Encaustic Noir

Obsolete, old news, no longer needed, antique, nostalgic…words that describe the elements of these mixed-media works.

Before I-PADS, Kindles, Nooks and computers there were printed books.

Before search engines, we went to the library or bookstore to research something.  The bookshelves held the books that we traveled for.

Before I-PADS, I-Phones & Websites, there were portfolio books.  We printed, edited, bound and then carried or FED-EXed our brand, our identity, our style of work to potential clients.

I have always prided myself on staying modern, ahead of the technical curve. Spending months on a 40 foot long technical nightmare for the 2006 Venice Biennale of Architecture started me thinking about using my arms beyond my wrists again as well as working with texture and dimension. I felt that I had mastered the 2-D image and that it was time to move on to something new.

An exhibit that I saw at the Samuel Dorsky Museum in 2005 sparked my interest in incorporating encaustic (beeswax) into my work. Neil Trager, the director, gave me a tour of the museum when we first met to discuss my future my one-person show.  I took three workshops to learn how to work in this new (for me) ancient medium.  I started in spring, 2007, not long after my 40’ long technical nightmare was exhibited at the front entrance of Photo LA.

The image was so perfect that it appeared cold and lifeless – as any art form that doesn’t include the human touch usually feels. Tagging the piece soon after (along with a dozen infamous graffiti writers) allowed me to bring life back into the work.  Making my statement that I had had enough of these intensive digital creations.

Renew, re-use, assemblages, collage, unique objects of art are the words that describe the finished pieces.

Life kept getting in the way for me to fully engage with the medium, but the wax still called to me.  Strange wonderful moments happen when I focus on the work and it seems to open a portal, a channel, to another world or dimension. It all came together in the past two years and the wax and I have bonded into a strong, spiritual partnership. 

The small wood panels are pieces of no longer needed bookshelves and crates from Acres of Books, a bookstore in Long Beach that closed in 2010 after 75 years. The other wood panels come from Ocean Park home re-model scraps and demos, leftover scraps from the new museum of flying construction and wood that I have had sitting around the house or studio for more than 20 years.

The archival prints are from either my portfolio books and files with new prints on handmade paper from my existing digital files.

The pages are from books that I have read and shelved, some dating back to the early 1960’s.  Packed and moved numerous times over the almost 50 years that I have owned them.  Many of them unreadable for years, they served only as a reminder of the lovely hours that we spent together.

I had a passion for reading and devoured a couple of books a week while growing up.  It appears that I only saved the ones in the Gothic genre, a genre I loved so much that I even took a college class in it.  And then specialized in creating art that evoked the mood.  The newer books are pulp fiction that I read and marked up for my Urban Noir/LA-NY project.  In the 2011 works, the pages are from stories set in the same city as the images were taken.

The twine is purchased brand new, but from an old fashioned hardware store on Lincoln Blvd in Venice.  And the beeswax is blended on a kitchen stove in Sonoma.

The elements come together and create another soul. 

Helen K. Garber

fine art photography