Creating Encounters with Language

This week marks the opening of my first 2015 art exhibit. The FUSEDChicago group is represented at ARC Gallery in Chicago through the month of March.


I dropped two pieces off, but since 32 artists are participating, I may only have one on display. So today is about the making of Encounters with Language, which expresses the evolution of my own linguistic learning.

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For this Textual Encounters group exhibition, the artists of FUSEDChicago challenge themselves to create works that are inspired by the written word – poetry, narrative, song, or speech.  Some artists embed words in the surface of their paintings or monoprints, or turn pages of text into art.  For other artists, the verbal – spoken, sung or printed – serves as muse, to which they respond in the conception and creation of their pieces.  In many instances, visual interpretation brings new meaning to their source, the words that evoke the work.  


Textual Encounters is a theme dear to my heart. As a Dutch girl spending teenage years in Germany, I was surrounded by different languages and learned early on to appreciate the beauty of dialects and idioms. I have always incorporated cultural memories and linguistic quirks into my work, from the substrate to the visible and invisible paper and marks embedded in encaustic pigment.


I found old notebooks that tracked my first handwriting in the Dutch language, and then a tutoring notebook from when our family moved to Germany and I needed assistance picking up on grammar and every-day German. Even English language assignments began with commentary on the weather.


Writing and adding to my vocabulary have always been key components in my life, from sending letters to pen-pals around the world to earning a journalism degree and writing for newspapers and other publications to blogging about life. I remembered a graphic with the roots of language and looked it up online. The graphic is pretty complex so I just sketched it on my 12 x 12 encaustic board.


I played with my snippets of text and laid them out.


Then I fused the layers of wax and layers of paper onto the board.


I also added some texture by scraping words into the wax and making them stand out with an oil stick. I liked the result, but it felt a bit flat.


So I played with my wire, and formed the word “language” with 10 feet of steel.


My glasses decided to hide in the process.


It took some maneuvering to get the word to be flat enough to stick to the board.


A second session of bending and flattening was successful.




Next was deciding on the frame depth.


Framing wasn’t foolproof either, but I won.


The participating FUSEDChicago artists in Textual Encounters include: Ahavani Mullen, Alicia Forestall-Boehm, Amy Van Winkle, April Nomellini, Brad Hook, Carol Hamilton, Carol Myers, Cat Crotchett, Catherine Keebler, Cheryl Holz, Dan Addington, Donna Zarbin-Byrne, Elyse Martin, Emily Rutledge, Jennifer Schmidt, Jennifer Terpstra, Jenny Learner, Julia Ris, Karen Tichy, Kari Hall, Kathy Blankley Roman, Katsy Johnson, Laura LaRue, Linda Sorkin Eisenberg, Maike van Wijk, Mary Krebs Smyth, Michele Thrane, Pat Lagger, Rebecca Stahr, Sarah Rehmer, Shelley Gilchrist, VA de Pintor.


The group name is derived from the process of fusing – applying heat to the wax layers so that they adhere – which is a necessary and frequent step in creating an encaustic work. FUSEDChicago was founded in 2009 and currently has forty members.  More information about the artists and the group’s exhibits and activities is available at FUSEDChicago is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation.


ARC Gallery is located at 2156 N Damen Avenue in Chicago. The Gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 pm, and Sundays from 12 to 4 pm. Our show opening is Friday March 6 from 6 to 9 pm. I hope to see you there!


The second piece is fun too, I’ll share its process with you soon.

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