Now Featuring Lisa Ostapinski

Lisa Ostapinski uses wax and gold to create paintings that are as laborious as they are luminous. Juxtaposing intuitive form against the ceremonial history of gilded painting, Ostapinski invokes the visual dimensions of spiritual exploration.

Exclusive Print, Rain

Print 1, Rain

Exclusive Print, Diamonds

Print 2, Diamonds

Exclusive Print, Pyramid

Print 3, Pyramid

Print 4, Triangles

Print 4, Triangles

Print 5, Rainbow

Print 5, Rainbow

Print 6, Temple

Print 6, Temple

MH: Can we start out talking about your materials? I’m familiar with encaustic paint, but can you say a little about how you you it, what you like about it (I love it myself, but it’s frustrating, too). Also, some of the liquid qualities I associate with wax are in the marbled motifs in your works on paper.

LO: I have been working with encaustic (beeswax) for 20 years.  It’s an incredibly rich, beautiful and dynamic medium; there are so many ways it can be used and I have tried almost all of them.  What I like about it is that it is natural and beautiful and smells good.  I prefer natural materials opposed to acrylic and I like using materials that are untraditional or unexpected.  I love the way that the beeswax looks and smells and the energy it has; it’s alive and rich, never lifeless or flat-looking like traditional paint and canvas can be.

It is also incredibly labor intensive to use, and can be very unforgiving so it has been years of experimentation for me with lots of ups and downs.  I melt it, add pigment for color, paint it onto wood panels and then fuse it with a paint stripping gun.  Then I add things on top like fabric remnants, metallic leaf and/or oil paint. I also carve into the surface with a needle tool.

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MH: Where does your palette spring from? Your work isn’t quite monochromatic, but it a deeply pared back blue, black, white and of course shimmering gold leaf.

LO: I have a limited palette (mostly just black and white and gold leaf) because there is so much already going on visually with my work because of the materials that adding in color is overwhelming to me.  This is funny because I love color and my house and clothing are like a rainbow but I can’t work like that with the mediums I choose.  I use a muted color palette because it emphasizes the forms and the textures of the surfaces.  My work is really about light and the reflective qualities of the materials I use so adding too much color would detract from that.  The encaustic and gold leaf pieces reflect the sunlight all day and can look completely different at different times of day or night and in different rooms with different light sources.

MH: How do you research or sketch your work? Some of your materials, like gold leaf, marbling and encaustic require a lot of preparation to set up, even to do something straightforward, like to make a shape or cover a surface, and even more work to undo if it goes wrong. So I assume there’s some planning and idea generation happening for quite a while before you approach the main work itself.

LO: I spend an enormous amount of time planning and preparing my work. Once the encaustic medium is melted and gilded, when I carve on top I can’t make a mistake because is incredibly difficult to fix or cover it up. I plan my images ahead of time with sketches and then I make stencils to trace on top of the encaustic for carving.

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MH: You mention that you’re interested in sacred geometry. Can you explain sacred geometry and what it means to you and how you use it in artwork? And why?

LO: Sacred geometry and spirituality play a part in my work.  My imagery draws from many different cultural traditions that express god or spirit in geometric configurations or that utilize shapes to represent abstract ideas about the spiritual realm.  This is something that I experienced very intimately in my childhood.  I was raised very religiously (Catholic) and in Catholicism or the particular flavor of Catholicism that I grew up with, visual imagery is used heavily.  In my experience visual imagery played a major part in prayer and in the formation of my own ideas about spirituality.  Now I am an atheist and that is something that is conflicting and very difficult for me almost on a daily basis.  In short, I make art because I don’t believe in god.  Not believing in god is very scary for me, so making art is a way of dealing with the intense emotions I have about it, it’s a way that I work these ideas and feelings out visually.

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MH: How has your education background and teaching practice influence your studio work, and vice versa?

LO: I have been an art teacher to children for seventeen years. Several years ago I chose to get a Master’s degree in art education and not in visual art, which was a big decision for me.  I find the process of teaching art in a way inspired by the Reggio Emilia schools to be incredibly fulfilling and creative for me. This is my art practice too, just a different one. It’s working socially and it is deeply satisfying because I’m very social and I love children.  Because of my teaching background I can work with almost any medium. I do ceramics, printmaking, silkscreening, painting, drawing, installation, new genre, everything. I enjoy being such a versatile creature.

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