Over the last decade I have developed a method of casting slender beeswax lines to create an inventory of objects that I use to create an array or field. This array may occupy a space to its limits or alternatively create a space within a space. Each space demands a different orientation or configuration, and each installation is tasked with subverting the viewer’s perception of the space, challenging the eye, and working with instinctual perception and preconceptions to alter the experience of a space. The beeswax lines and their natural yellow color create a glow as they assemble and converge to fill a space.
The production, or “pouring,” of beeswax elements has become a meditative process that is integral to my art practice, serving as an observation of time, materials, and space. The raw beeswax I use has taken its form at the end of a long series of natural processes followed by a manufacturing process, and once it is in my hands, the studio becomes a factory. I apply my own methods of transforming the material by casting the beeswax into three-dimensional forms. Once I have fixed both a place and a time in the future for a potential installation, I begin to determine how the beeswax lines will take their aggregated shape in that space and, simultaneously, how many lines might be manufactured for that particular space in the amount of time available.
Two works presented at the American University Museum in Fall 2017 were conceived in response to the contour of the museum’s building and the planes of the vertical wall space. When I began to consider the site, my overwhelming sense of the space was that of the curve of the building rotating around the anchor of its center column. I envisioned a radiating array of lines extending from one gallery opening to the other, creating a horizontal field of lines resting directly on the concrete floor (Untitled [Curve]). The museum’s site and architecture present both literal and figurative circles. The circular shape of the building and the traffic circle it sits on are distilled from ancient building practices that generate radial plans extending from hubs of human activity. I see a direct line tracing back through generations of exploration and development that led to the establishment of a city on a river that became the nation’s capital, the construction of a campus bound by Pierre L’Enfant’s diagonal plans intersected by circles and, two centuries later, the founding of the museum on this site reflecting the circular and diagonal conditions echoing the city around it.
I created the first in a series of vertical linear works suspended in air in 2017, first in my studio and then in a temporary installation [Kunstlerbund Tubingen – Līnea II, III]. The dramatic shift from seeing my works only occupying the floor to suddenly being suspended in space added to the versatility of my basic component of the beeswax line. The concept of Līnea IV [Curtain], a two-story installation of hanging lines extending down from the third to the second floor of the museum, evolved through moments of spatial experience, combined with this shift in process, and could have only occurred organically. I have since presented vertically hanging works in spaces at the Sun Valley Museum of Art, Sun Valley Idaho, Gallery B. Bethesda, MD, Art Enables Washington DC (2021), and Gallery 2112 (2022).
The question, “why wax?” is often posed. Traditional sculpture processes include the use of wax as a modeling or casting material, often in order to create an intermediary object to be cast in metal. Wax has a full range of fluid properties ranging from liquid and hot to firm and cool; these properties and their potential for change hold a certain attraction. When heated, the wax becomes liquid and can be poured, brushed, or carved at various temperature stages. My fascination lies with the transformation of materials, and over the years, I have worked with different armatures and structures to support the wax. Now I have abandoned armatures in favor of a component that can be infinitely deployed, re-melted, and recycled for future use.
The objects I create are activated by the spaces they inhabit, and no single work exists outside of the place it resides. The viewer, the architecture, and the historical and geographical context introduce the vital elements of scale, perspective, and experience.
Recent works on paper and wood panel developed from schematic floor plan drawings for installations of beeswax lines. Through my sculptural installations I devise ways to divide and demarcate space, inviting the viewer to a new way of experiencing space. Multiplying intersecting lines coalesce around a perspective point or rectangular grid, their increased or decreased density creating a highlight or a concentration point.
When preparing a drawing surface, whether on paper or wood panel, I begin with a light set of marks to create a grid – this grid provides a matrix for the placement of lines. I work in series, with the idea that an infinite number and combination of elements exist. Through drawing, I am able to plan complicated installations in advance and visualize the different possibilities offered by a single space.
While my sculptural installations are wholly temporary, these schematic drawings serve as a durable and lasting precursor to the installation process, from conception through completion.
- Mary Early, Washington DC, 2021