far and near - a conversation

During their artist talk, Lisa Barthelson and Kay Hartung spent a lovely saturday afternoon in conversation.

Here are some of their thoughts and inspirations,

In their own words...

Lisa Barthelson and Kay Hartung in front of Lisa's work.

Lisa Barthelson and Kay Hartung in front of Lisa's work.

On playa...

I started to walk towards the sun and behind me there was this ultramarine sky and a rock rim that was apricot color and I was walking and walking, and all I could think was JOY JOY JOY. As the sun rose the moon started to set, and I walked into the day. It was SO beautiful.
— Lisa Barthelson

On place as inspiration…

I wanted to do a tribute to the landscape and to the playa. And so I started to pick up stones and I put them around 2 stones that were leaning against each other, they looked like they were embracing. I made a circle around this little cluster of rocks. It was like a walking meditation but a productive meditation. The next day I also got up before sunrise and started a ring around that, picking up rocks and placing them around what I called the ‘altar rock’. And I did a meditation every morning, before sunrise, for 25 days, in the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It was improvisational, spontaneous, site-specific, ephemeral, a product of a joyful experience.
— Lisa Barthelson

On taking risks…

I knew that everybody expected family debris-I wondered how would people respond to this new work. I thought a lot about how I could put it up there; colleagues and friends supported me to move forward with it and that’s something every artist really needs. At the end of the day, you have to be brave; you have to put it out there, and you have to see what happens, and then go forward.

I know the playa changed my life. It gave me a respite that I really needed. Because I was so weighed down with the chaos and the debris I my studio in my life, to have a clean open slate with minimal materials and a landscape that was so mind-blowingly beautiful was something that was incredibly important to me, a joyful experiment.
— Lisa Barthelson

On materials…

I always am interested in using different kinds of materials. After children, I began working in collage. From there I moved on to pastel, and that was the beginning of this work, about 11 years ago. When I saw the work of two artists that work with encaustic- Lynette Haggard and Nancy Natale- I was taken by the similarity of encaustic to pastel in the terms of the brilliant color, the vibrance of color really attracted me, but what attracted me even more was the translucency that you could get with using wax. In this new work, I use encaustic with powdered graphite.
— Kay Hartung
Kay Hartung discusses encaustic technique.

Kay Hartung discusses encaustic technique.

On cells as inspiration…

I saw a picture in the Globe of colon cancer cells. My mom died of colon cancer when I was nineteen, so I felt compelled to draw the image. And it was beautiful, colorful, just a beautiful beautiful image. I did quite a log of work, large sized drawings, very very colorful. I looked at a lot of books, and had I gone to see a real electron microscope, and to manipulate it a little bit. That day I saw a lot of black and white, and it really keyed in to my using graphite, a material I was starting to work with. The reason I’m so fascinated by microspic things is because they have such an impact on our lives. These tiny miniscule things control everything- all the scientific research, changing cells and stem cells, its just amazing what’s being done. And, of course, I find them incredibly beautiful.
— Kay Hartung

On the importance of play…

I tried encaustic, and at first was extremely frustrated with the medium; it was learning an entirely new thing. I had ideas in my head that I wanted to execute but it wasn’t happening. I put it aside. When I decided to try again, I had a completely different attitude; I just wanted to play. And that’s what really helped.
— Kay Hartung