Hilton Head artists wax creative

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comOctober 30, 2011 

  • "Playing with Fire" runs Nov. 1 to 26 at the Walter Greer Gallery in the Art
    League of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island. The opening reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 1. Gallery talks will be held at 11 a.m. each Friday during the show. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before showtimes at the arts center.
    Details: www.hhal.org

It's not very often that an artist sets a painting on fire. Intentionally, at least.

Hilton Head Island artists Virginia MacKenzie and Ann Bannister have been experimenting for the past two years with encaustic painting, a method that involves heating and manipulating colored beeswax.

The results of their experiments will be on display in "Playing with Fire" through November at the Art League of Hilton Head's gallery in the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

The name of the show came from exactly what they were doing. They heated the beeswax to form it into landscapes, ocean scenes or abstract works. A few times they'd encase objects, such as a rose, in the wax. Other times, they'd take an existing painting and layer in the colored wax to give it depth. And once or twice, they just liked to watch a painting burn.

The centerpiece of the show is titled "God's Creation." An otherwise so-so wax work was shellacked and lit ablaze to produce a totally different look and feel.

"We were like scientists," Bannister said.

The two friends started in encaustics about two years ago when MacKenzie took a workshop in her native Rochester, N.Y. Soon after they were pouring, inscribing, dripping and bonding the wax, employing some of the same techniques that the ancient Greeks and Egyptians used to create their encaustic works thousands of years ago.

Even after the show, they'll continue to practice encaustics. Seeing how there's so many different ways to work the wax, they feel like they're just getting started.

"The versatility of the medium is amazing," MacKenzie said.

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