Monday, July 2, 2012


In many ways the encaustic conference seems very long ago, while in others, it feels like just yesterday. But the fact is that it was nearly a month ago and I've been negligent in posting images from the two post-conference workshops I taught on Wax + Bricolage.

A work by Lenore Tenenblatt

On Thursday, June 7th, we had a full house with ten participants in the workshop at Castle Hill Center for the Arts in Truro, Mass. Everyone got a mystery box with five or six types of items such as spring clips, a necklace, thumbtacks, a plastic scrubby and pearlescent shell pieces. There was also a 9" x 12" cradled panel in the box. The rules were that for the first panel, no additional objects could be added, but materials such as string, wire, oil paint, thread, and so on could also be used. Not all objects from the mystery box had to be used. For encaustic, we had seven colors: Cadmium Red Deep, Alizarin Orange, Cadmium Green Pale, Green Gold, Cobalt Blue, Titanium White, Ivory Black. (By the way, I should say that paint and medium were generously donated to the workshop by R&F Paints, Evans Encaustics and Enkaustikos so that the materials fee could be reduced.)

Here are photos of students with the works they made. Note that for their second panel, an 8" x 8" square, everyone had access to the giant bin of Stuff that I brought or they could use materials that they brought.
Note: click to enlarge the photos so you can get a better look at the works.

Amy Hannum

Connie Bigony

Helen Dannelly

Kathy Cosgrove

Kay Hartung

Lenore Tenenblatt

Lera Cavanaugh

Lisa Zukowski

Maria Lara-Whelpley

Missing from this line up is Gayle Abernathy who participated in both this class and the one on Friday, so her photo is included in the next post.

I thought the work in this class was really great. We had a group critique after the first panels were finished  just before lunch and went back to work recharged. In most cases, the second panel that people made really benefited from studying what had occurred in the first one. It was also surprising that most people found themselves using the same color palette again that they had chosen for the first panel.

As you look at the works below, please note that the object of the workshop was to make works of art rather than a bunch of stuff on a panel. These works are all carefully considered, made with restraint and imagination and have used the found objects to enhance the works rather than dominate them.

Here are some completed works from the class.

Kathy Cosgrove's work 1 - excellent use of materials! That red webby
stuff is the scrubby that she cut apart and the black horizontal lines are pieces
of cord that she cut from the necklace. The spring clips are assembled
in a line that ends in wiry coils.

Kathy Cosgrove work 2 - great color in this one as well as shapes

Helen Dannelly's work 1 - that thin black thread connecting the one red
thumbtack really brings the work alive.

Lera Cavanaugh's work 2 - this was not really bricolage, but a great use of
Barbie artifacts nonetheless.

Connie Bigony's work 2 (I also thought her first piece was quite successful but I
took a blurry photo - sorry!)

Kay Hartung's work 2 - Kay combined maps with dimensional materials but
still retained the feeling of terrain. The heavier black line on top broke through the
dimensional plane and brought a very different feeling to the work.

Lisa Zukowski work 1 (very hard to photo both black and white)

Lisa Zukowski work 2 - Lisa said she was not normally a minimalist, but these
strong works showed that perhaps she should pursue this  approach

Maria Lara-Whelpley's work 2 - I tried to shoot this to show the dimension that Maria got
into this work. The darker soldiers at bottom stood out 3" or so from the panel.

Lenore Tenenblatt's work 2 again - I really loved this piece because I've been dying for
someone to use the little stuffed animals and fuzzy balls I had in my bin.  Lenore's use
of green felt under it all changed the shape of the panel into a quirky setting for  all
that fuzzy stuff on top.

I apologize for leaving out images of work by Amy Hannum and for my too-few-pixels iPhone photos. Thanks to everyone for a great class!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pre-Conference Workshop - Wax + Bricolage

I'm back from 12 days of the Annual Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, Mass. and a sustained period of more shows, workshops, talks, discussions, demos, presentations, panels and art bonding than can be imagined. This year, the sixth consecutive year of The International Encaustic Conference, under the Directorship of Joanne Mattera, in partnership with Cherie Mittenthal of the Castle Hill Center for the Arts, was a rousing success. It was so jam-packed with "All Waxing, No Waning" that it has taken me a week to come down from that all-pervasive waxy cloud I found myself on when I got back home. Whew!

Far in the distance: the Provincetown Monument. Up close: the unspoiled waters of Cape Cod.

I would like to show you a little of what went on in the three workshops I taught on Wax + Bricolage at Castle Hill. This year, as at last year's conference, I distributed to each student a mystery box of found objects along with two small wooden panels. However, unlike last year, the number of objects for the first panel were limited to six different types and each box had the same objects with slight variances in colors.

10 workstations ready to go

Wax stations

Tools laid out and ready to use

Another view of tools, colored gesso, paper, etc.

The stack of mystery boxes

This year, students were also assigned a theme for the first panel which was A Relationship Between or Among (which could also be considered a dialogue, a contrast, a comparison or a juxtaposition). Some suggested pairings for the theme were:

Geometric/lyrical or expressive

There were some other simple rules and I stressed that, as always with such an assignment, editing is probably the most important consideration in making a work To assist with this, I limited the time to a bit less than two hours for the first of two panels and to allow time for a critique/discussion of the works.

A wall with the first panels completed

Unfortunately, I guess I needed to get my teaching hat on because I forgot to photograph each student individually with their work. However, I do have images of each of the works. I believe I have the names of the artists matched correctly with their panels, but I hope people will let me know if I have made errors.

I'm going to show you both panels made by each student because I think that after making the first piece, some lessons were learned about planning, editing and simplicity. (I apologize for my iPhone photography which leaves a lot to be desired.) By the way, although the first 9" x 12" panel was made with just the objects from the mystery boxes, the second 8" x 8" panel was made using objects from my Overflowing Bin of Weird Stuff and there was no limit on what could be selected. There was also no assigned theme.

Bob Dodge #1 and #2

Add caption

Corina Alvarezdelugo #1 and #2

Dianne Miller #1 and #2

Dora Ficher #1 and #2

Idee Schoenheimer #1 and #2

Joan Lewis #1 (she only made one)

Karma Kitaj #1 and #2

Margaret Bertrand #1 and #2

Natalie Salminen #1 and #2

Supria Karmakar #1 and #2

A very important part of the workshop was putting the work up on the wall, looking at it and then discussing the pieces in a formal analysis, also talking about how the works were made, what the artist's intentions were, how they were seen by viewers, and thinking about what could be changed or done differently and why some pieces were more resolved than others.

In between it all we had plenty of time for laughter and having fun. Thanks to everyone for participating and making it a great class!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Coming Soon To A Conference Near You

Well, it will be near you if you are in Provincetown, at least. Yes, The Conference is nearly here - it begins officially on Friday, June 1st, at the Provincetown Inn in Provincetown, Massachusetts. But some of us will be going early and staying late. I'm one of the fortunate ones. I leave tomorrow morning and hope that I'll be driving AGAINST traffic.

Lisa Barthelson, The End, Family Debris Series, 24" x 24", encaustic and found objects on panel

But just to tantalize you, here are three images of work by artists who will be featured in my talk, Wax + Bricolage, to be given on Friday morning, June 1st, at 11:00.

Susan Lasch Krevitt, a detail of Blossom, 2012, encaustic with found and invented objects on panel

My talk will present work by 15 artists who work in bricolage. There are some fabulous pieces that are bound to captivate and raise interest in bricolage to incredible heights. Bricolage may become The Next Big Thing.

Nancy Youdelman, Wrapped Baby #1, 2009, encaustic with baby shoe and other materials

As you can see, the work presents encaustic works that look quite different from the norm - or is there any "norm" in how encaustic can be used?

In addition to the talk, I will be teaching three workshops in Wax + Bricolage before and after the conference and expect to post some great student work.

And, there are also all those shows in 15 (or is it 16?) galleries in Provincetown and Truro that are featuring work in encaustic in conjunction with the conference. An action-packed couple of weeks lies ahead!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Oh, those mystery boxes!

I've been really slacking off on this blog because I've been too busy making work in bricolage all year. Since actually being in the studio making work is my priority, something had to suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, this blog was it - low blog on the totem pole. But now I guess I had better write a post seeing as The Conference with its Pre and Post workshops are nearly upon us. In the far reaches of the studio the Mystery Boxes have begun shuffling around and gathering their contents. Okay, okay, I hear you.

Mari Skarp, The Goat, 2008, wood, found objects, paper, rubber,
handspun wool, goat horns. Mari Skarp's bricolage work with wax
will be included in my talk at The Conference.

Wax + Bricolage Talk at The Encaustic Conference
This year I am doing a lot more research about bricolage than I have done previously in preparation for my talk on Friday, June 1st, at The Sixth International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, Mass.  Perhaps the topic should actually be written "Bricolage + Wax" as I have found that examples abound of bricolage but work with wax is relatively more difficult to locate. I have been scouring the web to discover strong work that illustrates my definition of bricolage and have collected some wonderful examples.

Mari Skarp, Carriage, 2008. Welded steel, found objects, fabric, rubber, wire,
barren sunflower heads, photo of artist's great grandmother.

My Definition of Bricolage Revised
Looking at so much work that can be described as bricolage (with and without wax) has led me to revise or expand on my definition. Previously I had only been emphasizing the difference between bricolage and collage. I was focusing on the additional dimensionality of bricolage when compared to collage and, somewhat snarkily, calling it "muscle." Turns out some people interpreted that to mean I was claiming only bricolage had muscle, and that all other art forms lacked heft and robustness when compared to it.

Mari Skarp, Rocking Horse, 2008, welded steel, found objects,
wire, wood, horsehair.

First off, it was not my intention to dis other art forms. Secondly, I think a more meaningful definition of bricolage would also take into account its difference from assemblage or found object art. I had a hard time formulating what this difference was, but I think I finally have it:

In bricolage, the identity of individual objects is subsumed into the whole of the work. Individual objects are re-purposed and re-identified as part of the whole.

At the same time, the individual objects add a layer of meaning or content to the work as a whole because of their unique identities (which may be discovered on looking closer).

I will be talking more about this expansion of my definition and showing examples of what I mean during my talk.

Now About Those Boxes
Yes, I am getting the boxes ready for my Pre-Conference workshop on Wednesday, May 30th, and for my Post-Conference workshop on Thursday, June 7th. These workshops will be held at the wonderful Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Last year, if you recall, I had the boxes absolutely packed with all kinds of stuff -- much more than could ever be put on the dinky panel I supplied. I wanted to emphasize how much working with found objects depended on editing and choosing what to include. I was hoping that all my emphasis on organizational approaches to making art would help students to pull together a work that became more than "a bunch of stuff with wax on a panel ."

An action scene from one of last year's workshops showing students
opening their boxes and examining the contents. (Donna Ramsey Nevers and
unidentified hands.)

I think some students were able to conquer the over-abundance of materials that I supplied, but many had a lot of difficulty choosing what to use and packed too much on the panel. Finding a theme in the midst of all those objects also presented a problem for some.

The New Challenge
So this year, I am organizing the workshops differently. I will still have an abundance of materials and equipment (and encaustic) available for students to use, but in each Mystery Box I am only putting two panels and five or six objects -- the same objects in each box. So the challenge this year is for each student to take those same objects, use them all or only some of them, and make a strong work on one panel.

We had a lot of laughs and fun last year. Here are Donna Nevers, Joanne
Mattera, Sherrie Posternak and Binnie Birstein yucking it up.

I will also provide a list of possible themes that students might use. This list is to counteract the problems some students had last year in understanding the difference between broader, more conceptual themes and literal illustrations. With this list, I am attempting to help students think about conceptual contexts for their works.

The happy face of Peggy Epner after last year's workshop.

Then, students will have the second panel to make another work with the benefit of compositional knowledge gained from the first piece. And it will all be capped with our mini show and discussion of the works completed. Whew! Sounds like a full program. And with plenty of time-outs for laughing.