Houston art lovers are in for a treat this month as Joel Anderson presents his solo exhibition, #Heatstroke 3D, at the Archway Gallery with an opening reception on Saturday, February 6, with Anderson present to interact with guests.
Anderson’s work is extremely unique, as his signature technique involves layering digital imagery beneath coats of encaustic — a wax based paint composed of beeswax, resin and pigment — fused with a blowtorch. It was Anderson’s visit to New York’s Museum of Modern Art that inspired this show, not so much the masterpieces in the upper levels of the museum as the 3D drawing contraption for sale in the gift shop.
“For Labor Day we visited NYC, complete with a trip to the Museum of Modern Art where I saw Jasper John’s iconic encaustic flag and targets,” Anderson said. “You may think this is horrible, but the thing that gave me the most inspiration was not any of the masterpieces in the gallery, but this cheap 3D doodle contraption that was in the MOMA gift shop. How could I use encaustic & image transfers to create 3D art? subsequent to that, getting my 3D printer was the next logical step for me in terms of getting 3D effects in my artwork.”
Anderson has a technical background with one of the first degrees in Computer Engineering from Iowa State University, and worked in the oil industry for 33 years in the Information Technology sector for Shell Oil. Although he’s long-since finished with college, Anderson is always learning and continues to be a student of the craft as he creates amazing works in such a unique way. Combining his early education with modern technology, Anderson creates pieces that stand out and are truly unique.
“Well the Computer Engineering degree is over 35 years old — heavens we were just moving on from using punch cards for programming computers — but it was nonetheless an engineering curriculum with a heavy dose of physics. And this formed my mindset of really wanting to understand how things worked,” he explained. “One big problem I had to solve was bonding. The 3D-printed thermoplastic does not naturally bond with the beeswax/resin mixture that is the encaustic medium. So I developed a surface-mounting method as an alternative to simply gluing the objects to the substrate. Another issue to contend with is that encaustics are pretty much by nature unwieldy — you’re blowing heat at a wax/resin mix and it will often go where you don’t want it to. A lot of people are doing abstract art with encaustics but I wanted sharp definition for my works. And I think these modern elements are one way for me to get predictable results.”
In addition to the digital elements, #Heatstroke 3D presents a wide range of encaustic techniques, from smooth-as-glass surfacing, deep texture, etching, embedding, and encasing. Anderson’s subject matter reflects reminiscences from his past work in the oil industry. During a stint supporting IT at an exploration and research facility, the artist was struck by the stratigraphic maps hanging on the walls showing different layers in different colors. He is also inspired by music, recreation, and his first technical artwork, spirographs. There is also a nod to the many bees who sacrificed their honeycombs in the play on hexagons throughout the show.
This will be the first solo encaustic exhibition at Archway Gallery as well as the first one featuring 3D-printing technology. The exhibition will feature a 3D printer printing out Valentine hearts for the month of February.