Encaustic relief

Discovering a box of old family letters in my family's basement would change the way I painted and how I thought about my work. There were stacks of letters bound i twine according to who sent them. They dated back as far as 1919 through 1946. Many of these letters reference the dust bowl days of Texas and the Great Depression. I come from a family of cattlemen and farmers who were dependent on the weather for their survival. Loss of crops due to droughts and tough conditions in raising cattle are common themes coupled with money problems. These problems are not mine, but I couldn't help relate them to obstacles and set backs that we all have.

Encaustic is a medium that can be worked flat or sculpturally. One of its many attributes is it can retain any stress mark or scrape once it cools. It has an innate feature for documentation. These letters; represent a period of suffering, loss and endurance in our country, and for me, the intricately-worked encaustic shrouds became metaphors for struggle and change. Layers of wax literally cover up the past. I peel them back to reveal a portion of what once was. Revealed,exhumed,manipulated,up-ended,exposed-all of these actions give me a sense of freedom, and the ability to step outside myself. Seemingly destructive to the surface, the peeling plays a positive role in removing a build up and seeing what has been lying dormant. It holds a stratum of time much like the earths core. Most recently, I have started to use patterns below the surface to symbolize the pathways that shape a life. They have a structure that feels like bones to me. 

The depth created working this way is jarring to me, confrontational, alluring and frightening. There is risk involved, but the presence of this relief work conveys a sense of resilience and life. It speaks with a boldness and beauty which is also fragile. 

Free forms and Wraps

The Free forms developed organically as a result of being lured and captivated by the relief forms that were curling off the surface. Seemingly coming to life, I felt like my studio was filled with life forms when I started the encaustic relief series and wanted to take it a step further into pure abstract form. Alive in color and movement, these new free forms also retained visual layering and scarring. Figuring out how to attach the wax to a substrate so they could hang on the wall, took some brainstorming before I could begin. The larger I got they became exceedingly difficult to manage so I have not ventured into any size beyond 20” x 20”. The wax as it cools becomes less flexible and to work any larger, I think I would need a crew!

The wraps are another exploration in the wax material and abstract form using a base of plywood or a cradled wooden panel to wrap the wax around. It eliminated a step of fusing the form to a panel and could allow me more freedom to attach the wrapped form to a painting in progress.

Constructions and Missing Pieces

The Missing Pieces are another extension of the relief series adding wooden layers and exploring shape in a more controlled way. They also speak metaphorically of times when you feel like something is missing, perhaps during change and struggle or the aftermath.  Angled and amorphic shapes emerge and grow as I cut sections away and mount them in an overlapping manner to create a sense of movement with the constructed composition. All of these begin as sketches and evolve as I work them.