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Art lovers buzzing about exhibit

Artists at encaustic show in Troutdale use beeswax to create a wide variety of pieces
by: Jim Clark The large crowd at the Columbia River Gallery’s encaustic artists reception Sept. 22 points to the medium’s growing popularity, gallery officials said.

The Columbia River Gallery in Troutdale was filled with enthusiastic art lovers the evening of Sept. 22, there to check out 'Encaustic Masters: Inspirational Visual Voices,' a collection of mixed media encaustic art.

Encaustic is a form of art that uses melted beeswax, sometimes with other materials, to create images, scenes and textural abstractions. You can learn more by visiting international-encaustic-artists.org.

Donna Erwin, the gallery's owner and operator, said she was happy with the turnout as dozens of people toured the gallery and enjoyed a wine-and-cheese reception.

'It seems to be really organic,' she says of encaustic art. 'There's so many different ways (the artists) have used it. It just opens up all kinds of possibilities.'

The exhibit of two- and three-dimensional art features more than 200 pieces by 98 artists from around the world, hailing from such countries as the United States, Canada and Greece, Erwin said.

A second artists' reception will take place Friday, Oct. 7, as part of Troutdale's First Friday Art Walk, and some of the artists will be hosting demonstrations of how they work in the encaustic medium on Saturdays, Oct. 1 and 8.

Shaun Doll, third-place winner in the juried exhibition for his piece '3 Sisters' said the piece was based on aboriginal fetish dolls, and added he enjoys working with beeswax because it's easy to manipulate and quick to dry.

'Fifteen seconds after you paint it on, you can go on to the next step,' he said. He added that beeswax has been used since ancient times to create art.

'It's so versatile,' he said.

Robyn Andersen, the show's organizer, seconded Doll's point and said interest in encaustic art is waxing, so to speak.

'It's becoming a very popular art for collectors because they've never seen this art on the West Coast,' she said.

Sparking 'Dialogue'

Kanaan Kanaan, Middle East student advisor at Portland State University, grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan and created 'Dialogue' for the exhibit.

The collaged piece displays excerpts from 'Ahmad Al-Za'tar' or 'Ahmad the Arab,' a much beloved poem among Palestinians by the late Mahmoud Darwish, whose words were eventually set to music and became an anthem for Palestinians worldwide.

Kanaan said, however, that the poem in his piece is not as important as his desire to inspire people to talk about how they relate to nature, loved ones, enemies and 'others.' His work received an 'Honorable Mention' award from the jury.

'It became this mosaic,' Kanaan said of 'Dialogue.' 'If you are really scattered and pieces of you were here and there, what would you really look like?'

Kanaan said he didn't intend his piece's unveiling to coincide with the recent move by Palestinian leaders to ask for recognition of statehood at the United Nations, but the timing has highlighted the piece's impact.

He considers Palestinian statehood a 'human rights' issue and is critical of the United States' 'unconditional' support of Israel, but stressed he recognizes Israel's right to exist and opposes war. Ideally, he'd like to see one state that would include both Israelis and Palestinians, but acknowledges there's hopelessness among many folks about the conflict because extremists on both sides keep fueling the fear and warring that keep them apart.

'Unfortunately, the people who are paying the price are the people who want peace,' he said. 'I'm trying to get away from that incredible grim reality and do artwork that could really get us closer to peace.'

If you go

WHAT: 'Encaustic Masters: Inspirational Visual Voices'

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, through Wednesday, Oct. 12

WHERE: Columbia River Gallery, 305 E. Columbia River Highway, Troutdale

INFO: 503-491-8407, columbiarivergallery.com

Best of show

Best of Show: 'Revealing' by Karl Kaiser, Portland

First Place: 'Izzy's Coming and Going' by Andrea Schwartz Feit, Bridal Veil

Second Place: 'Gravity Falls' by Melinda Fellini, Portland

Third Place: '3 Sisters' by Shaun Doll, Seattle

Honorable Mention: 'Dialogue' by Kanaan Kanaan, Portland

Honorable Mention: 'Chefs at Work' by Karen Frey, Tucson, Ariz.