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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Me and the Encaustic Boom

Over the past seven years working extensively with encaustic (the past ten as a painter, and as far back as I can remember: an artist), I have been witness to an explosion of artists and resources devoted to the wax medium. However great the onslaught of this boom is, it is not without cheap tricks and those only cashing in (so to speak) on encaustic’s unique qualities.

When I first started working with encaustic it was hard to find those artists and resources. Even at the time, I had a professor teaching her students encaustic; Marilynn Derwenskus she was a great inspiration and resource. Nowadays it has become a flood. With a flood it often brings garbage (lets call it debris, it’s not as harsh)…..and with a flood it often brings debris left in its wake. Truthfully if you look amongst all of this debris you might find something useful there and here. And things will miraculously survive (these survivors are the inarguable pillars/giants/artists; those who have poured heart and soul, those having strong foundations built high above the flood plain; e.g. Jasper Johns/the recognizable). Now the challenge or trick is to sort through all the pieces to find what is good.

Me: This piece of art is debris; it’s nothing but fanciful texture- tricks, it has no soul.

Friend: This one too, nothing but technique, technique, TECHNIQUE.

Me: We’ll never find anything.

Encaustic Boom: I found some!

Me and Friend: Shut up! That’s debris.

Friend: How will we know when we have something more?

Me: You just will. It’s like when those artists saw the sublime qualities of unspoiled country hundreds of years ago and painted the great American landscape; they were in ah.

Friend: Does that even exist anymore? And are we (people) even smart enough to recognize it?

Me: I found one!

Friend: Ooooo! Ahhh!

Anyway, as for artists such as myself it is becoming ever more difficult to sift and (this is the big one) be sifted from the “debris.” Sure, everything seems to have debris; however, encaustics new infancy has grown into an obnoxious teenager; a bastard in a basket (Sorry I just saw the movie “There Will Be Blood”). Debris is everywhere, it stinks, and it’s covered in mud, dirt and grime. OK, I admit that was a little harsh. There is a bright side to all of this, sunshine on the horizon, it isn’t all bad. Some of us (I like to think myself included) have built themselves a canoe. Sure, a canoe isn’t a sturdy high and dry foundation but it is a good start. Those of us in are canoes could just sit around, wait to be rescued, at least we’re not part of the debris. I think I will paddle around a bit.

Encaustic isn’t that special, it is what the artist does with it that is special. Sometimes debris is just debris; stop patronizing it and recognize it for what it truly is: DEBRIS. Just because someone has the resources: time, money, and the ability to bull-shit their backyard mess onto gallery walls, into magazines, and especially online- doesn’t make them Jasper Johns.

Encaustic is special (I know I said it wasn’t) but it is to some of us, ME. I know as a medium it has its faults and I know those faults from experience. But as a naturalist I feel it is nature friendly as a medium can be. I also don’t limit myself to it (because of that is the not so special thing I sorta brought up but don’t have time to get deeply into). I also don’t limit myself to it because it strength are in its flexibilities. I have to educate myself on ways to apply it to the many modes of expression I seek.

As for hopes of being sifted I have or am in the process of building this canoe (a website/blog take a look, let me know what you think, I am updating it as fast as a person can.

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