Waxing beautiful 

The Art of Encaustic Painting at Marcia Wood Gallery

Luminescent color fills the waxy paintings on view at Marcia Wood Gallery this month in The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax. Wispy strands and blocks of color, portraits of lovely women, floating organic forms, bursts of cobalt blue and thick blossoms just begin to describe the spectrum of aesthetics expressed in beeswax and pigment by the 15 painters represented.

Most selections for the show were motivated by artist Joanne Mattera, a painter for the past 25 years and master at encaustic. Mattera's recently published book, The Art of Encaustic Painting, presents both history and technique, featuring gorgeous color photos of paintings by artists including locals Miriam Karp and Cheryl Goldsleger. Karp plays a part in this exhibition with her lyric "After Auden," while images of her newer, more intricate calligraphic paintings are cached in the pages of the book.

Curiously compelling are 14 women's portraits painted onto 4-inch blocks of wood by Eric Blum. They appear as line drawings trapped under a luscious layer of buttery wax. Blum also paints wondrous skin-like abstractions that verge on the sculptural or photographic. An amber wax skin overlays paint pushed to a point in his "No. 349." Mattera's paintings burst with vibrant color, here sanded away, there built up or slicked over in solid rectangles of encaustic. Rich brick and strawberry reds, lime and deep green, meet orange and blue in high key combinations. The artist/author's formal explorations counter Timothy McDowell's fluid curvilinear botanicals. In his liquid landscapes, even the horizon is described in splotchy blooms. Translucent ochre, smoky brown, muted rose, gray green and yellow shape these soft tributes to nature.

The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented Wax continues through Oct. 19 at Marcia Wood Gallery, 1831-B Peachtree St. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-351-3930. www.marciawoodgallery.com.



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