Angel Wynn took her first encaustics workshop about 10 years ago, but the practice has been around for a bit longer than that. Egyptians experimented with the method of painting with melted beeswax in the fifth century BCE, the Greeks picked it up, and it eventually flourished into the medium of choice for Byzantine icons of Jesus, Mary and the saints before it diminished in popularity in medieval times.
With encaustic art once again on the rise, Wynn creates icons of a different sort. She moved to Santa Fe from Idaho four years ago, looking to continue her career in photography and experiment in encaustics. Given the plethora of photographers in the City Different, she wanted to do something more—something unique.
"I'm pushing myself as an artist," Wynn says. "I'm making magic."
For now, she's transforming old stock photography into a sort of underdrawing for the encaustic wax. One of her favorite motifs is the American bison, which she portrays through thick coatings of pigmented beeswax on top of black-and-white photos. The wax gives a soft, translucent effect to the forms, like the shape of something remembered. For her, it's an icon of the America she knows, a symbol of humble resiliency against all odds.
As Wynn leads SFR on a tour of the Encaustic Art Institute, a nonprofit that moved from the village of Madrid to a spot on Agua Fría in March, it's clear that encaustics can take on all forms and styles—contemporary abstracts, collages of objects embedded in the wax and delicately detailed portraits hang alongside each other.
"This is the center of the universe for encaustic art," Wynn says, gesturing broadly across the gallery. She's one of the 250 members of the institute, which continues to grow—doubling, in fact, since the move.
Wynn has offered demonstrations and workshops for three and a half years now to further expose the public to the broad world of this ancient artform, while continuing to paint. "People have a lot of positive interest," she says. "You want to do more."
Using Photos with Encaustic Wax
1-3 pm Saturday, Nov. 28. Free.
Encaustic Art Institute,
632 Agua Fría St.