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Notes on the industrial Zen of Cleveland Artist Dawn Tekler 

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Encaustic painting is one of the oldest artistic methods out there in the sport of eyeball excursions. The Egyptians employed this technique in the Fayum mummy portraits. It has also been noted that the ancient Greeks would use wax in sealing their ships' hulls, then, as pigments were added, they employed this technique to paint their warships.

This slow and methodic procedure is exceptionally labor intensive. Using hot wax (typically beeswax and adding colored pigment, an artist applies his or her own alchemic concoction to either wood or any other acceptable surface. Much like popular painting media, it can be manipulated from transparent to opaque and lightweight to heavy depending on how many layers are applied. It is more immediate, however, and once the wax has cooled it becomes hard and impermeable.

As I walk through the entryway of Dawn Tekler's studio/gallery, the smell of melted wax intoxicates the air with its comforting and nostalgic perfume. The hot plate is on her workbench. It is Friday night and she will be working non-stop, building stories upon each wax stratum.

Tekler hasn't always worked in this medium. The artist earned her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art with a major in photography and minor in video and film history. She would photograph objects in people's homes. Her interest rested in documenting the surroundings -- to investigate, but not invade.

"There is an intimate disconnect," she says, but she couldn't capture what she wanted like she now can with buildings and structures. Subsequently her photographs evolved, as did her approach to material. "Early on in my work I started deconstructing photographs, adding various collage materials and encaustic wax. "I'm drawn to the idea of encasing a subject to be studied at a later date."

We discuss our very different approaches to subject matter. With my own artwork there is a tactile understanding from gathering soils and colors from various, but mostly desert locales; for Tekler it is the aura reflected off the waters that bejewel Cleveland's industrial landscape and the artist certainly has the tools to transcribe those experiences.

The painter explains, "For me it's more about the energy, the sky and the elements, the breeze and the moment. I have to focus in order to translate that into my art." With the voyeuristic approach to her work, Tekler again investigates, but does not invade, bringing back the energy, sky and the elements to her studio. Her focus isn't solely born of artistic intent; it also to keep her from falling off her paddle board into the lake as she inhales and sketches her surroundings. She brings a waterproof bag that holds her sketchbook, which she always has with her on these excursions. Sometimes she is out on the water before the sun comes up or just before it sets. "Paddle boarding forces me to be present in the moment. which is what my yoga training has also enforced. [With painting] all these practices are starting to weave together."

Standing in front of Tekler's paintings we relive the vantage point the artist has intended for us to receive. The quality and subject matter combine to create a sort of industrial Zen.

"It's what every artist wants but they use their own words," she says. "Everyone creates art for the same reason and it's gets to the end goal and how they get there is their own personal journey and what makes the art so powerful."

Asking if other people see things (as in shapes or personages) in her work that she doesn't, Tekler responds that if they do it doesn't resonate with her as much as when they see another detail. We finish our visit on this note from the artist, "It is my hope, it is my goal that people see growth in my art not only in my technical ability but also in my emotion and my feeling and the time in my moment that I felt really powerful and I think that that comes out in the work." We think so too.


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