artNotes from Hyde House: Encaustics – Jodie, Jasper and My Soap Box

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Jodie Sutton, artist creator of the ENCAUSTIC AUTUMN LANDSCAPES collection now showing at artCentral, is filling Hyde House with stunning beauty and remarkably accessible art. Come and see! Delight and enjoy! This block buster, seasonal exhibition is on view October 4 through November 17, 2019. Admission is free for the exhibit and for the Opening Reception on October 4, Friday, 6-8 p.m.

Jodie’s paintings made with wax may look simple at first sight and with regard to composition many of them are, but they have a captivating and sophisticated simplicity accomplished by Jodie’s dedication and her mastery of the demanding medium of encaustics. To watch videos of Jodie at work visit https://www.jsuttonstudio.com/?fbclid=IwAR1coDUNqcEI-sFSx46f4meZ3RMuGWmC2fsawyjrxHt9dQPFdYmoyUIucz8.

I first grew to be enchanted with encaustics during my New York City (Greenwich Village/Chelsea/Brooklyn) years while I was living in what felt like the epicenter of the art world. That’s when I became acquainted with the encaustic work of the now famous Jasper Johns. My next door neighbors on Barrow Street had served with Johns in Korea. Having worked with him on entertainment for their company, they proudly trotted out and showed me the lovingly preserved theater designs they had collaboratively made with Johns.

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Back then I was living in the West Village. Six days a week I left my brownstone and traversed Sheridan Square to work for a small fashion house on Greenwich Avenue where I was designing dresses, as well as designing and installing window settings. When I learned that much earlier Jasper Johns and Robert Rausenberg had designed windows for Tiffany’s and Bonwit Teller, I claimed them as kindred spirits. Of course the windows I was designing for Lo’s New York were certainly not so prestigiously chichi as those the men had created, but still, I liked to think of our having similar gigs.

During the 1950’s while Johns and Rauschenberg were sharing studio space, Johns was strongly influenced by their friends, the choreographer Merce Cunningham and the composer John Cage. Working together they explored the contemporary art scene, and began developing their ideas on art.

Today Jasper Johns is known as the American painter-sculptor-printmaker whose work is associated with abstract expressionism, Neo-Dada and pop art. (Andy Warhol was one of his acolytes.) Well-known for his encaustic depictions of the American flag and other U.S. iconography, Johns’ works regularly go for millions of dollars at sale and auction, including a reported $110 million sale in 2010. At multiple times works by Johns have held the title of “most paid for a work by a living artist”, putting to rest the old saw that if you follow your artistic bliss you will end up a starving artist.

Back in 1958, gallery owner Leo Castelli first discovered Johns while visiting Robert Rauschenberg’s studio. “And we went down,” Castelli remembered. “And then I was confronted with that miraculous array of unprecedented images—flags, red, white and blue. All white. Large ones. Small ones, targets. Numbers, alphabets. Just an incredible sight. Something one could not imagine, new and out of the blue.” Castelli immediately offered Johns his first solo show. It was here that Alfred Barr, the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, purchased four works from the show.

Johns, now 89 and living in Sharon, Connecticut, since the 1990’s, upon his death wants to leave his estate as a gift to that town. His properties will be used as an artists’ retreat where 18 to 24 artists at a time can live and work without distraction. (When I did a painting fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center two states north in Stowe, Vermont, I found just that kind of opportunity in a community of creative artists. Our studios and lodging were provided. Our meals, too. All I did was make art, visit the local old-fashioned mom-and-pop New England hardware store and climb the path plowed through waist-deep snow to the community college on the hill where I went to swim laps in the frigid cold pool.)

In Sharon, Connecticut, a town Selectman says the gift from Johns will be great for Sharon and other towns in northwest Connecticut. “In our town and in our region, we have every type of artist you could possibly imagine. We have artists that do art through wood or iron, painting, drawing, music, you name it. I’ve watched our town change into a very active artists’ community, just in the past three or four years.”

All this good artist retreat news gets me wondering, why don’t we start this conversation in our own region of southwest Missouri? Certainly the wealth of talent is already here! And can you imagine a more ideal setting than Carthage to offer artists a quiet life where they can focus and concentrate on their art-making. Jasper Johns’ retreat will employ 19 to 25 people. A retreat here in Carthage can offer similar economic benefits. I’m going to get me a soap box and calligraphy “Artist Retreat” on two sides and “Dog Park” on the front and back. I’ll have more to write later on these themes.

In the meantime come see Jodie Sutton’s intriguing ENCAUSTIC AUTUMN LANDSCAPES at artCentral. I will tell you more about artists Jodie Sutton and Jasper Johns and the roots of encaustics with running deep into antiquity in my next Art Notes.

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