Friday, March 21, 2014

Infinite Deep

 Infinite Deep, enaustic and mixed media on panel, 12" x 12", 2014

I am the boundless ocean.
This way and that,
The wind, blowing where it will,
Drives the ship of the world.
 But I am not shaken.

I am the unbounded deep
In whom the waves of all the worlds
Naturally rise and fall.
 But I do not rise or fall.

 I am the infinite deep
In whom all the worlds
Appear to rise.

Beyond all form,
Forever still.

Even so am I.

-From The Heart of Awareness
  (a translation of The Ashtavakra Gita) by Thomas Byrom

It's been many months, many cold months, since last I posted here.  The days and weeks seem to fly by in a flurry of activity.  Even so, I find time each week to be in the studio making.  Recently I have hungered for color.  I'm experimenting with drawing in wax and bringing old collage techniques to my encaustic work.  It's a good time of year for experimenting, trying out new techniques, pushing myself. 

The piece above is a donation to The Telling Room, a nonprofit writing center in Portland, Maine.  Their big annual fundraiser Glitterati is this coming week.  In May, I will have work at "Portland Framed," a fundraiser for Creative Portland and Two Degrees Portland, nonprofits dedicated to the creative economy in Maine. 

And in really big news--works from The Diptych Project II, a collaborative art project featuring 40 artists from New England and the Midwest that I've been overseeing since last summer, will have be on exhibition at Engine Gallery in Biddeford, Maine this summer.  I will also be doing an artist talk and demo in conjunction with the show.  More details soon.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Zen Bell

Zen Bell IV, encaustic & mixed media on panel, 16" x 16", 2013

The Zen Bell series is particularly compelling to me these days, as it is about relationship to the self--to both the broken and the shining parts of the self.  I am thinking about that subject a lot this month while I watch the leaves falling to the ground and the colors fading to sepia toned, as November nears and my birthday approaches, bringing with it the arbitrariness of numbers.  

It's not a particularly big deal birthday, I'll be entering the last year of my 30s.  Nevertheless, cycling toward the end of a decade makes me more contemplative than usual.  And we're moving, which means going through stuff and giving stuff away and recycling stuff.

Dusting off a nightstand last weekend, I pulled out an old journal and flipped open its pages.  It was startling to me to read.  How truly divided and unhappy I was in my late teens and early 20s, especially in contrast to my nearly 40ish self.  While I don't go sailing blissfully through my days now, my struggles are small ones and my joys are magnified in comparison.  I bounce back easier, let things go more quickly, beat myself up hardly at all, and appreciate many more small pleasures in daily life.

In the studio, I work intuitively and focus heavily on technique.  As with so much of my work, I often don't understand what I'm doing until I stand back afterward and study it.

And so it struck me this morning while I was looking at Zen Bell IV that it offers a wonderful, hidden metaphor.  It is composed from two separate metal pieces--one found on my way to work and one found later that same day on my ride home.

Overlapping these pieces and then filling in the cracks with copper metallic oil pigment, I find that I have created one fully integrated piece.  The past and present meet and merge in a unified present.  They are whole together, not separate, no longer broken. 

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There's a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.

-Leonard Cohen

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Material Matters

It's been a busy last few months and fall is showing no signs of letting up anytime soon.  I'm excited to share that I'm part of a group show at the Portland Public Library in the Lewis Gallery.  This exhibition features works in encaustic using fabric or metal by member of New England WAX.

Locus III, encaustic & mixed media on panel, 18" x 18", 2013

I'll have seven pieces in the show, including Locus III (above), from my series about the push and pull dynamics that occur over time in a long-term committed relationship; Zen Bell II (below), from my series about the challenges inherent in working with the broken or wounded parts of oneself; and Circle I (bottom), which speaks to the way community and family hold us together, even if at times that feels like it limits our choices. 

Both Zen Bell II and Circle I were made using found objects.  The metal scraps in the Zen Bell series were all discovered during bike commutes to and from work last summer, and Circle I was created from a strip of weathered roofing nails Kelly found high in a tree while pruning.

Zen Bell II, encaustic & mixed media on panel, 14" x 14", 2013

I'm really enjoying being in the studio these days.  This past year as part of my shift from a downtown Portland studio to a barn studio in West Falmouth, I also moved from working more frequently for shorter time periods, to working one day a week for 7-8 hours.  I made this decision partially for pragmatic reasons and partially based on my experience of deep immersion during my residency at the Stephen Pace House in 2012.

Longer hours in the studio allow for more reflection and greater intention.  I am also more productive.  Though at times it has been hard to say no to friends' invitations to do fun seasonal things (apple picking! hiking!), I recognize that if I am to continue to grow as an artist, I must carve out and make sacred this time in the studio.

Circle I, encaustic & mixed media on panel, 8" x 8", 2013

The groundedness I am finding in my studio practice is also radiating out into other aspects of my life.  I have enjoyed the turning of the seasons this year like no other.  I keep taking long walks and noticing all the small changes in the leaves.  It's getting colder.  The trees are getting barer.  Soon the ground will freeze and snow will turn everything white.  I keep hearing these lines from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf in my head: 

What makes us go on? 
What sends roaring up in us … that immeasurable delight to surprise us? 
Than nothing can be slow enough… nothing lasts to long. 
You want to say to each moment: “Stay!” “Stay!” “Stay!”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

element: water

It's been months since I last posted--a clear indication of how busy life has been.  In addition to taking a series of 9 week woodworking classes to learn how to build frames for my work, I've been in the studio every chance I've had working on two shows.  The Path Back Home is still on view at 2 Note Botanical Perfumery on Exchange Street in Portland, Maine.  On September 5, element: water, a two-person show with my partner Kelly Palomera, opens at 3Fish Gallery on Cumberland Avenue in Portland, Maine.  As soon as element: water closes, I will have several pieces in a group show at the Portland Public Library titled Materials Matter, which focuses on the use of metal and fabric in encaustic work

I am also coordinating a national project between two regional encaustic organizations--New England WAX (which I am a member of) and FusedChicago.  The Diptych Project II will feature over 40 artists working in pairs to create a set of call and response pieces.  The project is scheduled to unfold over the coming year, and will--hopefully--result in multiple exhibitions.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mica panels

Panels of mica arranged in neat squares.  So satisfying to work with small symmetrical pieces--but very different than working with paper. 

I remember hunting for mica with my sister near our old elementary school when we were kids.  We were particularly fascinated with a drainage ditch with its damp earth and rusty tunnel.  We pulled mica apart in thin flakes and marveled at our treasure.  To us, it was as rare and wonderful as gold.

This mica is sourced from Asheville, NC where a dear friend of mine lives.  I like knowing I'm working with something that comes from near her.  I still marvel at the variations in color and I love the tiny air bubbles trapped between the mica and the wax.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


 Range I, encaustic, oil & nails on panel, 6"x 6", 2013

When I began working with encaustic a year ago, I had to get used to manipulating an entirely new medium.  I wasn't very skilled at fusing layers of wax and often ended up with lumpy, smeared, or uneven surfaces.  It was quite frustrating and also a little stressful, considering the cost of the product. 

Working with wax required a complete recalibration.  Experimentation was necessary, but on a smaller scale.  I could no longer collage or paint over a piece that didn't turn out the way I wanted it to--or easily peel back layers of acrylic and paper to create a cool distressed background.  Any irregularities in the first few layers only showed up larger and more apparent on the finished surface.

I still have an oatmeal can full of colored wax I scrapped off in strips hoping to start anew.  This can sits on my work station in my studio, where it serves as an ever present reminder to slow down, to work with intention to bring my visions to life. 

One of many outcomes of my 10 day residency in Stonington, Maine last September was this shift from a rapid production model to a more focused, slower pace.  I begin with an idea, test it, alter it, add to it.  These studies capture the essence of an idea on smaller scale.  And they are also more affordable. 

But more than anything else, it is pure enjoyment to be working in this manner.  I approach my studio like one might a temple.  I empty my mind, allowing the tensions of my day or week to fall away.  I turn on my hotplate.  While I wait for it to reach 200 degrees, I sweep the floor.  I arrange hand cut nail patterns on a sheet of clean white paper.  I clean my brushes and stretch.  When it's time to begin working, I am ready.  The work itself is my meditation practice.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Swing of Things

Back from a week in sunny California and coming on the tails of a whirlwind of a January, I am ready to get back into the studio and get to work.  I found out right before I departed that I was accepted into New England Wax--a regional encaustic organization.  I am excited to get involved with this group of like minded folks and hopefully cook up some great exhibitions and projects to showcase the contemporary encaustic arts.

We also had another great show by staff in the June Fitzpatrick Gallery, which came down last week.  It was quite well received and always a privilege to show work in June's gallery.

My partner Kelly and I are slowly making headway on our two person show slatted for September 2013 at 3 Fish Gallery on Cumberland Avenue in downtown Portland.  Kelly is working on several large oil landscapes and seascapes and I am beginning to see how our work might overlap and depart in a unique manner.  We already have several friends who have agree to play live music at our opening--a tribute to the wonderful community we have here in southern Maine.

The piece above is from my Windows series, which in turn is a spin off from my Path Back Home series.  I am interested in the idea of small windows of light and lives in an abstract way, focusing on color and shape.  Using handmade paper, wrapping paper, old stamps, maps, dictionaries, and just about any other paper based source that strikes my fancy, I fashion small squares and place them between thin layers of encaustic medium on a background of encaustic gesso.  The surface is textured with carving tools and finished with white oil pigment stick.

I'm quite fond of these little windows and also thoroughly enjoying the experience of working in series.  The whole concept of series allows me to continue to play with a basic concept, trying out new ideas or patterns, expanding or contracting the imagery, and shifting the design ever so slightly.  It's always surprised me how small changes can radically alter a space or piece.