Meet the Artists! Elemental: Contemporary Encaustic

Art pieces by Debra Claffey, Patricia Gerkin, Donna Talman, and Charyl Weissbach are now being showcased at the Michelle and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at Springfield Museums in Springfield, Massachusetts. The exhibit will continue until July 14, 2019.

Debra Claffey, Patricia Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, and Charyl Weissbach make up the artist collective called Elemental. Working in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the four artists of Elemental meld an ancient medium with a contemporary aesthetic and message. Although encaustic, or melted wax, has deep art historical roots in ancient Greek and Egyptian portraiture, Claffey, Gerkin, Hamil Talman, and Weissbach use the medium to create richly layered artworks that are inspired by humanity’s relationship to the natural world in the 21st century. Evocative of the colors and patterns found in plant life, land, sea, and sky, the works on view speak to the interconnectedness of all living things and advocate for an effort to reclaim the balance of the earth’s ecosystems.

Working in New Boston, New Hampshire, Debra Claffey creates using both monotype and encaustic, incorporating techniques related to drawing, printmaking and painting into the works on view. Her layered panels are alive with rhythmic patterns inspired by plant life and infused with the artist’s own creative process and energy. Claffey understands plants and trees as intelligent beings capable of informing human life.

Debra Claffey, Cool Mandolin Greens. Encaustic, pigment stick, graphite on panel, 40×40, 2015.

The works on view by Patricia Gerkin are a part of her series called Constancy and are inspired by the sea. Informed by her studio’s proximity to the New Hampshire coastline, Gerkin contemplates the beauty and the pollution of the earth’s oceans. She often adds objects found along the coast, such as metals or seashells, to her encaustic panels. Gerkin’s series challenges viewers to consider the connection between the wellbeing of one’s inner world and the wellbeing of the natural world.

Patricia Gerkin, Beyond the Shoals. Encaustic, wire mesh, mixed media on panel. 24×12, 2013.

Worcester, Massachusetts artist Donna Hamil Talman is interested in evolutionary processes, or the way that bodies and land change over time. Her artistic process of heating and cooling many layers of wax requires Hamil Talman to embrace the element of chance while also maintaining some control over her compositions. This delicate balance is a metaphor for finding equilibrium in life and in art. The resulting works are topographical, geological, and primordial. In fact, Hamil Talman incorporates stones, twigs, leaves, charcoal and other organic matter into the encaustic, encouraging an appreciation of all natural elements.

Donna Hamil Talman, Questionable States. Encaustic, paper, plaster, carbon on birch panel. 44×30, 2014

Charyl Weissbach of Boston, Massachusetts, calls the works on view Metalscapes. Created using encaustic and resin or urethane on aluminum, the compositions are ethereal abstractions of landscape that make use of bold fields of color. The artist’s placid surfaces invite the viewer to interact with the artworks by seeing their reflection in the mirrored surface of each metalscape. As Weissbach describes, her work is “meant to remind us of the beauty of our natural resources and to entice us to preserve it.”  

Charyl Weissbach, Metalscape 105. Encaustic, mirrored aluminum, UV resin on panel. 60×48, 2017


Elemental: Contemporary Encaustic, Springfield Museums, MA                    July 17, 2018 – July 24, 2019
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