Anne Hoerber poses for a photo at Arts Underground where her art exhibit, Waking Dreams, is on display in Whitehorse on Aug. 6. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Melted beeswax, community pottery take centre stage at Arts Underground’s August shows

Two new, and very different, shows will be opening at Whitehorse’s Arts Underground on Aug. 7 — one featuring abstract landscapes painted with pigments and beeswax, and the other, a collection of pottery made in Whitehorse and Dawson City.

Waking Dreams is a collection of about a dozen encaustic paintings by Whitehorse artist Anne Hoerber, inspired by misty landscapes.

Hoerber first came across the medium, which sees artists melting and layering wax and colour to create images, about eight years ago at a farmers’ market and “fell in love right away,” she told the News in an interview Aug. 5.

“I work with melted beeswax and fire,” she explained. “Painting with fire is challenging; there’s not a ton of control so it’s been really good for me in terms of learning to give up control because I can’t be too precious about anything, because five or six layers later, it might just be gone.

“Wish” is Anne Hoerber’s largest piece in the collection showing at Arts Underground in Whitehorse on Aug. 6. The piece is called “Wish” because there is a single star hidden in the sky. The 24-by-48 inch piece has approximately five pounds of wax on it. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

“If I heat any one area of the wax too much, things disappear … Even if you’re not heating it too much, stuff moves, things happens, it’s just the way that particular medium works.”

Because of the “super fluid” nature of the medium, the pieces in Waking Dreams, which range from six-by-six inches to 24-by-48 in size, are “fairly abstracted,” Hoerber said, and while she used about 250 photos for reference she didn’t try to replicate any of the images, borrowing their “feeling” to guide her instead.

Encaustics lend themselves well to mountains in particular, she said, because layering the wax helps create an impression of depth.

“If you’re outside and you’re looking at the mountains, there’s the one that’s close that’s really clear, and there’s the one that’s far away that’s got less definition the further back you go, and that’s just the weight of the air,” she said.

“Well, if I paint a mountain and then add a layer of wax on top of that, that wax pushes the mountain further into the background, and then I put another mountain in front of that and put more wax over the whole thing and that pushes it all back, so my paintings, they end up with seven, eight, 10 layers of wax.”

Place Setting, meanwhile, is a collection of ceramic tableware made by members of the Arts Underground community studio, the Yukon Arts Society and the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture’s (KIAC) ceramics studio. The Facebook event for the show’s opening said “artists were asked to create pieces that could go in a place setting when friends gather together around a table, such as drinking vessels, plates, bowls, and vases.”

It’s Arts Underground’s first ceramic show in years, longtime studio member Roma Dobrowolsky told the News, and a great opportunity for artists of all skill levels to be able to show off their creations.

While the Arts Underground ceramics studio is a busy space that’s seen a steady increase in use over the years, Dobrowolsky said artists pieces are often just fired in the kiln and then immediately taken home; the show offers an opportunity for artists and the community to actually see the work being produced in the space. The fact that it’s a group show also takes the pressure off any one artist to create enough work to fill the show space by themselves.

Anne Hoerber stands next to her favourite piece called “Place for me” displayed at Arts Underground in Whitehorse on Aug. 6. It was the first island landscape Hoerber created. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

“It’s not like you’re doing a solo show and you know, you get to support your other friends and potters, so it’s a really encouraging environment and kind of a safe coming up for emerging potters,” she said.

Devon Berquist, one the the program managers at KIAC, said about a half-dozen people who participate in the institution’s weekly pottery drop-ins contributed pieces for the show.

“This is a bit of a milestone for the pottery group … This will be the first time that we’ve submitted work as a team, as a group, so it’s really exciting,” she said.

Berquist, like Dobrowolsky, added that a collaborative show was a great opportunity for Dawson artists to reach a larger audience, and one they might not have been able to show to if they were just working on their own.

There will be no opening reception for the shows due to COVID-19 restrictions. Both Waking Dreams and Place Setting will be on display until Aug. 29.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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