Mel Rea


My art education and career started as a clay sculptor. The tactile nature and dimension of clay held great appeal. I did large figurative work with details that included eyelashes, finger nails, and ear lobes. As a younger artist, I impressed myself with my scale, details, and technical boundaries. However, after many years, I felt my artistic aesthetic shifting towards a more minimalistic philosophy. It was during this period that I discovered a small batch of beeswax left behind from the last of my grandfather’s beehives.
My grandfather spent his childhood in Russia where he was inspired to build an apiary farm. His dream came true as an adult in the States where he built and farmed his own set of beehives. My name itself is translated into the Greek word for “honeybee.” As a young girl, I felt such a sense of peace walking amongst my grandfather’s hives. I developed a very deep connection, respect, and appreciation for Mother Nature. Like many artists, She is a constant source of inspiration. That old batch of beeswax led my transition into encaustic painting (painting with molten beeswax).
The transition from a clay artist to an encaustic artist felt very natural. The soft satin finish of the beeswax replaced my clay glazes, and the ability to incise elegant, clean lines satisfied my need for a sculptural surface. The surface appeared lit from within in a way I’ve not witnessed with any other medium. With encaustic painting, light refracts and bounces between layers of wax. Painting with beeswax has an elusive quality I’m grateful to have experienced.
As someone who is committed to being in a constant state of evolution, I’ve recently expanded from encaustics into mixed media on canvas. I’ve found that alkyd oils set a comfortable pace for my work. For me this oil paint alternative is akin to the bed Goldilocks deemed most comfortable. It dries slower than acrylic paint but more quickly than traditional oils. With alkyd paints, I am physically moving fast and furiously, but the dry time is slow enough for me to contemplatively work back into a piece during a painting session. When layered carefully, I’m able to mix in traditional oil paint within an alkyd medium painting, thus opening up my palette. I often keep a minimal palette consisting of variations of soft grey hues and whites, juxtaposing rich pops of color. I enjoy the physicality of this new way of painting in a way I’d not been able with clay or encaustics.
The last of my explorations of different mediums has been my works on paper, but this is not to suggest that paper is last on my list of loves. Quite the contrary, no other medium has felt as natural and intuitive as working with paper. It is by far my greatest love. It is the softest and most vulnerable medium to work with and unforgiving at any moment. Handmade paper in particular is unpredictable and moody. Papers general need to be framed and encapsulated in a box makes it exude the quality of a delicate treasure. I find working with paper most rewarding. I’ve not committed to working with any specific medium with paper; however, I most frequently utilize ink, acrylic, and powdered graphite.
Although I remain open to the possibility of exploration, I feel I’ve met my maturity as an artist and will continue to pursue the evolution of my canvas and works on paper.

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