Encaustics & Burls

 

Enaustic Paint as a medium

Encaustic paint is a 3,000 year-old medium which uses beeswax and Damar varnish as a medium for traditional pigments. In order to work with the medium, you must heat the pigment to melting temperature and apply before the paint returns to room temperature. The body of the paint and quick dry-speed give it possibilities unparalleled by other media. I have used the medium as a way to explore the nature of organic elements, and how nature deals with sickness and aberration through growth and beauty. Several pieces include kiln-dried wood cuts from trees who have survived infections which left their bodies beautifully burled and unique.

 

The natural translucency of the medium itself also gives off a vibrancy of color unlike any other, allowing for exploration in color patterns, palettes, and the interplay between color spaces.

 

The story of Burls, Spalting, & Bark Beetles

Wood burls form when a species of tree becomes sick and grows in an irregular way because of the infection.  Similarly, the tree may be fighting off a fungus which causes discoloration in it’s growth pattern resulting in “spalting.”  I’m fascinated with the bodily testaments that these trees tell of their survival.  Tree burls, spalting, and bark-beetle marked wood all tell the tales of their own survival and growth through adversity.  By growing in creative, unusual ways, the tree finds new angles, reaches differently, and ultimately becomes remarkably unique amongst a forest of straight-growing trees.  In the case of bark beetles, which drill into the bark of elm to lay their row of eggs, the mark body of elm gives testament to its affliction through markings left by the larvae which carve their growth patterns into the tree, leaving a tattooed insect gallery hidden beneath the bark of the tree.  Again, the wood gives bodily testament to its ordeal and the relationship it has had with it’s environment.

 

I find hope and inspiration in these pieces as I try to expound upon the stories told by the trees themselves through their corporal history.  Through use of color and texture giving the found specimens contextual landscapes to tell their story, something truly unique and true about the spirit of all natural things emerges in the paintings.