Red Chair Gallery Presents Janice Rhodes — Encaustic Artist

(Encaustic by Janice Rhodes)

How does an artist start the work day? Encaustic artist Janice Rhodes drives to her studio, a converted garage near the First Street Rapids Bridge on the Deschutes River. She turns on her slow cooker to heat the wax that is the principal medium for her art and then takes a walk along the river while it is heating. She opens the garage door and watches while some of the neighborhood bees fly in to investigate the smell of melting wax. Then she begins to paint with a combination of pigments and wax. Rhodes’ work is showcased in September and October at Red Chair Gallery.

Encaustic is an ancient expertise originated by the ancient Egyptians (around 100-300 B.C.) who created waxen portrait masks of the deceased affixed to their mummy cases. It is an art that is relatively unknown today, even though modern artists such as Jasper Johns and Mark Rothko used the technique to create some of their abstract paintings.

Encaustic painting entails heating beeswax mixed with damar resin to about 200 degrees and then blending it with oil-based pigments. Rhodes fuses the various layers of the mixture with a heat gun. The viscous nature of the medium gives it more depth and texture than other types of painting. Its thickness and viscosity allow the artist to sculpt it, collage other materials into it, scrape it, and carve it with tools such as spatulas or knives.

The nature of the medium makes it both rewarding and complicated, Rhodes notes. “Heated wax is so changeable and you have to make certain decisions while it’s still malleable,” she says. Finishing a piece makes the artist “feel like you’ve been challenged. It’s so exciting and fulfilling to have it work out.”

Rhodes’ subjects are often people that she dreams up “out of my imagination” and have included a sommelier, a violinist and a dancer. She also paints animals derived from magazine ads, although she always adds a bit of quirkiness to the animal. A current piece of a cat standing by a food bowl was inspired by an ad for cat food, for example. Her still life pieces usually feature lavish mixtures of flowers.

Rhodes became well known as a local artist after she joined the Mirror Pond Gallery (closed now) in 2005. She has been a member of Red Chair Gallery since its founding in 2010. She also paints commissioned works for previous buyers who love the nuanced look she gets with that molten wax. In September, she is showing paintings in the High Desert Art League display at the Commons Café in Drake Park. In November, she will have a show at the Oxford Hotel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.