Erin Rigney, Robert Burch display art during Incandescence
Erin Rigney applied to be part of a Carbondale Arts group show. Rigney, a graphic designer, hadn’t shown art since her senior thesis, and even then it was one wall of a larger show. Rather than participate in a larger group, though, the organization invited Rigney to showcase a collection of her encaustic paintings. The form is also known as hot wax painting.
The result is “Incandescence,” which pairs Rigney’s paintings with the work of nine area glass artists, curated by Robert Burch. Rigney draws inspiration from shells and nature, and Burch’s own work, “Material Studies,” combines glass and metal. Together, the work plays with abstraction and subtle color.
Post Independent: How would you each say these art forms relate to one another?
Robert Burch: Encaustic being liquid wax, there’s definitely a sort of liquid feel to it. More than anything, the colors seem to work really well in there.
Erin Rigney: There’s this natural, elemental side to both arts, and then they are both united through that flame and fire and high heat.
When I look at Robert’s stuff, it’s one thing to look at his work and you see one level, but then he explains how he’s pushing the limits and testing all these metals and it’s like, wow. That’s really amazing.
PI: Erin, your work evokes nature, and some pieces seem to refer specifically to water. What inspired that?
ER: I grew up at the Jersey Shore, I’m totally a beach girl. A lot of the paintings, the names in them are based on the beach names in the area where I grew up.
The other interesting thing about the show, as well, is that the shells I’m inspired by are usually these fragments. Shelling is just the most peaceful, in-the-moment thing. I’m always picking up these shards and like, ooh, look at the grays! Look at the blues! But because they’re just shards of shells and there’s no correct orientation, when I designed the show, I tried to take that idea and play with it. So 90 percent of the paintings in the show, when you flip them upside down they look like mountains with snowcaps (for example). They can work in multiple directions.
PI: Does your graphic design work inform your painting, or vice versa, in any way?
ER: I think what’s funny about being in graphic design is it’s an art form of its own, but you’re always designing for somebody else’s final approval. It has been so therapeutic and great for me to get back into painting, where I’m only painting for my own purpose and sake and not necessarily having somebody have to approve it at the end.
PI: Robert, as you selected the glass work, what qualities did you look for?
RB: The original title that has been shortened was “survey of glass in the Roaring Fork.” All the glass in that exhibit has been produced by artists in the Roaring Fork. There’s a strange surge of really talented glass workers who have moved here in the past couple of years and are producing out of the Roaring Fork, and so (the aim was) to put that in one room and show that to people.
PI: You’ve lived and worked in several markedly different places during your art career. Does place affect your work? If so, how?
RB: Yeah, of course. I think in Seattle, since it’s the mecca in the world for glass workers, I was really centered around only working with glass. Painting was all very separate in my mind. Coming out here and not having access to glass shops as readily and not being as mixed up with the culture of glass (changed that).
I actually came out here and the work that I found was all metal work, doing fabrication for people. That helped me build. I felt like I had a really strong competency of glass, so I could bring those two things together. That’s prompted a bigger response from people than sculpted work that’s very glass focused.
PI: What drew you to the interplay of these materials?
RB: A lot of this work was made at a glass shop in North Carolina … It was attached to a forge and a metal shop. I was able to get them to fire up the forge … I would run in there with a hollow glass form and have them cast different metals in glass, which really hadn’t been done before.
I recognize there is a huge shortcoming with glass interacting with other mediums. There’s no zeitgeist around here of what I should be doing with glass, so it was just a more free environment to go in different directions. I have experienced such a strong response from this work that will probably continue to shape what I do in the future.
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