Conference 2


In The Conference's second year,  200 folks--many renewing friendships forged the previous year--attended an event that saw the New Endland temperature dip from a low of 45 on Friday night to a high of 95 by Sunday afternoon. Meteorologically speaking this was damned if you do and damned if you don't. But wax wielders are a hardy bunch--we do our best work over heat--so we forged ahead with a roster of some 40 talks and demos, three exhibitions, and an inspirational keynote by Kay WalkingStick.

Keynote and Panel

The Keynote
In a highly personal talk, WalkingStick, a pioneer in the medium of wax emulsion*, talked about the way her vision--landscape as a visual trope for the human body--has been expressed through a range of mediums, from wax to acrylic, oil and work on paper. It was a lovely. (Click here for my report on WalkingStick's New York City show that year.).

Kay WalkingStick, Remnant of Cataclysm, 1992, acrylic and wax with copper and oil on canvas, 28 x 56 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist
Kay WalkingStick addressing the conferees

The Saturday Morning Panel
This panel addressed the issue of Encaustic in the Press. How is encaustic viewed by critics and feature writers? Do they consider it with other painting or lump it into a different genre? These working writers discussed the issue:  Boston-based Shawn Hill, a critic who writes for Art New England and other publications in the region; Boston-based Christine Temin, until recently the longtime art critic for The Boston Globe and now critic at large for a variety of regional and national publications; and Manhattan-based Gail Gregg, who writes regularly for Art News. Altough I served as moderator, I also weighed in with my experience in magazine and book publishing. With three of the writers also artists (Hill, Gregg and I), there was perhaps an uncommon understanding and appreciation of encaustic, but everyone was open to the art of encaustic painting.

Saturday Morning Panel: Joanne Mattera, Shawn Hill, Christine Temin, Gail Gregg

The Exhibitions
The Diptych Project
Another highlight was The Diptych Project, a bicoastal initiative, conceived at Conference 1, which brought together artists from New England Wax and IEA. The objective: Two artists would each create two diptychs, thereby having sufficient work for exhibitions that could be shown more or less simultaneously on both coasts. Venues in Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine, were selected--not only talented but clever, these artists!--to present the project. Then the Maine show moved down the coast to Beverly, Massachusetts, where it was installed in the Hallway Gallery.
Two views of The Diptych Project, with viewers

To complement the exhibitions taking place on East and West Coasts, The Diptych Project artists created a catalog, compiled by artist Nancy Natale, one of the particpants. This was the first of many collaborative projects, large and small, that The Conference would inspire. (The Luminous Landscape collective, which remains active, met and formed at Conference 1 and would go on to have the Hallway show in Conference 3.) Below is the cover of The Diptych Project catalog, featuring work by Kim Bernard and Mari Marks in a design by Natale:

On the Edge
The juried show for Conference 2 was On the Edge, juried by Laura Moriarty, the widely exhibited painter/sculptor who directs the Gallery at R&F. The challenge to entrants was to push their work farther than they'd pushed it before--to get right up to the metaphorical abyss conceptually, or to push technique, or to simply expand out of their comfort zone. Moriarty chose the work of Susanne Arnold for the Juror's Award. Shana Dumont, from the college, selected Lorraine Glessner. And I selected the work of Shelley Gilchrist for the Director's Award, pictured below. (I'm relying on my own pictures, rather than those taken by the institution, so my image bank is limited. If you have pics to share, please let me know via the Comments section.)

A view of On the Edge, with work from, left to right: Shelley Gilchrist, Cari Hernandez, Howard Hersh and Kim Bernard

 Shelley Gilchrist received the Director's Award for this painting

Howard Hersh's dimensional painting

Another view of On the Edge, looking from the back to the front of the gallery: In the distance, paintings by Lynda Litchfield, two by Lorraine Glessner and two by Rodney Thompson; in the foreground, a painting by an artist I can't identify (let me know who you are; you need to be credited for this fabulous painting!), and Karen Freedman

Hue Again
I was invited to have a solo show, Hue Again, in the Schlosberg Gallery of the college. Leonie Bradbury and Shana Dumont curated the exhibition, which featured a selection of paintings from 2005 to 2008. It was an honor to be able to share this work with my Conference colleagues. Artist and filmmaker Laura Tyler wrote this in her blog post about my paintings: "They have an expansive, emotional quality that reminds me of sound or singing." I love that.

Joanne Mattera: Paintings from the Silk Road series, foreground and background; the large four-panel painting in the center is Ciel Rouge, 2006, encaustic on panel, 48 x 67 inches

Talks and Demos
There were two-and-a-half days of demos and talks, and a Conference first: three days of Post-Con workshops. The Conference was originally conceived for Saturday and Sunday, with Friday as a leisurely "arrival day." But so many conferees arrived on Friday the first year--some on Thursday morning after red-eye flights from the West Coast--that we implemented a Friday afternoon program for Conference 2.  Julie Shaw Lutts was one of the Friday presenters, offering a program on 3-D Assemblage, and she did it with her right thumb bandaged like a sausage over stitches because she'd sliced it the night before.

Julie Shaw Lutts in the background, with a view of one of her works
Photo courtesy of Linda Womack

Russell Thurston introducing pigments and other materials into the surface

Cindy Stockton Moore discussing substrates and grounds

Richard Frumess and John Dilsizian discussing paint and wax (note the grim mood--just kidding)

Linda Womack demonstrating surface textures

Conference demo: Kathryn Bevier showing the use of hot tools

Conference demo/talk: Hylla Evans on color. What's new? A whole class of new pigments that may change what we think we know about color mixing 

Post-Conference Workshops
This was the first year of "Post-Con," three days of workshops following the weekend Conference. With conferees traveling from as far away as the West Coast and the U.K., the request was for more, more, more opportunities to continue learning.

Karen Freedman getting into it in George Mason's Monoprinting with Stencils workshop. (Those are Mason's stencils in the background)

Ted Loomis, in from the Pacific Northwest, working in (I think) Tracy Spadafora's Collage workshop

Alexandre Masino demonstrating the encaustic still life

Below: In the hallway discussing work made in Miles Conrad's Off the Wall sculpture workshop.
Some of the work made in this workshop would become part of Wax and Wane, an experimental exhibition curated by Miles Conrad the following year
Photo courtesy of Linda Womack

The Vendor Room
Another highlight of the Conference was the Vendor Room which brought together our favorite manufacturers of paint,  Enkaustikos, Evans Encaustics and R&F Handmade Paints,along with Rodney Thompson Panels and Linda Womack's book, Embracing Encaustic

Piper and Hylla Evans, center, of Evans Encaustics, with Charyl Weissbach, left, and Binnie Birstein looking on
Photo courtesy Linda Womack

Rodney Thompson Panels in the foreground, with R&F Paints in the distance
Photo courtesy of Linda Womack

Yielding to temptation at the R&F table

Below: Womack selling her book, Embracing Encaustic, which she wrote with her husband, William Womack

Additional blog posts on Conference 2:
. Linda Womack's Embracing Encaustic posts Day 1, Days 2 & 3, more, and more
. Laura Tyler's Exploring the Material World 

-- J.M.

 * Wax emulsion: a mix of beeswax and water combined into paste by means of a stabilizer, often ammonia. As a water-based emulsion, wax in this form can be used with acrylic paint.