Title Image: Bonny Leibowitz
While I was teaching at Tyler School of Art, part of my departmental responsibilities was to curate the student shows each semester and the Annual Department Student Show in the Spring. It was an honor for me to showcase the fabulous work of select students from each course in the Fibers & Materials Studies Department and I have missed it terribly. I loved creating a visual narrative between disparate pieces of art, uniting them on one level, while maintaining the unique qualities and content of each on an individual level.
When I was asked to curate an exhibition of encaustic work for the Chester County Art Association, I was over the moon and agreed to do it without batting an eye. I was given absolute freedom to include any artist and work around any theme, it was almost overwhelming. I went back to the only place I know…my Fiber roots. I selected artist friends, former students and others whose work I long admired, I can’t wait to see their work come together. I invite all of you who are in the area to come by and see the show and hopefully, some of you can make it to the opening–some of the artists will be there and I will be giving a free encaustic demonstration! I will also be showing my experimental encaustic collages, books and sculptures in the smaller gallery (more about this show in a future post). Please read on for my curator’s statement, abbreviated statements of the included artists and a sampling of their work. Please note, that because most of work by each artist is specially created for this show, the work shown in this post is similar to, but not necessarily what will be included in the exhibition.
With Wax: Materiality & Mixed Media in Encaustic & Cold Wax
September 12-30, 2022
Opening Reception & Encaustic Demonstration, September 15, 6-8 pm
Chester County Art Association, West Chester, Pennsylvania
Encaustic is my primary medium because of its smell, it’s luminosity and tactile qualities that are unmatched by any other medium. Although encaustic is a painter’s medium, I approach working with it is as a craftsperson. To me, my work is not about the act of painting, but rather, to develop a deep engagement with my materials, to perfect my technique and support my content at the same time. There is a distinct process involved with working in encaustic; apply the paint, fuse the layers, then scrape back or add more paint. It’s like a dance or a poem as the creation and meaning of each step or verse hinges on the other. 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.
This collection of work by a few very accomplished artists from the United States and Canada, displays my ongoing interest in the fusing of fine art disciplines with craft and design-based materials and processes. As the layers of materials come together in the work, so do the concepts of drawing and painting, fiber and craft, art and design, memory and time.
A significant part of working in contemporary fiber/craft is the consideration of process and material and how these things relate to the content in the work. The artists selected for this show all possess a sensitive and symbiotic relationship with their materials as well as present thoughtful and meaningful content in their work.
Although the common thread in this exhibition is wax, wax is not the star of this show. Rather, this show is about stretching the boundaries of materiality by combining unusual materials, tactility and most importantly, engaging content. It was important to me to present serious art that is also inviting, warm and inspiring. Art that encourages the viewer to feel as well as think. I purposely kept the list of artists relatively small, so that each artist could exhibit a body of work rather than just one or two pieces. Most of the work by each artist is specially created for this show, most of it is being shown for the first time. I’m truly grateful to each artist for agreeing to participate in this show, for striving to show their best work, and for consistently growing, thinking and innovating, acting as an ongoing inspiration for me and countless other artists.
Anna Wagner Ott-Ottowa, Canada
Wagner-Ott’s cages/nests began at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Through those sculptures she interprets ideas of repression, entrapment, isolation and fragility using encaustic and mixed media. In 2022 she continues to create her nesting architectural forms but also integrates other materials such as Tyvek and her themes include the earth’s topologies.
Bonny Leibowitz –Texas, USA
I create objects and installations utilizing a variety of materials; plaster, encaustic, plastics, paper, foam, Tyvek, branches, roots, faux fur and wings, in ways that confuse the manufactured with the natural. I like to think of my work as fragments of a blown apart reality where forms collide and conjoin in myriad nuance and potential. “We are constantly creating the environment that creates us” – David Whyte
Alaina Enslen – New York, USA
I work with encaustic medium for its willingness to be transformed, fusing cloth and monotypes. The abstract collages that result are maps of my own making shaping the contours of memory and experience.
Angela Hansen -BC, Canada
Angela’s pieces are inspired by the fantastical sculptural imagination of Mother Nature and the creative myriad of plant life.
Kelly Sheppard Murray – North Carolina, USA
Kelly Sheppard Murray’s multimedia sculptural work fashions a wide range of polymorphic, multicolored structures that have their roots in natural forms. She draws from the shapes of plants, moss, lichen, fungi, shells and geological forms. Collecting hundreds upon hundreds of sculptural elements, Murray slowly and deliberately assembles her pieces for installation—each one a unique building block within the visual language she articulates within her exhibitions. By developing her own malleable visual idiom, Murray expresses her curiosity and invites that of her audience. Further, through her careful and consistent day-to-day addition of sculptural elements, she reminds us how small steps can have a significant impact on both our perceptions of the world and our environment itself.
Skyler McGee – Illinois, USA
Based on the sculptural quality of landscapes, this work explores the process of reorienting oneself after global and personal upheaval. Through mapping macro and micro perspectives, these sculptural paintings act as talismans of place, and vehicles through which to mark movement and find solid ground.
Lindsay Fort – Pennsylvania, USA
I am attracted to objects that show the evidence of time. In my work I develop surfaces and combine various found materials with an interest in style and age in visual culture.
Nancy Sanders – Georgia, USA
Nancy Sanders art draws from her inward journey of personal introspection
of deep separation, transformation, and connectedness. It explores the mystery of human life from a multidimensional context, providing the viewer with the possibility of self-reflection, and therefore the possibility of reconciliation.