate objects while walking through various locations, then reorganizing those objects as a cohesive whole.

I spoke about my new work and focused on my process of making it, which I started at my Jentel Residency this summer and have continued to develop since. The following is a brief excerpt from my talk.

My recent series of paintings begin with the process of digitally layering my photographs of cemetery flowers and facades of abandoned or nearly abandoned urban dwellings with Google Earth image captures of abandoned manufacturing, amusement and housing development sites. Based on these three or four images and a simple 5-10 step digital manipulation of those images, the digitized imagery allows me to design many variations of a compositional theme. Utilizing a digital projector and a pencil, I trace the shapes in the composition to a Mylar surface, systematically breaking down the composition into a graphic series of marks. I strive to capture every mark, every shape, and this process can take up to several hours. Working in gouache and attempting to follow the original composition, I interpret the marks in paint, however, something is always lost in translation. As I paint, I remove parts of the painting with a damp towel, leaving a vague residue from the original paint and pencil marks. Again, utilizing the projector and a pencil, I go about translating shapes from the digital composition back into the painting and repainting and wiping those shapes with gouache and towel. Through this repetitive process, the ghosts of the former pencil and paint marks interact with the new and I reflect on time, memory, the tenuous nature of life and human relationships, as well as my own mortality.

The Mylar painting is then mounted to wood and ready for the encaustic layers. A piece of rust or compost stained silk fabric is mounted over the Mylar to protect it from the heat of encaustic painting as well as contributing the content of the work. A visual narrative is formed as actual histories of the photographed abandoned sites are interwoven with my own memories and perceived imaginings about its history as I collage, brand and draw in response to the painting underneath. Each mark or shape takes on new form and new meaning, as the content shifts with the addition or subtraction of another element. As the process continues, the work becomes a manifestation of the compiling and arranging of fragments in repetitious sequences, creating a visual rhythm in the work. Through process, image, repetition layers, traditional tools and current image technology, my goal is to reflect on the intimacy of memory, the awareness of mortality and spiritual growth through loss.

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2 comments

    1. yes, harriet, there were nine scheduled. two people couldn’t make it, however their names and abstracts were listed. reni gower was on the panel as a moderator and spoke about each of the artists included in the heated exchange exhibition and kristy deetz was also on the panel as a moderator.

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