Joan Stuart Ross
I work with encaustic on wood, canvas and print to combine pigment, beeswax, and fire with collaged text and aggregates. Melted beeswax and dammar crystals, applied brushfuls of colored molten wax, and “burning in” with the torch, merge the concepts of evolving form and psychological layering that I explore in my work.
I layer up and dig down to find a hidden path to meaning. Repetitive shapes and marks cross the surfaces like shorthand messages; they cover information and questions that lie beneath—the “play within a play.” What is seen on the surface is not the only story.
My themes are ideas of color as an emotional field, texture as a reliquary of personal connection to the physical world, and layers of visual information as the text of an interior journey. I proceed in series--begin my paintings in a close sequence, so that they feed one another, follow threads where paint leads and investigate the mysteries of viscous media. I examine paint’s wide array of joyful and terrifying personalities and those discoveries fuel my work.
Segments of collage are visual components. Strokes, text, and marks relate to and give clues to content. Reservoirs of information align themselves, cross over, and connect. Short phrases form layers of substrate. Sometimes the visual narrative unfolds like leaves of a book with a spine/vertebrae. Each mark, embedded shape and translucent color field express states of mind and matter to make the art object a reliquary of personal and universal inquiry. Questions of choice, process and syncopation are asked, explored and unanswered.
Studies in ancient Greco-Roman painting, sculpture and drawing, Asian calligraphy and Joseph Albers’ color theories influence my work. Recently, I have been captivated by the light, water and land in the Columbia/Pacific area of southwest Washington State.
Joan Stuart Ross' Work at RiverSea Gallery
Click on the following thumbnails to see bigger pictures.
A Few Notes on Encaustic Painting
By Joan Stuart Ross, Seattle & Nahcotta, Washington
I work with encaustic on wood, canvas and print to combine pigment, beeswax, and fire with collaged text and aggregates. Melted beeswax and damar crystals, brushfuls of colored molten wax, and “burning in” with the torch, merge the concepts of evolving form and psychological layering that I explore in my work. I layer up and dig down to find a hidden path to meaning. Shapes & marks cross the surfaces like shorthand messages; they cover the questions that lie beneath—the “play within a play.” What is seen on the surface is not the only story.
The encaustic method of painting dates from ancient Greek and Roman times. In 600-500 BCE, the Acropolis in Athens was painted with brilliant red and blue encaustic, as were the ‘kouros’ & ‘kore’ (young man & young woman) sculptures of the Greek archaic period. In 100 ACE, Greco-Roman painters brought the encaustic technique to Rome’s Egyptian colony, where they painted detailed and personalized mummy portraits on wood and plaster--a combination of the Greco-Roman encaustic technique and the Egyptian practice of mummification.
Encaustic painting has been recently revived, due to the work of NY artist Jasper Johns in the 1960’s. Contemporary artists use encaustic techniques alone and in combination with collage and mixed media.
Approximately two parts beeswax to one part damar resin are melted in an electric pan. This mixture is combined with dry, colored pigments to make a palette of molten colors. The word “encaustic” means “to burn in.” After the artist applies the molten colors to a solid surface, she reheats (burns in) each layer with a torch. The heat changes the molecular structure of the damar particles and makes the encaustic impervious to the elements--much like lacquer. The burning in is necessary to create a true encaustic; its waxy surface will harden over time.
Like all artwork, an encaustic painting needs to be kept away from direct light and heat and handled with care. Encaustic paintings will last forever if kept in a cool place. They may be buffed with a soft cloth.