Whimsy In Color | Karl W. Kaiser + Sara Swink


Whimsy In Color
Karl W. Kaiser + Sara Swink

September 5 – 28, 2018

Reception: Thursday, September 13, 6-8 PM

Littman Gallery at Portland State University is proud to be presenting Whimsy In Color, a duo exhibition featuring Portland-based artists Karl W. Kaiser and Sara Swink. The exhibition will showcase encaustic paintings by Kaiser along with ceramic works by Swink.

Sara Swink

“My Life in Clay”
I make clay human and animal figures with a psychological stance. Introspective, ambiguous, and approachable—they often have a humorous edge. I hand-build my pieces using a gritty stoneware sculpture clay, incise into the clay, bisque fire, apply layered oxides, underglazes and glazes, then fire to cone 5.
My ideas derive most often from a process methodology that I teach in workshops, which employs simple and accessible techniques like collage and doodling to unleash the unconscious. I let the ideas flow, selecting ones that most resonate to bring into clay. Sketching on paper and in clay moves the idea into a more cohesive vision. Reflection and writing help me to understand and make some sense of the progression of the pieces as they manifest. A thread of personal narrative runs through all my ceramic work. It’s the process of inner exploration that keeps me moving forward.

Sara Swink moved to California as a kid in the 60’s, where, growing up, she was unknowingly influenced by the Funk Movement of the San Francisco Bay Area. Her love of clay began in 3rdgrade with the encouragement of a neighbor who was a potter and antiques dealer. In high school, Sara learned to throw on the potter’s wheel and mix glazes; she bought her own potter’s wheel with money earned cleaning houses. In her early 20s, graphic design took her attention and ceramics were forgotten until she took a class at Palo Alto Art Center almost twenty years later. This was followed by a workshop in 1998 with Coeleen Kiebert, who fuses artmaking and ceramics with the psychology of the creative individual. For many years Sara took classes from Kiebert and early on was invited to teach her approach. At the same time, she pursued an academic art education in art history, ceramics, drawing, printmaking and foundry work at Foothill College, San Jose State University, and San Francisco State University, through her first year of an MFA program in ceramics. Sara taught at a number of California venues and in her own studio, while participating in regional shows. In 2006, she moved to the Portland area, where she established Clay Circle Studio and continues to teach and show in galleries and exhibitions in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. In 2013, Sara was featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Oregon Art Beat”.

Karl W. Kaiser

I consider encaustic to be my primary medium because of the unique depth and texture it brings to my subjects. I manipulate the wax through scraping, using impressions and smoothing techniques to evoke the complicated but perfect natural world around me that I find through my camera lens. My signature technique is carving into deep multi-colored layers bringing a richness and complexity to the work. It has been described as sculptural and I continue to push the boundaries in that direction. I am drawn to linear abstract themes and carving back through layers of color feeds that inspiration. During my early career, I created series of abstract leaves, petals, and trees using this technique. As my work shows, I am drawn to color (blues, oranges, yellows, reds). I use pigments to make my own paints encompassing the entire color spectrum.

A new path I am taking with my encaustic paintings is creating spherical abstracts. I do this by spinning the wax in circles. I think these compliment my landscapes in color and organic form. 

I am also creating a new collection of acrylic paintings that use the same premise of my encaustic technique of layering and carving to form landscapes. 

Karl’s mother was a primary teacher and from the time he was a small child she encouraged creativity in their home. In the afternoons after school she would often have Karl and his siblings work on art projects from drawing to candle making. Karl’s father was a working man and he encouraged Karl to find a trade. Since Karl idolized his father what else was he to do except follow his father’s guidance. Karl received his AA in Machine Shop Technology in the early 1980’s and began a 25 year career at the same company working in a large machine shop. He spent those years finding out what he really wanted to do and they are an integral part of who he is and how he was able to transition to his second career called ‘artist’. 

Karl and his wife began to travel to Europe in the early 1990’s. This is when he picked up the camera again years after his photography classes in high school. During this time, his focus was largely black and white photography, much of it cityscapes. The historic European cities with their intricate, old architecture and cobblestone streets were hard to resist. He came home from that first trip and started earnestly pursuing photography in his spare time. To this day, he uses his camera (digital now of course) every day to inform his work. He is inspired by his surroundings and usually walks every day to capture nature and the world around him. These walks are an important part of his creative process and where most of his ideas begin to take form. Trees, texture in nature, reflections in water, sunrise, sunset, flower petals, dew drops; these all influence his work. 

During one trip to Europe Karl visited his Aunt who lives in Germany and is a painter and sculptor herself. She opened up a whole new world of opportunity for Karl in the way he looked at his creativity. She lives it every day of her life, whether it is simply drawing while she is sitting having coffee, or sculpting or painting almost every day, or even journaling. She has been Karl’s primary mentor and he visits her often for inspiration. It was after that first visit that he returned home and started taking art classes at the local community college. He took evening and weekend drawing and painting classes for a number of years, building his skills, finding his own artistic voice and developing his network of artistic collaborators. 

In 2006 he met Linda Robertson, a talented local encaustic artist who also teaches the medium. Karl took Linda’s intro to encaustic class and he has never looked back. He walked away from that class and immediately went and bought all the supplies he needed to get started in encaustic painting. It was truly life changing for him.

In the last few years he has developed a technique that creates an illusion of depth with the wax. It transforms the artwork into a three-dimensional space. This technique consists of layers of color applied one on top of another and then scraping back the sides to reveal lines of color. Typically this means 50 to 100 layers of color. This piece is then embedded on its side into a wax platform of any number of color themes, overlaid with clear wax and then heated with a torch to bring out specific qualities that sometimes take shape as clouds, waves, trees or other nature inspired concepts. He captures the play of light and motion he sees while he works with the wax. He allows the hot wax to find its own path. His intent is to create landscapes with differing vitalities, vibrancies and moods. His goal for the viewer is to evoke a time in place that is familiar but not easily identified or a memory that sits just outside of the periphery. To transport the viewer away from the distracted present and draw their focus inward to a place of peace and reflection. 

Even more recently, Karl has gone back to acrylic painting and is using the same premise of his encaustic technique of layering and carving. He is excited to explore this new avenue with its own unique challenges and possibilities.

He is currently represented by Portland Rental Sales Gallery in Portland, Oregon and RiverSea Gallery in Astoria, Oregon. His work is also in private collections throughout the United States and in Mexico, Canada and Germany. You can find more of his work at www.karlwkaiser.com.

Littman White