On view now through August 2 at the Alliance for the Arts is the 27th Annual All Florida Juried Show. Judged by new Baker Museum Curator Frank Verpoorten, one of two Juror’s Choice awards went to Naples artist Deborah Martin for her highly textual painting Elephant 1.
“My medium of choice is encaustics,” states Martin. “A once archaic medium, encaustics gives me the flexibility of discovery.”
The word encaustic comes from the Greek word enkaustikos, which means “to heat” or “to burn.” It is a technique that dates back to 100 B.C. and the portraiture popular at that time in Greco-Roman Egypt. It begins with the artist mixing pigments and resins into beeswax, which she then uses to methodically build layer upon layer of color and texture using molten wax. Heat is employed to bind each successive layer to the one set down before it.
For Martin, the process is almost archaeological. “I try to preserve what’s underneath while creating something new with each layer,” Deborah explains. “By scraping wax away, my process turns into an excavation, discovering colors, textures and images.” Incorporated into Martin’s encaustic paintings are drawings, poetry and original transfer prints.”
The fragility of nature is a recurring theme in Martin’s work. “Birds, nests, feathers find their way into my encaustic works,” she relates. Some of her new work focuses on the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “Fish, turtles, shell fish, coral reefs are still in danger,” she points out.
But Martin wanted to use the 27th Annual All Florida Juried Exhibition as a forum for drawing attention to the plight of the African elephant. During the show’s opening, she mentioned a May 6 incident in which a group of 17 heavily armed poachers posing as members of the transitional Séléka government slaughtered 22 adult and 4 juvenile forest elephants inside the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, a World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic (CAR). After hacking off their tusks, the poachers left the carcasses to rot in the torrid African sun.
In spite of the dwindling population of elephants in Africa and India, Martin reports that the demand for ivory remains high.
“At the end of the day, one of two things will end poaching,” predicts Bas Huijbregts, who leads the Illegal Wildlife Trade Campaign for WWF in Central Africa. “Either there is no more demand, or there are no more elephants. The choice is up to us.” Martin is doing her part to sensitize those within eyeshot of her art to boycott products, including sculpture, that contain ivory.
But the underlying message of Elephant 1 was not on the mind of Baker Museum Curator Frank Verpoorten when he juried the painting into the show and singled out the work for a Juror’s Award. Texture was what attracted him to the work. “It’s very subtle,” Verpoorten said appreciatively during his June 1 Gallery Talk. “The texture has the appearance and feel of elephant skin.” And because of the way Martin layered wax over graphite, china marker and other media, the painting incorporates a plethora of “sensory effects.”
Verpoorten is just the latest to take notice of Martin’s elephant-size talent and unique technique. In the last two years, she received a Best of Show at the von Leibig Art Center and has exhibited at Guess-Fisher Gallery, Florida Gulf Coast University, the Art League of Fort Myers, and the Annual Painting Exhibit at Rookery Bay. She also participated in the Art of the Book show at the Alliance for the Arts earlier this year and had work selected for The Visual Arts Center of Punta Gorda National Art Exhibition 2012 and The Kolbalt Gallery, Provencetown, MA.
The 27th Annual All Florida Juried Exhibition hangs in the main gallery of the Alliance for the Arts through August 2. Drop in and take a look. The show contains 52 strong compositions by some of the most talented emerging and mid-career artists working today in the State of Florida.
The Alliance for the Arts proudly supports artists and arts organizations in our area as the state designated Local Arts Agency for Lee County. The Alliance for the Arts galleries and gift shop are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1:00 on Saturdays.
The Alliance is located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard, just south of Colonial Boulevard. To become a member, please visit http://www.artinlee.org or telephone 239-939-2787.