Friday, July 08, 2011




Somerville artist Barbara Cone met me one recent morning at the Bloc 11 Café in Union Square to wax poetic about her work as an Encaustic artist. I say poetic because the woman apologized more than once about being too enthusiastic about her art, and it was evident she was brimming with passion; something you have to bring into play in writing a good poem, or working with wax as she does.

Cone has a studio in the Davis Square section of the city and recently moved to the Republic of Cambridge—but I won’t hold that against her! Encaustic Art is one of the oldest art forms, dating back to the ancient Greeks, and was often used by contemporary artists like Jasper Johns. Cone told me artists of this ilk use beeswax infused with pigment, resin and other substances.

Cone said her process involves procuring melted beeswax which comes pigmented in a vial. Melted wax has to be spread on something that is strong enough to hold its weight like a wood panel. Cone said she use metal and natural bristle brushes to apply the wax and uses a heat gun to fuse the wax into layers. She often creates many layers of wax that become semi-translucent.

Cone, who trained at the Museum School in Boston has been inspied by her studies of molten lava and water as represented in her Aqueous Series. She is also an accomplished printmaker, and co-leads the professional association Mass Wax-a home for encaustic artists of all stripes.

Cone’s work has been widely exhibited and critically acclaimed. Most recently her work has appeared at the Fort Point Art Association Gallery in Boston, the IEA National exhibition Art Center Morro, Bay, Ca., Fairfield Arts Council in Fairfield Connecticut, and elsewhere. Her work is also well-represented in private collections.

Cone said Somerville reminds her of her old haunt Berkeley, California. She reflected: “I think Somerville is like Berkeley in that it is open to artistic experimentation, and it is a vibrant arts center in general with movies, open studios, and festivals held on a regular basis.” Cone concluded by saying that she wants her work to touch people deeply and to be technically challenging. After petting a friendly canine, Cone left Bloc 11 and disappeared down the long winding streets of the Paris of New England: Somerville, Mass.

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