Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ode to the Annual Encaustic Conference

I was invited to be one of four featured ("HOT" is their word) artists in the premiere issue of Encaustic Arts magazine and have been working on my article. (The other three artists are Kim Bernard, Howard Hersh and Paula Roland.) My article is another rear view mirror moment where I take a look back at the development of  my on-going body of work, the series I call the Running Stitch. I thought that my experience could be interesting as an example of the way one artist (moi) made a big leap in her work to a very new place.

Promised Land, 2010, 27"x42"x1.5", mixed media with encaustic, from the Running Stitch series (click to expand)

After thinking about the process and writing my article, it dawned on me that none of it would have been possible if I had not attended the annual encaustic conference that Joanne Mattera organizes every year. That is how and where my thinking was expanded. Sure, I learned about techniques and processes, but more importantly, at the conference I was able to consult with experts about moving my work forward, I saw first-quality shows of work in encaustic, and I was brought together with artists from all over the U.S., Canada and more. How and where else would that have been possible?

Joanne Mattera, creator and organizer of The Fifth International Encaustic Conference and all the other annual encaustic conferences dating back to 2007

A very big THANK YOU to Joanne for her vision, expertise, unflagging energy and determination to make every year The Best Conference ever!

Although every year at the encaustic conference is rewarding, I think that the third year in 2009 was vital to my development. That year I signed up for two post-conference workshops, on two consecutive days, one with Barbara O'Brien and the other with Miles Conrad.

Barbara O'Brien, now Curator at the Kemper Musuem of Contemporary Art

Barbara O'Brien at that time had curated nearly 50 exhibitions of contemporary art, and that was before she joined the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art as curator later in 2009. Her experience in looking at and assessing artists' work was exceptional. For that third annual encaustic conference in 2009, Barbara was also the keynote speaker, and when I heard her talk, I was blown away by the description of her aesthetic journey from an intellectual response to minimalism to embracing the beauty, warmth and richness of work in encaustic. She was very encouraging and helped the small group at her day-long critical response workshop to think about their work in the broader context of contemporary art and to describe a blue sky vision for their work.

Miles Conrad

Miles Conrad, an artist and gallery owner, developed a class called Moving the Work Forward that uses unique exercises and games to help artists assess their own work and reach their full potential. This workshop in 2009 helped me so much by having Miles' critique my work and statement and get his assistance in directing me to examine the various components of making art and marketing it. This class really propelled my thought processes and gave me some methods to use that proved invaluable.

Castle Hill Center for the Arts

This year's encaustic conference, now The Fifth International Encaustic Conference, is the first to be held at its new location in Provincetown and at the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill in Truro (next to Provincetown). It features many opportunities for artists to develop their work and think about it in a broader context. For example, on Friday afternoon, Toby Sisson will give a talk on the Art of Critique:How to Give and Receive More Helpful Feedback. Giving and receiving feedback is surely an art and the first step in taking an honest look at your own work. Another talk, at the tail end of the conference on Sunday afternoon, will be given by Kim Bernard and called What's Your Work About? Kim will provide exercises and methods to get participants thinking about this topic in a fun and rewarding way.

Toby Sisson

Kim Bernard

There are two panels that will also help artists to examine their practices: Saturday morning's panel, Mastering Media, brings together five artists (including me) with moderator Joanne Mattera. The panel will discuss various aspects of art and media, from book publishing, to blogging, to operating a gallery, to organizing classes, to various tools for promoting your work. This panel is bound to be informative, thought provoking and fun. Then late Sunday afternoon, another panel comes together to discuss Submitting Your Work: What the Juror Sees. This don't-miss-it panel, consisting of three decision makers, will discuss how they view and judge work submitted for exhibitions at their venues.

Jackie Battenfield, Author and Keynote Speaker 

This year the keynote speaker on Saturday night will be Jackie Battenfield, author of  The Artist's Guide: How To Make a Living Doing What You Love. She is all about developing your work and finding ways to keep making it. Jackie will also offer a day-long workshop called Creating Your Own Success on Monday during the post-conference session at Castle Hill. Another opportunity for personalized critique of your work during the post-conference workshops will come on Thursday when Francine D'Olimpio, owner of Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown, will offer a day-long critical feedback session in a small group. Francine is also jurying the conference show, "Beeline", that will be exhibited at Kobalt Gallery.

These are just a few of the long list of workshops available at the conference. I haven't even touched on the nine demos that show how to accomplish various techniques such as the ever-popular image transfer, fusing, masking, stencilling, branding, and achieving patterned effects. Wow! So much to learn and so much to gain!

If you can spare the time, the place to really get into learning a technique or experimenting with different processes is during the post-conference week. Here you might spend a day with me Making Fine Art With Unconventional Mixed Media and Encaustic or with Michelle Belto ombining Encaustic and Handmade Paper or with Hylla Evans of Evans Encaustic in her Color-Mixing Workshop. It's all great.

The best part of the conference is meeting people and seeing friends from all around the USA plus Canada, England, New Zealand and Brazil. Currently there are 198 conferees registered, or 79 percent of the maximum. As Joanne Mattera says,

Our maxiumum is 250--a large enough number for the
crosspollination of ideas and information
but still small enough for everyone to get to know everyone else.
There is no other event like this one!

At last year's conference: Lynda Ray from Norfolk, Virginia; Binnie Birstein from Weston, Connecticut and Gay Schempp from Fairfield, Connecticut (in the background in green sweater, Jane Allen Nodine from South Carolina)

Alexandre Masino from Montreal, Canada

Eileen Goldenberg from San Francisco, California

To register for one of the very few spots remaining, click here. And I hope to see you there!


Hylla Evans said...

Nancy, truer words were never written. The most frequent reference at The Conference, "This is heaven." The common experience - each artist made more career progress in the few days at The Conference than the rest of their year.
Money well spent for attendees and there is simply no gathering of professional artists like it!

Anonymous said...

Nancy, thanks for your ODE!
I feel the same about the conference, the leaps in experience and camaraderie are pretty spectacular. Meeting the likes of you, Joanne, Kim, Eileen etc is mind-boggling.
I won't be able to attend this year, and will envy you all to death, hihi, but will read every blog and comment (you will be blogging, won't you??).
Then, next year, I'll hopefully will see you all again.
Love from Canada,

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

I just subscribed to the new magazine and I look forward to reading your article!

This conference looks like a "top shelf" event. Best wishes for a wonderful experience and I know your students will have the same.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks for this lovely mention, Nancy.

Anonymous said...

Nancy so true! I'm very excited to be there and for the first time will be able to "hang out" at night and get to know folks better.
I always feel so "well fueled" after this event, and charged up to get back to my studio.