Carrie Klukas | Not A Quick Read

by Wendy Stefansson

Carrie Klukas

Grande Prairie artist Carrie Klukas admits to being surprised at what people see in her abstract paintings. “Sometimes,” she says, “my art takes them places it’s never taken me.”

Some viewers have seen whole universes in Klukas’ paintings; nebulae of colour and light amidst the primal darkness, the birth- places of stars. Oth- ers have seen in them the veining of marble; the line drawings of the ever-birthing earth. Creation narratives abound, not the least of which is the story each painting tells of its own creation. But also and equally present are stories of destruction; the consuming energy of fire, of storms or of waves. Klukas’ paintings are vessels for both beginnings and endings; each one a reliquary – a beautiful container into which a person can place what is sacred to him or her. A story. A memory. A hope or a loss. A longing or a fear.

“Erotic” was the word used by well-known Demmit, Alberta artist Peter von Tiesenhausen to describe a large diptych Klukas painted at the Prairie North Creative Residency in 2007. With its arcing curves, softly modelled forms and warm, luminous colours, “erotic” is certainly an interpreta- tion that is there to be made, though Klukas contends it wasn’t her intention when creating the work.

At the other end of the spectrum, the artist was recently asked to remove a painting she had created specifically for the Grande Prairie Cancer Centre. The painting, originally titled “And Then There was Light”, is now (with characteristically dark humour) referred to by Klukas as The Rejected One. The work emanates a deep, enveloping darkness but for a pair of light-coloured forms at the top. It feels ominous. Something is about to happen. In front of this painting, you stand motionless. You wait. You hold your breath.

"And Then There Was Light" by Carrie Klukas

According to Beverly Hildebrandt, Nurse Manager at the Centre, several patients asked to have the painting taken down within days of its arrival, saying it “reminded them of their cancer cells.” Hildebrandt had no reasonable choice but to comply. Klukas removed the painting.

Dr. Brenda Millar, who works at the same hospital, describes what happened this way: “Carrie’s paintings have this won- derful movement and flow to them, and an incredible sense of light. They’re so reflective – they have a shininess and a sheen to them – and that reflectiveness makes you go into your own soul, your own emotion. If you are emotionally grounded, you will find hope in them with this light coming through. But if you are in a fragile state, you could really get into that lost sort of place. For an artist, it’s amazing to be able to pull that out of people.”

Dyptick from the Prairie North Creative Residency

While Klukas clearly didn’t intend to bring pain to anyone through this painting, pain exists. It’s already there in every human life. It’s especially there in the lives of cancer patients, who are clearly at their most vulnerable. Pain surfaces in a person’s response to a painting because it has already sur- faced in his or her life. Pain is as valid and honest a response as pleasure is; darkness is as real as light.

Klukas has come to realize that what any given painting means to her as its creator is only part of its totality. A viewer comes to it with his or her own associations; own experiences, thoughts and ideas; and own life lived and understood and most importantly, felt. The viewer brings him or herself to the work of art and completes it.

“People will always bring their own meanings to it,” says Klukas. In the absence of an obvious, concrete subject, the viewer reaches into the void and grasps for something solid; waits for the separate particles of paint to coalesce into something that means something. It could potentially be anything. It could be many things at the same time. It could be something different every time you look at it. Each painting is redolent with possibilities.

“That’s what I love about abstract art,” Klukas enthuses. “You can come back to it again and again and see something different in it.” It is open to multiple and divergent inter- pretations. It is layered. It avoids the limitations of being one- dimensional, a single narrative. It is “not,” in Klukas’ words, “a quick read.”

Copper Arabesques

Nor is it, in Klukas’ case, a quick process. She often works on a single painting over a period of weeks or months. Beginning with a white, gessoed panel, she applies liquid acrylic paints in an intuitive process; unplanned and wide open in her approach. Many times, her first co- lours are metallics. When the first application of paint is dry, she’ll sand selected areas of the painting, revealing what is beneath it. Then she’ll alternately paint and sand again and again. In some places she’ll take the work back to its beginnings, abrading the top surfaces in order to move back through layers of creation to the original light of the gesso.

For Klukas, “the meaning (of a painting) is in the process.” The alternation of additive processes (applying paint) with subtractive processes (sanding the paint away) is a meta- phor for life as it is lived; growth and pruning, if you will. She sees the removal of paint as the “releasing of blocks,” enabling her to “find the truer, inner beauty of the work.” Her approach is almost sculptural – in both the physical effort required, and in the process of paring away material in order to discover the ‘figure’ within (so to speak). The artist has to hold onto a belief in the essential being of the work, in the inevitability of it.
And then there is the polish. Once satisfied with colour and composition, Klukas applies a thick, glassy layer of varnish to each painting. This creates an absolutely flat, smooth finish that begs to be touched (again, like sculpture). More im- portantly, perhaps, it adds the reflectivity in which one sees oneself.
Rich and complex in depth, colour and visual texture, with soft-edged, weightless masses and fluid, organic line; Klukas’ work has a female quality about it. It is a woman’s art. It is intense. It is emotional. And it is beautiful.

Beauty is a quality that has been marginalized and maligned by some in the art world in recent decades, but Klukas says of her work: “It is what it is. I won’t apologize for it.” Maybe beauty won’t change the world, Klukas concedes. But, she says, “Maybe it’s time for beauty to make a comeback. Maybe there’s just too much ugliness in the world right now.”


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WAXING POETIC

by Wendy Stefansson“Encaustic paint is simply beeswax, resin and pigment.” Yet its “surface can be pol- ished to a high gloss for a luminous effect, or the wax can be modelled, sculpted, textured, and combined with collage material,” according to Wisconsin encaustic artist, Jessie Fritsch.Dating back to the 5th century BC, encaustic is making a comeback among Peace Country artists nearly two and a half millennia later.

CAROL BROMLEY MEERES

[caption id="attachment_604" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Forces - Carol Bromley Meeres"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="213" /> [/caption]Grande Prairie artist Carol Bromley Meeres admits that she finds the materials she uses for her encaustic work “sensually pleasing to use.” Although encaustics are paints, Bromley Meeres’ approach doesn’t necessarily involve brushes at all. She might use brushes just to get the warm wax onto the surface of the work. After that, she uses a heat gun to keep it flowing while she pours, tips, tilts the paint, or moves it around with sticks. It’s a fluid process, literally.When it hardens, she buffs it to translucency – or not. Buffed, encaustic takes on a clarity and luminosity akin to oil paints. Unbuffed, the wax becomes opaque. It takes on a whitish colour referred to as a “bloom.” Traditionally considered to be a mistake, Bromley Meeres sometimes uses it to deliberate effect.“I find the bloom very attractive,” she relates. It has an organic quality, “like the bloom you find on really dark grapes.” But then, Bromley Meeres is not afraid to break the so-called rules.She sometimes uses encaustic paints on loose canvas or paper instead of the traditional wood panel. These surfaces bend and flex, causing the wax to crack and resulting in random and unpredictable textures; batik-like. Or she inte- grates found materials into her work – anything that serves her purposes from the ‘precious’ to the throw-away, from copper leaf to delicate pieces of ink-stained paper to bits of plastic.Bromley Meeres likes the way encaustics “get materials into the piece.” Submerging an object in wax makes it immediately integral to the work of art; not just an addition to it. She also likes the texture encaustics can add to otherwise flat pieces.

TABITHA LOGAN

[caption id="attachment_605" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Diffusion 1 - Tabitha Logan"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="328" /> [/caption]It’s a warm art in a cold climate. That’s one of the things that Dawson Creek artist Tabitha Logan says she loves about encaustic.Eight or nine years ago she discovered the work of Toronto- based encaustic painter Tony Scherman and immediately became “infatuated with the idea of using wax.” And although there have been moments since then when she felt “the wax wouldn’t co-operate,” Logan says the thing that kept her coming back to encaustics was that “the warmth of all the wax was like therapy.”Under the glow of a heat lamp, Logan applies the wax in strokes she describes as “chunky,” developing sensual new textures with each layer. Sometimes she engraves the surface or cuts away parts of it in a one-step-forward-one- step-back kind of process. Sometimes she integrates collage elements into the work -- charcoal sketches she has made, for example. Sometimes she burnishes a photocopy face down on the still-warm wax to transfer it onto the surface, leaving behind an imperfect image like a partially forgotten memory.Logan says: “If I am trying to understand something ... I’ll take those ideas and work them into my collages.” In a recent anthropology class, for example, a professor was describing the dispersion of early humans out of Africa and throughout the world. Listening, Logan’s “mind went off into the art zone.” The result was Diffusion, a work in which she transferred a map onto the background, then layered it with an image of a homo sapien skull and various masses of colour – brown, green and red – ‘moving’ in different directions like our early ancestors did.Logan says, art is a part of the process of “making sure I understand it all.”

DARLENE DAUTEL

[caption id="attachment_606" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Ladies In Red - Darlene Dautel"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="275" height="350" /> [/caption]“It’s absolutely freeing!” That’s what encaustic artist Darlene Dautel has to say about the medium.For years Dautel, who raises honeybees with her husband on a farm near Beaverlodge, has used the wax her bees produce to make batiks. In that process, hot wax is applied to a fabric as a resist to the dye which is used to colour it. The artist works through the process alternately applying wax and dye, wax and dye. Along the way, water spots of dye become embedded in and between the layers of wax, sometimes creating beautiful and surprising effects. Dautel was often sad to iron off the wax in the end. She found herself wanting to leave the work as it was. So when she discovered encaustics through a magazine article five or six years ago, she could immediately see the possibilities.“It’s sort of magical,” Dautel says, because you can take something that is hard and set one minute, and apply heat to it and completely transform it into something else. From a solid to a liquid: “You can really get the whole board moving.”“It’s that fluidity. It’s the movement. It’s the surprise of it,” that keeps Dautel challenged and excited about encaustics. But she also enjoys the medium’s sculptural qualities; first building up texture in a work through layer-upon-layer of wax, then carving back into it, uncovering earlier colours, gestures, and ideas like an archaeologist digging; like a mind remembering.Dautel concludes: “it’s the everchangingness of it that I really love.”
8 years ago

WAXING POETIC

by Wendy Stefansson“Encaustic paint is simply beeswax, resin and pigment.” Yet its “surface can be pol- ished to a high gloss for a luminous effect, or the wax can be modelled, sculpted, textured, and combined with collage material,” according to Wisconsin encaustic artist, Jessie Fritsch.Dating back to the 5th century BC, encaustic is making a comeback among Peace Country artists nearly two and a half millennia later.

CAROL BROMLEY MEERES

[caption id="attachment_604" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Forces - Carol Bromley Meeres"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="213" /> [/caption]Grande Prairie artist Carol Bromley Meeres admits that she finds the materials she uses for her encaustic work “sensually pleasing to use.” Although encaustics are paints, Bromley Meeres’ approach doesn’t necessarily involve brushes at all. She might use brushes just to get the warm wax onto the surface of the work. After that, she uses a heat gun to keep it flowing while she pours, tips, tilts the paint, or moves it around with sticks. It’s a fluid process, literally.When it hardens, she buffs it to translucency – or not. Buffed, encaustic takes on a clarity and luminosity akin to oil paints. Unbuffed, the wax becomes opaque. It takes on a whitish colour referred to as a “bloom.” Traditionally considered to be a mistake, Bromley Meeres sometimes uses it to deliberate effect.“I find the bloom very attractive,” she relates. It has an organic quality, “like the bloom you find on really dark grapes.” But then, Bromley Meeres is not afraid to break the so-called rules.She sometimes uses encaustic paints on loose canvas or paper instead of the traditional wood panel. These surfaces bend and flex, causing the wax to crack and resulting in random and unpredictable textures; batik-like. Or she inte- grates found materials into her work – anything that serves her purposes from the ‘precious’ to the throw-away, from copper leaf to delicate pieces of ink-stained paper to bits of plastic.Bromley Meeres likes the way encaustics “get materials into the piece.” Submerging an object in wax makes it immediately integral to the work of art; not just an addition to it. She also likes the texture encaustics can add to otherwise flat pieces.

TABITHA LOGAN

[caption id="attachment_605" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Diffusion 1 - Tabitha Logan"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="328" /> [/caption]It’s a warm art in a cold climate. That’s one of the things that Dawson Creek artist Tabitha Logan says she loves about encaustic.Eight or nine years ago she discovered the work of Toronto- based encaustic painter Tony Scherman and immediately became “infatuated with the idea of using wax.” And although there have been moments since then when she felt “the wax wouldn’t co-operate,” Logan says the thing that kept her coming back to encaustics was that “the warmth of all the wax was like therapy.”Under the glow of a heat lamp, Logan applies the wax in strokes she describes as “chunky,” developing sensual new textures with each layer. Sometimes she engraves the surface or cuts away parts of it in a one-step-forward-one- step-back kind of process. Sometimes she integrates collage elements into the work -- charcoal sketches she has made, for example. Sometimes she burnishes a photocopy face down on the still-warm wax to transfer it onto the surface, leaving behind an imperfect image like a partially forgotten memory.Logan says: “If I am trying to understand something ... I’ll take those ideas and work them into my collages.” In a recent anthropology class, for example, a professor was describing the dispersion of early humans out of Africa and throughout the world. Listening, Logan’s “mind went off into the art zone.” The result was Diffusion, a work in which she transferred a map onto the background, then layered it with an image of a homo sapien skull and various masses of colour – brown, green and red – ‘moving’ in different directions like our early ancestors did.Logan says, art is a part of the process of “making sure I understand it all.”

DARLENE DAUTEL

[caption id="attachment_606" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Ladies In Red - Darlene Dautel"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="275" height="350" /> [/caption]“It’s absolutely freeing!” That’s what encaustic artist Darlene Dautel has to say about the medium.For years Dautel, who raises honeybees with her husband on a farm near Beaverlodge, has used the wax her bees produce to make batiks. In that process, hot wax is applied to a fabric as a resist to the dye which is used to colour it. The artist works through the process alternately applying wax and dye, wax and dye. Along the way, water spots of dye become embedded in and between the layers of wax, sometimes creating beautiful and surprising effects. Dautel was often sad to iron off the wax in the end. She found herself wanting to leave the work as it was. So when she discovered encaustics through a magazine article five or six years ago, she could immediately see the possibilities.“It’s sort of magical,” Dautel says, because you can take something that is hard and set one minute, and apply heat to it and completely transform it into something else. From a solid to a liquid: “You can really get the whole board moving.”“It’s that fluidity. It’s the movement. It’s the surprise of it,” that keeps Dautel challenged and excited about encaustics. But she also enjoys the medium’s sculptural qualities; first building up texture in a work through layer-upon-layer of wax, then carving back into it, uncovering earlier colours, gestures, and ideas like an archaeologist digging; like a mind remembering.Dautel concludes: “it’s the everchangingness of it that I really love.”
8 years ago

WAXING POETIC

by Wendy Stefansson“Encaustic paint is simply beeswax, resin and pigment.” Yet its “surface can be pol- ished to a high gloss for a luminous effect, or the wax can be modelled, sculpted, textured, and combined with collage material,” according to Wisconsin encaustic artist, Jessie Fritsch.Dating back to the 5th century BC, encaustic is making a comeback among Peace Country artists nearly two and a half millennia later.

CAROL BROMLEY MEERES

[caption id="attachment_604" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Forces - Carol Bromley Meeres"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="213" /> [/caption]Grande Prairie artist Carol Bromley Meeres admits that she finds the materials she uses for her encaustic work “sensually pleasing to use.” Although encaustics are paints, Bromley Meeres’ approach doesn’t necessarily involve brushes at all. She might use brushes just to get the warm wax onto the surface of the work. After that, she uses a heat gun to keep it flowing while she pours, tips, tilts the paint, or moves it around with sticks. It’s a fluid process, literally.When it hardens, she buffs it to translucency – or not. Buffed, encaustic takes on a clarity and luminosity akin to oil paints. Unbuffed, the wax becomes opaque. It takes on a whitish colour referred to as a “bloom.” Traditionally considered to be a mistake, Bromley Meeres sometimes uses it to deliberate effect.“I find the bloom very attractive,” she relates. It has an organic quality, “like the bloom you find on really dark grapes.” But then, Bromley Meeres is not afraid to break the so-called rules.She sometimes uses encaustic paints on loose canvas or paper instead of the traditional wood panel. These surfaces bend and flex, causing the wax to crack and resulting in random and unpredictable textures; batik-like. Or she inte- grates found materials into her work – anything that serves her purposes from the ‘precious’ to the throw-away, from copper leaf to delicate pieces of ink-stained paper to bits of plastic.Bromley Meeres likes the way encaustics “get materials into the piece.” Submerging an object in wax makes it immediately integral to the work of art; not just an addition to it. She also likes the texture encaustics can add to otherwise flat pieces.

TABITHA LOGAN

[caption id="attachment_605" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Diffusion 1 - Tabitha Logan"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="350" height="328" /> [/caption]It’s a warm art in a cold climate. That’s one of the things that Dawson Creek artist Tabitha Logan says she loves about encaustic.Eight or nine years ago she discovered the work of Toronto- based encaustic painter Tony Scherman and immediately became “infatuated with the idea of using wax.” And although there have been moments since then when she felt “the wax wouldn’t co-operate,” Logan says the thing that kept her coming back to encaustics was that “the warmth of all the wax was like therapy.”Under the glow of a heat lamp, Logan applies the wax in strokes she describes as “chunky,” developing sensual new textures with each layer. Sometimes she engraves the surface or cuts away parts of it in a one-step-forward-one- step-back kind of process. Sometimes she integrates collage elements into the work -- charcoal sketches she has made, for example. Sometimes she burnishes a photocopy face down on the still-warm wax to transfer it onto the surface, leaving behind an imperfect image like a partially forgotten memory.Logan says: “If I am trying to understand something ... I’ll take those ideas and work them into my collages.” In a recent anthropology class, for example, a professor was describing the dispersion of early humans out of Africa and throughout the world. Listening, Logan’s “mind went off into the art zone.” The result was Diffusion, a work in which she transferred a map onto the background, then layered it with an image of a homo sapien skull and various masses of colour – brown, green and red – ‘moving’ in different directions like our early ancestors did.Logan says, art is a part of the process of “making sure I understand it all.”

DARLENE DAUTEL

[caption id="attachment_606" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Ladies In Red - Darlene Dautel"]http://www.artofthepeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Forces-CarolBromleyMeeres-350x213.jpg" alt="" width="275" height="350" /> [/caption]“It’s absolutely freeing!” That’s what encaustic artist Darlene Dautel has to say about the medium.For years Dautel, who raises honeybees with her husband on a farm near Beaverlodge, has used the wax her bees produce to make batiks. In that process, hot wax is applied to a fabric as a resist to the dye which is used to colour it. The artist works through the process alternately applying wax and dye, wax and dye. Along the way, water spots of dye become embedded in and between the layers of wax, sometimes creating beautiful and surprising effects. Dautel was often sad to iron off the wax in the end. She found herself wanting to leave the work as it was. So when she discovered encaustics through a magazine article five or six years ago, she could immediately see the possibilities.“It’s sort of magical,” Dautel says, because you can take something that is hard and set one minute, and apply heat to it and completely transform it into something else. From a solid to a liquid: “You can really get the whole board moving.”“It’s that fluidity. It’s the movement. It’s the surprise of it,” that keeps Dautel challenged and excited about encaustics. But she also enjoys the medium’s sculptural qualities; first building up texture in a work through layer-upon-layer of wax, then carving back into it, uncovering earlier colours, gestures, and ideas like an archaeologist digging; like a mind remembering.Dautel concludes: “it’s the everchangingness of it that I really love.”
8 years ago