Saturday, March 31, 2018

Welcome to Issue 20 of ProWax Journal

Installation view of Catherine Nash's solo exhibition, An Inner Astronomy, which took place recently in Oracle, Arizona 

One of the great things about publishing our own journal is that we include a range of topics and images to represent our creatively diverse membership. Through ProWax Journal we share our publication not only with one another but with a larger public: you. 

In her Q&A feature this month, Nancy Natale interviews Binnie Birstein, an expressive painter who has never shied away from working large. This is a special feature, hard wrought by both interviewer and interviewee, because Binnie is battling a serious illness and every interview session took an enormous amount of energy. Nancy, her longtime friend, delivered an article that will serve as a legacy to an exhibiting artist who is just hitting her stride professionally. Brava to both for the effort, with our deepest wishes of love and comfort to Binnie, our friend and colleague.

Nancy and Binnie at the Whitney, 2015

Leslie Neumann was featured in Creative Pinellas, a magazine published in the Florida county in which she lives. We liked the article so much we’ve reproduced it here. Leslie's studio in the town of Aripeka overlooks breathtaking waterfront scenery, some of which makes its way into her luminous work. Did you know Leslie was buddies with her neighbor, the painter James Rosenquist?

Leslie in the studio

Deborah Winiarski has curated a feature that focuses on artists who integrate wax and fiber, noting that these artists are materially redefining the parameters of painting and sculpture.

Lisa Zukowski, Bundle Series

Our regular columns feature a wealth of ideas and images. Jane Guthridge asks the question, Who’s Afraid of Beauty? Debra Claffey features two artists in In Five Words: artist and gallerist, Michael David, and artist in multiple mediums, Lia Rothstein. Paula Fava visits Debra in her New Hampshire studio, a former horse barn, which is large enough to accommodate a wood stove and a swing. Debra is not only a fine painter, she’s a damn good carpenter as well. She turned a ramshackle structure into the perfect place to work

In Studio Visit, Paula Fava shows us Debra Claffey's New Hampshire studio

In In Residence Heidi F. Beal writes about her quest for the perfect residency and looks at others who have done one or more of those live/work experiences. In Open Call, Lorrie Fredette writes about her science-based sculpture in an article originally published in the Brooklyn Rail. 

And in something new this issue, we make cyber visits to exhibitions by six of our artists—plus one who’s not a member but is having a blockbuster show at The Broad in Los Angeles right now. It’s worth noting that several of these artists are working in whole or in part with materials other than encaustic. This is one of the (many) reasons we don’t call ourselves “encaustic artists.” It’s limiting, and art isn’t. 

Howard Hersh had the unique experience of completing a residency in Oakland, California, that led directly to an exhibition at Duval Contemporary in San Francisco

I contributed a bylined editorial in which I talk about artists who are teaching way too soon after being introduced to encaustic. And I did something I don’t normally do: I put my own work in this issue’s header.

There's more to the issue. I’ve just scratched the surface with this introduction. Dig in.


 with Binnie Birstein

  By Nancy Natale

Binnie Birstein, September 2009, in Ancient Medium, N.E.W. Terrain, the Art Complex
Museum, Duxbury, Massachusetts.  Her painting is The Fence, 2008, diptych, encaustic
on panels, 48 x 58 inches

I met Binnie Birstein about a dozen years ago at a New England Wax meeting in Boston's South End. NEW was founded by a group of artists who painted with encaustic and wanted to network, share information, and organize shows of our work. Many, if not most, of us were practicing artists who were new to the medium. Binnie and I became friends although we lived a couple of hours away from each other.

In those pre-Facebook, pre-Conference days networking was difficult. Other than workshops run by R&F Paints, there were few opportunities to learn more and see how other artists were using encaustic. Binnie and I were both at that first conference in Beverly and continued to attend for 11 consecutive years through 2017. Once the conference moved to Provincetown in 2011, we were roommates in a Breakwater room at the Provincetown Inn each year until 2015, when we began renting a suite with Susan Lasch Krevitt. We jokingly called ourselves The Three Queens.

NN and BB on a very bright day at the Whitney Museum, 2015

Together and sometimes with a couple of other friends, Binnie and I made numerous trips to New York City for what we called "arting," visiting as many galleries, museums, and exhibitions as possible in a limited time. Binnie was relentless in completing the list that I had drawn up, despite weather, exhaustion, or my tantrums. She generously put me up at "Hotel Binnie," her home in Connecticut whenever I visited. Those were great adventures with lots of laughs, good food, and art investigations.

Binnie with a Leonardo Drew work at Sikkema Jenkins Gallery in Chelsea, 2010. On this arting trip we braved 17 inches of snow that had fallen that morning on Manhattan

Our arting trips came to an end when Binnie was diagnosed last August with inoperable pancreatic cancer. She began four months of chemotherapy that weakened her but did not shrink the tumor. The severity of treatment caused pain, exhaustion, and drastic weight loss so that she has been mostly confined to bed. She has been supported through her illness by her daughter, Sam Yarmis, who is scheduled to graduate from medical school in May 2018, and by a large group of friends—mostly women who are artists—who have been care sitting with her at home so that she has never been alone. (Binnie's son, Ben Yarmis, who lives in Texas, has been able to work from Connecticut for several weeks at a time to be with his mother.)

Binnie Birstein, Compound II, 2018; joint compound, gesso, encaustic, oil, silkscreen on washi; 36 x 24 inches  
Photo: Elisa Keogh

Despite her ill health, Binnie was determined to complete a second large painting to submit for Organic to Geometric, curated by Carol Pelletier and scheduled for this summer at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Although only one painting could be chosen for inclusion in the show, Binnie's finished painting, Compound II, is shown here and in the dedication to Binnie that closes the exhibition catalog.

I interviewed Binnie at her home in Norwalk at the end of December and asked her about her life as an artist.

Binnie speaking about her work at the Westport Arts Center, Westport, Connecticut, in January 2017
Photo: Jen Greely

NN: Did you always want to be an artist?

BB: When I grew up, I knew you could be a nurse, a teacher, or a secretary. I didn't want to be a nurse. I also didn't want to be a secretary because my mother was one and always came home hating her job.  But I didn't know that you could be an artist. This was just at the cusp of the women's movement--not that I was active--but the liberation ideas were just beginning to be discussed. I graduated early from high school in 1970. I was looking at all the art schools and applied to some, but I thought that I needed to be able to do something that I could "fall back on," so I became an art teacher.

NN: What school did you go to in undergrad?

BB: I went away to the University of the Americas in Mexico City. I was there for spring quarter. I had a great time but knew it wasn't where I should be spending four years, so I left. That summer I worked as a counselor at a sleep-away camp, and then I got a job working at the color print shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They used to have books of Italian prints and sold art prints. It was great to be able to work there when the museum was not open to the public. I was able to walk through the museum with no one there. I found it very exciting! I worked there for two and a half years, first full time and then part time.

Continuing with my education, I got accepted to Pratt, part scholarship and part tuition. I was petrified by the amount of money I or my father would have to pay for tuition, so instead of Pratt I went to City College of New York (CCNY) in Manhattan for free and was an art education/psychology major. I was going to do art therapy. 

Left: Orbit, 2011; encaustic, ink, oilstick on panel, 20 x 20 inches
Right: Nightclub Flyers, 2011; encaustic, ink on panel, 15 x 15 inches

I was there for four years and although I was concentrating on learning what I needed to become a teacher, I became known as the "art star," without my awareness. At graduation there was an awards ceremony and no one told me in advance that I was going to get the top prize—maybe $500 or some cash award like that. It was an honor, but those things don't pay the rent! [Note: Binnie graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.]

NN: What was next?

BB: I didn't have a problem getting a job teaching at the K-12 level and worked toward my Master's part time. I got married right after graduation to my first husband and got a job in Lexington, South Carolina. He was going to grad school in microbiology there, and I was supporting the two of us. It was supposed to be two years, but it ended up being three. I was the only Jewish person. I asked the school superintendent, "What are we going to do about the high holidays coming up?" and I showed him on the calendar when they were.' He said, "I don't rightly know. You're the only one we've got."' I don't know if this experience made me a better artist, but it sure gave me a lot of material!

My husband got a job in Rochester, New York, and we moved there. I got a teaching job pretty easily. I enjoyed teaching although it was exhausting. I found great joy in sharing my passion in painting and drawing. I've always liked teaching and have continued with that by teaching workshops to adults. I was there 12 years. We got divorced somewhere during that time but we didn't have children. I stayed on afterwards because my friends and connections were there.

Above: Tangle, 2010, encaustic on panel, 20 x 30 inches
Below: Unfathomable, 2010, encaustic on panel, 20 x 30 inches

NN: What took you away from Rochester?

BB: Love. I met Jonathan, my second husband. His stepmother and my mother were really good friends and had been trying to put us together for years. I told him I wanted to stay home and have babies without trying to impress him. He liked that idea.

He had a great job and traveled all over. I was able to go with him because we were just renting an apartment. We moved to Connecticut—Norwalk first, then Fairfield, and then Weston. We were married in 1989 and Ben, my first child, was born in 1991. Sam, my daughter, came in 1994. We were married more than 20 years before divorcing.

What Lies Beneath: Pool, 2012; encaustic, ink, graphite on panel, 48 x 36 inches

NN: Did you work at home when you had the kids?

BB: When we bought a house, I had a studio in it. I had to give up oil because I was having a reaction to solvents. I started painting in acrylic on canvas. I always worked out of my house in an extra bedroom or an attic.

NN: What about when the kids came?

BB: I had what I thought of as an open studio for the kids. They painted or played while I was in the studio and my husband helped with them on the weekends. Once they were in nursery school and kindergarten, I had a lot of free time.

Left: Save the Party, 1988-89, acrylic with Caran d'Arce on canvas, 18 x 18 inches
Right: Up/Down, 2014 encaustic, monotype on panel, 8 x 10 inches

NN: What is the object of this composition? (I am looking at Save The Party in Binnie's dining room)

BB: Apparently it's "my shape." It's an off-angle that might be floating or falling or that could be seen as being protective. The off-angle relates to the edges of the painting—where the lines hit the edges—rather than making a shape. I've been doing those lines for a very long time, going back to 1987 or '88 or '89.

NN: Are you thinking of that shape as part of a rectangle or as space?

BB: Yes! In some places it's a shape and in other places it could just be linear or it could be a tabletop or you could be looking off into the distance. I like the ambivalence.

When you're painting, you're not particularly thinking of intention per se, like space or an object.
The box/grid thing is the organization but also represents me, personally, being put into a box. The gridlines—I would do them differently and then play off with more gestural marks. It was all about working in response to a grid, so I was thinking about a lot of limitations or categories for myself, like "just a mom" or something.

NN: And that's where the off-angle came from?

BB: From not fitting in, out of a large level of discomfort. It's that angle where the door is not quite closed, something is not right. That has been in my work for a long time. I read it as a line or as a shape, but I never thought about it like that before today. I realize it stems from a feeling I have, but that's not what I'm thinking about when I'm painting. It just seems to belong there and I recognize that angle in other peoples' work. I only saw it consciously when I saw a lot of my work together.

NN: You're relating it to you personally?

BB: Yes, but not that specifically as referring to a particular event or memory.

Abandoned, 2010, encaustic on panel, 20 x 30 inches

NN: When did you begin working with encaustic?

BB: Sam was probably in kindergarten—about 1999. I had just been introduced to the Center for Contemporary Printmaking (CCP) in Norwalk and was working with oil-based monotypes. You can work out a lot of ideas with those.

I did the Monothon at CCP and then signed up for classes. Laura Moriarty was substitute teaching for a class I was taking there, and then she taught a class in encaustic. I wound up taking encaustic painting with her twice, in 1999 or 2000. I loved the layers in encaustic and that I didn't have to wait for drying time. I loved its translucency.

The difference between painting with encaustic or acrylic was what I really liked. I think good work always has energy. It doesn't have to be dependent on the medium.

NN: You also continued to do printmaking throughout the years and got into encaustic collagraph, correct?

BB: You get a lot of bang for your buck in printmaking. When I'm doing printmaking, I'm thinking the same way as in painting. I had seen encaustic collagraph online but I figured out how to make it work. I can get that painterly line with collagraph but the images are repetitive. I started printing with oil and then switched to water-based Akua ink with collagraph.

Binnie with silkscreen and encaustic work, early 2017
Photo: Jen Greely

NN: Is the newest element in your work silk screening on encaustic?

BB: I don't know that it's an element. It's another tool. I took that silk screening workshop with Jeff Hirst at CCP. It was the best!

I realize that if you look at my work from the '80s until now, it's the same painting. It is and it isn't. That structure is really important to me. I took the silkscreen class because I knew I was painting the same thing over and over. I thought, why don't I find a way to repeat it? It's not a complicated technique, but it offers me more options in how I'm going to do my painting. Layers are important to me--like layers in a day or something like that.

I don't think the pool is the swimming pool. It's the cesspool, the steno pool, the gene pool, the whole thing. I'm not thinking structure or energy. I'm thinking of my other word games.

NN: What about the dichotomy in your work, the way it can be interpreted in various ways? In your statement you describe "the feeling of dichotomy and a dreamlike dissonance with a sense of mystery."

Binnie at A Wrinkle In Time, her solo show at ArtPlace, Fairfield, Connecticut, 2010

BB: My series with the flying/falling figures made it more literal. That disturbed a lot of people. The show I did with that series, A Wrinkle in Time, was a really good show. I had those paintings and the prickly balls, with asphalt from the driveway, barbed wire, and netting.

The Menace/Rescue paintings could be interpreted either way depending on your perspective. How to interpret that figure above? When I did that work, it was before Trump but that feeling…

Intrepid from the Menace/Rescue Series, 2008, 48 x 58 inches

NN: Do you consider yourself successful as an artist?

BB: Yeah, I do. Even though I don't sell a lot. People think that you're successful if you have a studio, you teach, you sell your work. There are all different ways to define "successful." Some people think you're only successful if you sell your work, others if you show it, others if you get commissions.

NN: What about keeping at it, continuing to work? What makes you go to the studio and make another painting?

BB: That's how I communicate. I hate writing. I don't talk a lot—despite what my friends say!
If I was looking at me, not knowing me, it looks like I'm successful and I just had all these shows.
I'm not out of ideas, I'm still painting, I need the time. I've got the ideas. I'm not afraid of staring at a blank panel. I think it's important not to listen to too many people. You can't look enough, but when you start looking and you don't edit or anything….

NN: Now I have to ask you the last questions. What happened when your career was cut short by your illness?

BB: Things were going well for me last summer with several shows and interest in my work, but then everything got short circuited. I wasn’t feeling well so I put things off, waiting until I had more energy, but the energy never came. Now my energy depends on the day and the time of day. I want to get to the studio again but I just have to do it when I can.

NN: Do you think you are leaving a legacy?

BB: I don't think anyone sets out to leave a legacy. It's not something that you seek to leave behind because you are concentrating on going forward. I can't quantify any of this because I had no idea any of it was coming.

I always thought my work would be my legacy, but when I think about it more deeply, I realize that my children are my greatest legacy--and my students. I have always been passionate about making art and I wanted to pass on that passion and energy to my students. Lately I've been getting notes and letters from former students saying how much my teaching meant to them, even students that I taught in high school. That's something I didn't expect. 

Binnie in her studio, December 2017, surrounded by her work
Photo: Jen Greely

In Five Words: Michael David

Curated by Debra Claffey

In Five Words is a regular feature of ProWax Journal in which we go literal, lyrical, and poetic. Visual art does not exist in a vacuum; it sings along with poetry and prose, music and rhythm. Each issue we ask our feature artists to comment on one of their works with five single words, chosen to add meaning and highlight intent.

St. Francis in the Wilderness, 2015-17, encaustic and mixed media on wooden panel, 24 x 22 inches


Michael David is a New York based visual artist and musician. His work is currently on display at the Jewish Museum in New York City in Scenes From the Collection and will be the subject of a solo show at John Davis Gallery in the Spring of 2019. He will lead master classes this year at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill and at the Edinburgh International/Fringe Festival. 


Curated Feature
By Deborah Winiarski

During the past century, artists working with fiber have pushed the boundaries of what can be considered a textile, as well as how textiles are represented within the context of contemporary painting and sculpture – challenging long held distinctions between textile, craft, and fine art. The artists whose work is shown here continue this new tradition, combining wax and encaustic with a variety of fabric, fiber, and mixed media materials to create statements uniquely their own.

Sandi Miot    

 Sandi Miot, Red Biome, 2016; encaustic, fiber, yarn, felt, fabric, paper, lace, dried plants, seeds, pods, 
pastels; 15 x 18 x 4 inches

Biome is a dialogue, influenced by our vanishing coral reefs, a visual investigation into texture and color. It is a testimony to the amazing, astounding variety of organisms that live on this planet.”


Lorraine Glessner

Lorraine Glessner, Soon, Soon, We Will Dance on the Moon 1, 2014; encaustic, collage, pyrography on screen printed silk on wood; 24 x 24 inches

“Utilizing processes such as burning, rusting, decomposition, burying, or weather exposure, layers of fabric are collaged with encaustic, images and found materials. Through pattern and collaged images, narratives interact with and contextualize the markings as well as speak to our wants, needs, temptations and desires as a culture.”


Jane Nodine

 Jane Nodine, Selected Offerings, 2016; iron oxidation, muslin, cotton, sisal, wax, 
graphite; 54 x 4 x 2.5 inches

Selected Offerings uses textiles to create as a single bound unit of cotton batting repeated again and again to develop a pod-like strand formation that is suspended and hangs freely to be observed from all sides.”


Lisa Zukowski

Lisa Zukowski, Bundle Series, 2016; encaustic monoprint on fabric, burlap, old clothes, embroidery, 
string; 6 x 3 x 2 inches

"The works in the Bundle Series are vessels, reliquaries of a sort, that symbolically and sometimes literally hold and protect that to which I have attached deep meaning and have difficulty discarding. They are filled with shredded ephemera and are made up of bits of old clothes, coffee bags, encaustic monotypes, and fabrics."


Deborah Winiarski

 Deborah Winiarski, Dover Beach, 2016; fabric, graphite, oil, encaustic on panel; 
31 x 36 x 4 inches

“Color, form and line expand beyond the painting surface in my recent mixed-media paintings. Fabric strips accrue to create raised and textured surfaces that weave, twist, mingle, and intertwine creating visual fugues that literally break out of the picture plane. The torn and folded strips provide form, dimension, and color; their edges, line.”


Susan Lasch Krevitt

 Susan Lasch Krevitt, The Gathering IV, 2017; textiles, rubber, encaustic; 
26 x 13 x 13 inches

“My work explores themes of structure and connection. Nature’s cycles of growth and decay are referenced through the deconstruction of manufactured objects used to build abstract forms. In this way, direct engagement with materials begins the dialogue that shapes form and surface.”


Dawna Bemis

Dawna Bemis, Kaleidoscope II, 2015; encaustic monotypes, newsprint, machine and hand stitching on panel; 
18 x 18 inches. Photo: Jay York

“In my most recent series, I draw upon quilts as a metaphor for the loss of generational knowledge transfer. With this work I explore issues of identity, gender, and family history. As I develop these pieces, I connect with the many hands that have worked these geometric patterns over time.” 


Cat Crotchett

Cat Crotchett, Ghosting 2, 2017, encaustic and mixed media on panel, 12.5 x 12.5 inches
Photo: Aoi Fukuyama

"I've always been interested in pattern and fragments of information and how our brains processe parts of things when placed next to one another, without physically seeing the greater whole. In this piece I have focused on the interrelationships between patterns and the new identities that are formed when patterns are layered and juxtaposed." 

Essential Questions: Who's Afraid of Beauty?

Edited by Jane Guthridge

Jeri Eisenberg, Autumn Ash, No. 5, 2014, pigment ink on Japanese Kozo with encaustic medium, 36 x 34 inches

For much of the history of Western art, physical beauty was the expression of an ideal and by the Renaissance, beauty and divinity became intertwined. As abstraction developed, formalist ideas, which had their own elegance, became paramount, but by the era of Abstract Expressionism beauty in art was something to be scorned. Now the pendulum is slowly swinging back.  

Deborah Kapoor I’ve been grappling with this one in my own work of late. My undergraduate experience was one that disdained beauty, so I have that awareness in my own history. I think part of the concern is over-sentimentalizing things. But I am compelled in this era to seek beauty as an escapist relief from our times. Is that over sentimentalizing? Maybe, but right now it feels like emotional and even intellectual survival.

Jeri Eisenberg I spent a significant portion of my MFA thesis addressing the 'beauty dilemma'. Given the work I was—and still am—producing, I had to. I felt then, and still feel, as if I am flying in the face of strong winds with regard to the extent to which my work seeks beauty. As a child of my times, I have long accepted the truism that art need not be beautiful, as much as I accepted the truism that not everything beautiful is art. I have chafed, however, at the contemporary notion that something could no longer be art if it were beautiful. Or at least it could not be 'good art' or 'meaningful art' or 'important art'.

After reading and writing on philosophers, critics, and theorists addressing the notion of beauty, I concluded that for me beauty plays an essential and vital role in life, and that to banish it from art for political or other reasons would only leave us poorer. I found myself most in sync with the theories of Elaine Scarry, a Harvard aesthetician, who proposes that the value of beauty is that it produces a "radical decentering." You are no longer the center of your universe. Beauty acts "like small tears in the surface of the world that pulls us through to some vaster space . . . Beauty quickens. It adrenalizes. It makes the heart beat faster. It makes life more vivid, animated, living, worth living."

I believe these effects justify the seeking of beauty in art. Beauty consoles, and that serves to place suffering in a philosophical perspective. It allows us to go on, even in face of suffering, injustice and other social ills, precisely what you have to do to fight the battle the next day. This seems like reason enough for beauty to me.

Paula Roland, Language of Beauty VI, 2011, encaustic monotype on shikoku paper, 39 x 25 inches 

Joanne Mattera Reflecting on Jeri’s comments, particularly "the notion that something could no longer be art if it were beautiful," I will share a bit of the lead to the essay I wrote in 2007, for Luxe, Calme et Volupté: A Meditation on Visual Pleasure, which I curated for the Marcia Wood Gallery:

“Earlier this year, after a day of studio visits and an evening of gallery openings in Chelsea, I took a short taxi ride up Eighth Avenue with Marcia Wood and the editor of a New York-based art magazine. The back-seat conversation was, of course, about art. Marcia mentioned that I was curating a summer show for her gallery, and because we were nearing our destination, I described it simply as ‘a meditation on visual pleasure.’

“’Ah, beauty,” said the editor. ‘Isn’t it nice that we can talk about it again?’”

Christine Shannon Aaron I want beauty to be part of my work, but not beauty alone. Perhaps beauty draws the viewer in, but the more the viewer is engaged the more unsettling, bittersweet, uncomfortable, intimate, powerful, ugly, uncertain, or evocative the work becomes. I want there to be reasons and questions that urge the viewer to come back again.

What I find most interesting in my critique groups is this: Someone hangs his or her work. Usually there are a couple of pieces we sigh or ooh and ahh about initially. They are the ones that are most conventionally beautiful or accessible. Interestingly, after moments it is usually not the one that we engage with most fully. We end up talking about and being most engaged with the more difficult, less easily definable work, the work that digs deeper and has more to say and reveal. I think people can use the medium of encaustic (and other mediums too) in the same way. While it can be a surface attraction without much beneath, it also has the possibility of being a material that allows an artist to create work that speaks to the artist's voice and concept and authentic expression.

Debra Claffey Beauty, not attractiveness, prettiness, and/or symmetrically appealing, is our glimpse into the nature of the universe (which is, of course, love). It can be ugly like decomposing, destructive like fire, fractal and self similar, simple elegance, but it's all the life force (chi). The best art taps into this, no matter the surface appearance or subject.

Heidi F. Beal My personal definition of beauty is that which epitomizes absolute truth and authenticity. It often provokes a sense of Godliness. When this truth and authenticity is edited and composed with artistic precision, it becomes more beautiful. But for me, beauty can also be painful, uncomfortably emotional, or what the conventional would consider repulsive. One of the most beautiful moments of my life was the day my father passed. My mind is still filled with beautiful truthful images of that hospice room.

Anna Wagner-Ott When I paint I tend to disrupt the image if I see too much sweetness or prettiness. My personality comes through my work; it is not my intent to achieve a beautiful painting. Having said that, I find that as I am getting older I am longing for the peace, quiet, and simplicity, staying away from the busy, over-painted surface. I think looking for the beautiful is in the eye of the beholder, and often what is beautiful for one viewer/maker is not beautiful for another.

Anna Wagner-Ott, Some Like It Hot, 2918, encaustic on canvas-wrapped panel, 20 x 24 inches

Joanne Mattera Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but there are acknowledged aesthetic elements that comprise formal ideas of beauty: harmony of order, pattern, shape, texture and color put together in ways that evoke feelings of pleasure, maybe feelings of the spiritual as well.

Jeri Eisenberg I think one of the biggest traps in the debate about beauty is the demand that it be definable. I am troubled little by the fact that what is deemed to be beautiful may vary so from era to era, and from culture to culture. What is critical to me is not beauty's theory, but beauty's impact. And perhaps that is the point: Beauty defies theory. It refuses to be placed within intellectual categorizations because it is a phenomenon that does not speak to the intellect. And yet this is certainly not to suggest that beauty's effect is not real and knowable.

In the words of Peter Schjeldahl: "Beauty will be what it always has been and, despite everything, is now in furtive and inarticulate ways: an irrepressible, anarchic, healing human response without which life is a mistake."

Amy Weil Confucius said of beauty, "Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it." I think it is experiential rather than intellectual and therefore difficult to say why something is beautiful. You can talk about composition, color and line, but in the end it is my physical and emotional reaction to the work that determines whether something is truly beautiful to me. Yes, wax is seductive, but it must transcend its materiality in order for the work to hit me on that level. I believe intention has to be present, otherwise it is just decorative.

Paula Roland I have wrestled with the beauty issue for ages. I think the conflict is with beauty versus decoration. Beauty can have depth and meaning, whereas decoration does not.

In 2012, after fighting (and winning!) against a dastardly disease, I decided that I wanted my next work to be less intellectualized. I only wanted to see beauty, but wanted to find what was essential in it for me. I titled the series Beauty's Language and wrote this as a prelude to my statement: “Charting the resonance of personal meaning, of fluctuating networks, fluid and layered, and how and where they take me. An experience and a form of knowing, beauty’s language, is something that I must experience to understand myself.”

Deborah Martin When I was in graduate school beauty was definitely frowned upon, considered unimportant and frivolous work. My paintings and drawings were considered out of touch with important issues of the time because of my commitment to the beautiful. I still am committed to beauty and my job as an artist is to create something worthy and beautiful. In a world today where there is so much ugliness and despair beauty is more important than ever a tonic for our souls.

Lorraine Glessner 
There is nothing wrong with beauty! Adding beauty to the world is one of the most important reasons for being an artist.

Lorraine Glessner, Flowers of Laughter, 2017; encaustic, collage, pyrography on panel; 24 x 24 inches

. . . . .

Further reading

Books recommended by Deborah Kapoor
. The Sense of Beauty  by George Santayana
. A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman

Recommended by Jeri Eisenberg
. On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry
. The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty by Dave Hickey
. The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetic and the Concept of Art by Arthur Danto
. Essays by Peter Schjeldahl, including Notes on Beauty