Dreamlike paintings surround the rotunda at the Triton Museum of Art. The details in the images aren’t crisp, but the subjects are still very visible. The paintings feel like glazed ceramic pieces, although touching the artwork is rarely allowed. Each image tells a story – some in conjunction with others and every painting is part of Karen Frey’s Alchemist exhibit at the Triton Museum of Art.
Frey utilizes an encaustic style of painting. “Encaustic is the application of pigment suspended in wax, applied in a molten state and, in the case of Ms. Frey, then burnished to a highly delicate and translucent sheen,” according to the Triton’s website. Metal tools and special brushes are then used to manipulate the wax into place before it cools. Traditionally, the tools must be heated in order to make changes to the art, however, technology allows artists to utilize various heat sources to keep the wax from hardening prior to the completion of the piece.
What’s special about Frey’s exhibit is that in a nice turn of events, there is one piece viewers can touch. Near the Triton’s door is a small, square piece of Frey’s work. It’s a flower. As the encaustic style is explained, museum-goers are encouraged to touch – just this once – a piece of the artwork so they can feel the cool, smooth, tile-like surface and see just how different it is from a standard canvas.
“My work would be categorized as representational. I paint what I see, know, love and find entertaining,” reads Frey’s artist statement. “My challenge is to really look, question what it is I am really seeing. Is it some thing, or an organized array of shapes, colors, and values? What is my priority, to carefully mimic, or to embrace my responsibility as an artist and translate my imagery onto my surface to the best of my abilities? Ultimately, I need to regularly evaluate my sense of perception and subtly alter my reality.”
“In addition to painting the world around me, I often suggest a narrative. I do this with respect for my viewer. I choose not to lay it all out clearly, but leave room for individual interpretation. My story may be different from the story invented by my audience. I also apply the same approach to the execution of my work. Paint can be applied in such a way that ones’ brain must literally kick into gear to perceive an optically created color or mass. When someone remarks that my paintings are just shapes, colors and curious edges up close, but look remarkably like something from a distance, I am satisfied that I’ve done my job.”
Frey’s exhibit runs through February 3. For additional information visit http://tritonmuseum.org/exhibitions_Frey.php.