Local artist Janice Rhodes says, “she is treated like a queen bee in her studio.” Her medium is a blend of molten beeswax, pigment and damar resin called encaustics or hot wax. Her studio is close to downtown Bend and the Deschutes River and with doors open on warm days as she melts down the beeswax she will use for encaustics, the aroma draws bees in to visit with her.
“The smell enchants them and they will hover over my work.” She wonders if this phenomenon occurred 2,000 years ago when the Greeks used the same process to seal ship hulls or maybe it occurred when Egyptian artisans prepared masks for funeral mummies using encaustics.
Interestingly, some of these Fayum “portraits” are still on exhibit in museums. In 1954 artist Jasper Johns and others introduced the contemporary encaustic movement that Janice, as well as others, is a part of.
Janice and her husband moved to Bend in 2003 after she retired from a career in home furnishings. “I was inspired,” says Janice, “not just by everything that Bend has to offer, but by how passionate Bend artists are about their craft.”
She took many art classes in a variety of mediums in Bend as well as from Washington to New Mexico. “I was fortunate to take an encaustic class at the Art Station in Bend in 2006 from Shana Moore, an exceptional Montana artist who defined the direction I wanted to go as an artist.”
Asked what encaustic is, Janice explains that the word encaustic is Greek for “to burn in.” The mixture of beeswax, damar resins and pigments is kept molten and applied to a hard, absorbent surface, and then reheated in order to fuse the layers of paint.
It is one of the most durable of all artist’s paints and perhaps the most versatile and beautiful. It can be carved, scraped, layered, collaged, dipped, modeled, sculptured, textured and combined with oil. It cools immediately but can be reheated and reworked. After Janice finishes an encaustic, she buffs the surface with a soft cloth, but more than that, she uses the palm of her hand to bring the art piece to a high shine.
When she is asked by a gallery visitor if they can touch the raised wax texture, she replies, “Please do!”
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