Conference 1

The Encaustic Conference began modestly in 2007 at Montserrat College of Art, a small art school north of Boston, with 18 events, a panel discussion of art professionals, another of technical experts, and me as your keynote speaker. When I took the stage to welcome 140 artists from across North America and Latin America, their energy flowed over me. Stage performers talk about this phenomenon, but I had no idea it really existed, or that it could be so powerful. That weekend was a euphoric family reunion of people who were meeting for the first time.

That's me giving the keynote, "Almost Mainstream After 2000 Years." The image above is of a krater, circa 350 B.C., which shows a painter applying encaustic to a marble statue. (The krater had been recently returned to view in the newly renovated Greek and Roman wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and I'd made the trip uptown the previous week to photograph it especially for the talk)

Keynote and Panels
The keynote talk and the Saturday Morning Panel are the two times when everyone comes together as a group. My thinking with these two events is to offer complementary programs that expand our thinking about encaustic--ideally in opposite directions--thereby broadening the perception of what the medium offers and what it can be. 

The Keynote
I gave the keynote address, Almost Mainstream: 2000 Years of Encaustic Painting. Before the lights dimmed I talked a bit about having visited Jasper John’s studio in 1986, back when encaustic was, as he put it, "an archaic medium." I showed images from ancient history--beginning with the bees on a sculpture of Diana of Ephesus in the Archeological Museum in Naples, a Greek krater showing one of the few images from the ancient world of an artist painting in encaustic, and of course, the Fayum portraits--then jumped to John’s paintings from the Fifties, jumped again to the Seventies and Eighties with paintings by Kay WalkingStick, Rachel Friedberg, and Michelle Stuart, and followed with work from the past few years. The medium is what links us, but it is our individual vision that sustains the work, wax or no wax.

Saturday Morning Panel
With art of history the theme of the keynote, for this panel I invited a distinguished group of art-world professionals to address a most contemporary issue:  Encaustic: State of the Art. Artist and art professor Timothy McDowell (Connecticut College); curator Katherine French (Danforth Museum, Framingham, Mass.); paintmaker Richard Frumess (R+F Paints, Kingston, New York), gallerist Hope Turner (Arden Gallery, Boston); and critic/curator/editor Barbara O'Brien (former editor in chief of Art New England and then-director of the Trustman Gallery at Simmons College, Boston); with me as moderator, addressed contemporary issues in our contemporary medium.

O'Brien broke the ice when she said that until she was asked to be on the panel, she hadn't really thought much about encaustic. She'd had some inchoate ideas about it being somehow secondary in the hierarchy of painting, so she was surprised to see the quality and variety of good work being done in the medium. In that regard, she said, "I guess it's like racism. I was being racist about encaustic."  (She proved to be such a hit with conferees that she would return for Conference 3 as the keynote speaker.)

Each speaker brought insights and information to the audience. French noted that curators, often overworked, may never get to all the submissions packages that are sent to them., Her advice: Familiarize yourself with the museum's exhibitions and programs, introduce yourself at the opening, let the curator know you're interested without dominating her time. She's more likely to open a package from an artist she has met and knows to be familiar with the institution.

Turner offered insight into the rejection process. "No means no for now," she said, clarifying that "the gallery's needs may change, your work may change." Additional advice: "If a dealer asks you to follow up, follow up." 

Frumess, talked about the efforts of R&F Handmade Paints to provide place for artists to show their work in encaustic. To that end the company founded Encaustic Works, a biennial exhibition juried by curators, dealers and well-known artists, and maintains a gallery space, directed by Laura Moriarty, within its factory.

McDowell, a working artist, let the audience in on a secret as regards insurance when shipping art: "I identify the work as a hand-painted sign." Signs, he explained, can be covered by insurance whereas artwork typically is not.
. .
The Saturday Morning Panel has been a fixture of The Conference since the beginning.  The topic this first year: Encaustic: State of the Art. 
From left: JM, Tim McDowell, Katherine French, Richard Frumess, Hope Turner and Barbara O'Brien
(With the school's lack of an auditorium, we convened at the Unitarian church a few buildings away)

A Technical Panel in the Afternoon
Wax, Paint, Substrates and Grounds addressed the state of the art in material terms, from proper melting temperatures of wax and its adhesion to various surfaces, to the properties of pigments, to issues with mixed media and more. Our experts included artist Ed Angell, recently retired owner of the largest independent prop house in Hollywood; artist Hylla Evans, owner of Evans Encaustics, a paint manufacturer in Sonoma, California; John Dilsizian, a second-generation wax refiner, whose clients have included artists as well as cosmetic manufactuers and NASA; and painter and panel maker Rodney Thompson, with Eileen Goldenberg as moderator.

Eileen Goldenberg, Ed Angell, Hylla Evans, John Dilsizian and Rodney Thompson

The Exhibition
The juried show, called Hot Stuff, was selected by Zola Solamente, director of the Arden Gallery in Boston. The idea for the first exhibition in the first year of The Conference was simply to show the range of ideas being expressed in the medium. Linda Womack wrote about the exhibition on her blog, Embracing Encaustic, which contains many pics of the wor in this show. You'll find links to other Conference posts as well.

View at the opening of Hot Stuff, juried by Zola Solamente, director of the Arden Gallery, Boston

Talks and Demos
Demonstrations and talks were a large part of The Conference as well. Presenters included beekeepers Abby Heim and Stephanie Williams, who brough a hive into the building (!); Reni Gower, who discussed this issue of artists curating; George Mason, who demonstrated his technique of printing stencils on a heated palette; James Meyer, painter and  long-time assistant to Jasper Johns, who talked about his work and that of his well-known employer; Paula Roland, who demonstrated monotypes on the HotBox, her patented system for heating an anodized aluminum surface with 100-watt lightbulbs set inside the box (a revelation to most conferees that year!) and others..

Above: Paula Roland demonstrating the art of the encaustic monotype

Beow: George Mason introducing stencils into the monoprint process

 The Vendor Room
I've pieced these images together from my files and borrowed  from Linda Womack's blog, see links below. Each year the Vendor Room would play a larger role at The Conference. In 2010 Shelley Gilchrist would hit the mark when she called it "encaustic heaven." 

Gina Adams, demonstrating at the R&F table

Anne Cavanaugh pondering her selections at the Enkaustikos table, as Kathryn Bevier looks on

Hylla Evans, paintmaker and owner of Evans Encaustics, with her daughter Piper, foreground, surrounded by artists

Below: a selection of Evans Encaustics
Photo courtesy of Linda Womack

Paula Roland demonstrating monotype making on her patented HotBox
(Guess who bought those two boxes?)

Rodney Thompson selling his panels

The Wrapup
At the Conference wrapup on Sunday afternoon, after various affinity groups had met individually and communally, Kim Bernard, president and founder of New England Wax, and Sandi Miot, vice president of the San Francisco-based IEA, presented their idea to the gathered conferees: The Diptych Project, an initiative involving members from both groups in the creation of two-panel paintings that would be exhibited in venues from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine. The project would also be exhibited at Conference 2. 

West meets East: Sandi Miot and Kim Bernard announcing The Diptych Project at the Conference wrapup on Sunday afternoon


Blog Reports
You can read my day-by-day reports here
Linda Womack's reports of the Hot Stuff and my keynote

1 comment:

Lynette Haggard said...

This is a fun little retrospective that jogs my memory banks. Thanks for sharing.