Finding new dimensions with old technique
Artist Shelley Gilchrist in her studio.
‘Forms & Fragments’
Art Museo in the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare Hotel, 5300 N. River Road, Rosemont
Through July 30
(847) 544-5300, www.icohare.com
Updated: June 6, 2012 5:02PM
The pair of multi-colored wavy lines hanging on the wall look like festive bacon at first glance.
But, when you learn that the piece is titled “Gemini Falls,” you realize that artist Shelley Gilchrist intended the vertically meandering lines to represent water.
Gilchrist, of Evanston, is one of four sculptural artists in the “Forms & Fragments” exhibit at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare hotel in Rosemont until July 30. The show represents a range of contemporary sculpture, with emphasis on diversity of material, technique and content.
However, although the colors and fluid shapes Gilchrist uses makes her art appear to pop from the wall, she has a hard time calling it sculpture.
“It’s not 3D,” she said, adding some friends in sculpture groups tease her by asking when she’s going to take her art to the third dimension.
But, it’s not just painting either.
She refers to her work as “sculptural paintings” inspired by scenes from nature.
“Gemini Falls” was first inspired by Copper Falls in Michigan. She made one piece representing that location before deciding she’d like to add another and call it “Gemini Falls.” After adding the other piece, she wondered if there was such a place called Gemini Falls.
“I think that there is one somewhere,” she said.
(There’s one in Washington State.)
Her “Starry Night,” which consists of several circular and rounded star-like shapes with bands of color, was inspired by both the limited view of the night sky in Evanston due to light pollution and by Van Gogh’s painting of the same name.
“I live in Evanston, and we don’t see the sky here and everybody’s used to that,” she explained. “I was thinking of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ and how I would make it with my own shaped wood and strong colors.”
Gilchrist uses organic materials — wood, beeswax and resin — to create her encaustic art. She mixes color pigment into the wax and resin before applying it to the wood surfaces, then uses heat to manipulate it. The techniques of encaustic art have been in use for at least 2,000 years.
Gilchrist started working in encaustic when she grew uninspired by oil paints and representational painting.
“It didn’t inspire me back,” she said. “Some people get feedback from their materials. I wasn’t getting anything from oil paints.”
In 2000, she took a class in encaustic and found inspiration again.
She’s also feeling inspired since showing the other artists in “Forms & Fragments”— Nikki Renee Anderson, Donna Hapac and Mimi Peterson.
Anderson’s pieces represent nuances of the feminine experience from different perspectives in age. Hapac’s work are organic transparent or translucent forms made with repeating elements. Peterson’s art represents dualities, in particular the perfect space in nature against man’s flawed decisions.
“The three other artists, they are 3D sculptors and I’m honored to be with them. They’re at the top of their game,” she said. “They’re wizards. I think I bring more color than everybody else, but their vocabulary is very advanced, they’re very smart about what they’re doing.”