Yesterday, a friend and I went walking around downtown Champaign, Illinois. While we were out, we stopped by the Indigo Co-Op Art Gallery to look around. Right now, the gallery is showing the work of Scott James Vanidestine. There aren’t very many pieces, but what it there is well worth going to see. The best pieces are his encaustic paintings. According to his website:
Encaustic is the ancient art of painting with molten wax and pigment. … Pollen in the beeswax gives the encaustic a glowing yellow under tone and a distinctive fragrance. The encaustic medium is versatile enough to allow for fine etching and sgraffito (similar to techniques used in printmaking and drawing) or rough carving (sculpture and relief). Each layer of encaustic is fused to the previous layer using a propane torch. The encaustic can be quickly melted down or carefully built up. Various techniques create depth and texture. The surfaces can be scraped or chiseled away and layered on top of to construct a topography with complex visual and metaphorical history.
I want to applaud him for using locally produced beeswax. Supporting local businesses is fantastic. 🙂 Now, I’ve never seen an encaustic painting before this. When I first saw it, it looked very thick and shiny. It reminded me of ceramic glaze. His paintings are very thick and textured.. very aggressive.
At first glance, all these circular shapes gave me the feeling that I was looking into a microscope. As I looked closer, I could see slashes in the wood and wax, like he sliced into it with a knife or a screwdriver. Up close, the color of the exposed wood, the splashes of red, the texture… made me feel like I was looking into flesh and blood.. some of it charred, some of it gouged and mutilated.. one patch in particular reminded me of road rash, with little bits of gravel embedded into the skin. What I saw, what I felt when I looked at this painting, was pain, anger… I could almost hear screams and cries coming from within. Yet, as I stepped away and looked at it again from a distance, I could see more turquoise hues over powering the red that smacked me in the face up close. Almost serene.. I was utterly fascinated. I had to have stared at it this one painting for the better part of half an hour, from various angles and distances.
It’s a shame a missed the opening reception. I would have liked to have met the artist and asked him what went through his mind as he worked. However, Indigo will be displaying Mr. Vanidestine’s work through March 7th. I foresee myself going back to stare some more.