Art — "Waxworks"

Exhibit Shows That Was Works


By Michelle Saturley


Wax is the ‘hot’ new art medium


The McGowan Fine Art Gallery in Concord is showing “Waxworks,” featuring encaustic paintings by Ted Arnold, Lynda Litchfield and Joanne Mattera.

Encaustic painting is an ancient technique in which heated wax is given pigment and then applied to a surface. Layers of the colored wax substance build to create a translucent surface that can be buffed to a high gloss, or muted for a more subtle finish.

Though the technique has been around for thousands of years — dating back to the ancient Egyptians — it only recently became a popular method of painting. Joanne Mattera, a New-York-based artist, is a well-known authority on the medium. Mattera’s signature bold colors and geometrical lines of design are immediately eye-grabbing. She applies the wax to surfaces with a heat gun.

In addition to being part of the exhibit, Mattera will give a lecture on encaustic painting at the gallery on Feb. 24. She’ll also sign copies of her book, The Art of Encaustic Painting. The book, available on, encompasses the history of the technique as well as its many methods of use.

Two Maine artists will also take part in the show. Ted Arnold of Portland uses the encaustic technique to create a whimsical blend of abstract and representational still-life tableaus featuring teacups. He has been working in the encaustic medium for 25 years.

“I was drawn to encaustic painting because the look of the finished product is unlike any other medium,” Arnold said. “You can make big, bold sweeping strokes with a brush and the marks stay there on the surface. You can do mixed media collages by embedding found objects in the wax.”

Arnold’s teacup series will be part of the exhibit at the McGowan gallery.

“I chose teacups because there’s a history to teacups and a personality to teacups that I find interesting,” he said. “When people sit down to have tea, it’s one of the rare times in our society when we are just sitting still and slowing down. The whole experience of setting up the teacups and the tablecloth and the accoutrements is like a meditation. I wanted to capture that.”

Lynda Litchfield, an artist from Cape Elizabeth, has shown her encaustic work at locations throughout Maine, including the June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland, The Portland Museum of Art and the Blaine House, home of the governor of Maine. Litchfield created seven new pieces for the show. She uses a more delicate design for her encaustic work, using both paper and canvas to create dreamy, nature-based pieces. Originally an oil artist, Litchfield became intrigued by encaustic painting after seeing a Jasper Johns exhibit. She took a workshop on the technique, and has been using it ever since.

“What I like about encaustic painting is that it’s so versatile,” Litchfield said. “One look at the diversity of the three artists involved in the show will tell you that. Encaustic paintings also last longer than an oil painting, because wax is a natural preservative.”

Litchfield was excited to be working with Mattera.

“I actually own a copy of her book and refer to it all the time,” she said.

“Waxworks” will run through Feb. 25 at the McGowan Fine Art gallery, located at 10 Hills Avenue in Concord. The artists will appear at the gallery at a special reception on Feb. 4, 5-7 p.m. Call 225-2515 or visit for more information.

—Michelle Saturley

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