Compelling Progressions at Art Complex
by Elizabeth Michelman
The encaustic paintings of Pat Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman and Charyl Weissbach being shown on the walls of the ArtComplex Museum in Duxbury this spring share in a knowing dialogue. The three artists in “Compelling Progressions” first became acquainted through participation in the New England Wax Society. Happily, they fall close together on the spectrum of current work in this evolving medium.
It requires deftness and consummate control to manage the pyrotechnics of hot wax. Yet a number of artists are passionate about encaustic’s many desirable features, combining physical and technical possibilities that were previously divided among a host of other paint media. The ancient yet contemporary material possesses an unsurpassable luminosity, malleability, adhesive capacity, and above all, reversibility through the application of heat.
The seven panels in Weissbach’s elegant and luminous “Lyre” series are at once calming and suffused with nostalgia. She develops the depths and surfaces in accordance with a predetermined set of steps. To begin each painting, she transfers photographs of her prior paintings to silk squares, which she then mounts on a panel and thickly coats with layers of all-but-colorless wax. During this time, she embeds opaque substrates within the wax ground, such as marble dust and earth pigments, surmounted by layers of metallic lozenges, archipelagos and bands of gold leaf and slips of glossy mylar. The viewer can discern through the streaks of ochre and opalescent white the trace of illusory textures of masonry walls and dripping glass beneath.
One wishes one had more ease in following the subtle changes among these works, but this is somewhat impeded by their being scattered among the more visually extraverted works by the other artists. Still, a few are close enough together that one can get the sense of their close relationships and delicate differentiation.