Hopeful Darkness at Atlantic Gallery
A glow emanates from the doorway to Atlantic Gallery. The cause, of course, is the art work on display in a group exhibition by the International Encaustic Artists called Hopeful Darkness. Ingrid Dinter juried the exhibition that was conceived and organized by Melissa Rubin, a Vice-President to IEA. The IEA has chapters throughout the United States (including Alaska) and invited artists working in encaustic and cold wax techniques, whether members of the organization or not, to apply. The exhibition runs from November 28th through December 16th.
The theme “Hopeful Darkness” represents two notions: the seasonal shortening of daylight with its encroaching darkness and the political attitudes we do or need to encounter. Says Melissa Rubin, “Two states of being, with such opposite meanings, fit so beautifully together and can create a powerful statement: Hopeful, believing something good will happen…optimistic, promising; Darkness which is devoid of light, gloomy; secret. (These) works reflect and express the dichotomy of Hopeful Darkness.”
The theme would explain the many works based on black and white imagery or dark encroaching into areas of light. You might think that this would lead to an exhibition that feels heavy or dreary. But to the contrary, this exhibition is more like looking at a collection of jewels— lustrous and unique. The size of each art work is 18 inches or less on its longest side—so they feel personally handleable. The surfaces, though varied in texture from velvety smooth to mottled and scratchy, call for touching. And the arrangement of the art works around the space makes each piece discernable. There were 50 artists in this exhibition. The effect could have been crowded and overwhelming or worse, crowded and monotonous. But in arranging pieces in groupings of no more than three, I found myself concentrating on each group, then each individual piece then on the entire wall, then on the show as a whole. This was a message that these are all distinguishable voices in a choir.
Although it is impossible to pick out favorites—there are too many—I do want to point out some individuals that would exemplify the diversity of the art works presented. From a traditional standpoint of what can be done in encaustic medium there is Ann Breinig’s Coming Out of the Darkness, an encaustic on birch board that is one of the few figurative works presented. It uses large shapes of black and white to conjure a face “coming out of the darkness”. Deborah Peeples’s Buoyancy takes advantage of the layers, pliability, addition of pigment to the wax to form a work that brings to mind fog and rain, clouds of steam and water droplets, or the rolling surface of a pan of water at boiling. A piece that bridges to unusual treatment is Core by Amy Finder. It is one of many unframed works which works perfectly for paintings that exist as much as objects distinct from paintings. A round circle
of marbled white paper sewn with black thread in concentric circles, it reminded me of a slice of wood by so thinly sliced as to be airy. Bent along a center axis, it waves to me from the wall. I could equally see this piece sitting on a pedestal as an animated sculpture. Susan Chilcote-Wade not only uses a variety of unexpected materials including a wooden pencil, snakeskin, rope and wire, but has a unique way of presenting her piece, Heart and Soul. Hung like a scroll or skin on a wood bar, it depicts an anatomical ink drawing of a human heart, a time piece, and a bird and angel. This appears to be a personal
statement of rebirth. Otty Merrill’s Winged Messenger of Hope looks like a draped figure with clawlike arms and hands, a black bird sitting on her shoulder. She may be an abstracted angel or a woman in movement from a war-torn situation. Made out of fiber clay, it was one of four pieces—including a lighted shadowbox by Jess Stone called Chasing Away the Darkness and Rebirth, a womb or flower shaped sculpture made up of encaustic, photograph, textile, colored pencil, thread, and powdered pigment by Michelle Hayden.
All the works of this exhibition are available for purchase with very reasonable prices ranging
from $90 to $2600, most in the $800 and less range. Perfect choices of something special for
that special someone!
To find out more about the International Encaustic Artists visit https://www.international-encaustic-artists.org. Here you will find information about the various chapters, membership, and their magazine Encaustizine. (It is downloadable from the IEA web site and is pleasant and informative writing by artists working in this medium.) Not to end on a down note, but I was disappointed that the artist members were not listed with links to them from this web site. Some of the artists whose work I enjoyed do not have a web site apparently thinking that Instagram, FaceBook, or Pinterest would be enough to inform about their work-- it is not.
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