by Joanna Nixon
Tucked away in the lower level of the Harrison Center for the Arts is Studio 79, the creative hub for Kathryn Dart. Kathryn is an encaustic artist who creates whimsical, colorful and abstract paintings made of layers of fused wax.
Kathryn has always had a creative side but it wasn't until a friend introduced her to encaustic that she found her artistic passion. The new found medium appealed to Kathryn so much that she quit her full-time job to pursue a career as a visual artist. One could argue that it is a bold move to give up a steady paycheck to be an artist, but it is evident that Kathryn has natural ability and talent. In 2011, Kathryn received the Beckmann Emerging Artist Fellowship. The Fellowship, awarded by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, recognizes artists that show exceptional promise and have demonstrated mastery in the techniques of their particular art form.
What makes Kathryn stand out as an encaustic artist is the creative way she incorporates found objects in her work such as textiles, photography, dirt, newsprint, paper and string in her pieces, which result in a look that is less painting but more multi-dimensional and sculptural.
When I first visited Kathryn's studio about a year ago and I was immediately drawn to the uniqueness of her work. There was one piece in particular that caught my attention. The work, an 18"x18" blue encaustic painting was minimalist but eye catching. In her work she carved 25 circles in a symmetrical pattern and underneath several of the carved circles was embedded newsprint. The addition of the newsprint was subtle but also made the piece visually interesting.
Working with encaustic requires patience and a high attention to detail, of which Kathryn has both. The encaustic process involves applying layers of clear or pigmented melted wax to a surface and reheating the work with a heat gun to fuse the wax to the previous layer. During the layering process, mixed media elements can be added to create a work that has collage-like characteristics. To create a more textural work cooled wax layers can also be scraped and carved to expose previous layers of color or incorporated collage elements.
Kathryn's studio is filled with work varying in size and complexity and you can see firsthand her experimentation with different encaustic techniques and the evolution of her artistic style in her work. Kathryn's most recent body of work takes on more of a sculptural appearance and each work in her most recent series includes folded paper houses attached by string that symbolize community, a current source of inspiration.
Kathryn's work ranges in price from $250-$1,500 and is ideal for someone who wants to support a local emerging artist but is also looking for something incredibly unique. If you like abstract art, mixed media or bright colorful pieces, Kathryn's work is worth checking out.
You can see other examples of Kathryn's encaustic work in person during open studio hours each First Friday at the Harrison Center for the Arts.