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11.19.2006

Eva Hesse at the Jewish Museum

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New York is enjoying an extended minimal moment this fall. Although it’s been over half a century since reductive work made its first appearance, Minimalism’s "Greatest Hits" (and some current favorites) are playing all over town. Is there something in the ether that has provoked a spate of related shows at the same time? Or, as in fashion, is it simply a cycle whose time has come round again? Whatever the reason, there was and is a lot to see—and this is not an oxymoron.

Eve Hesse: Sculpture

Eva Hesse’s long-overdue retrospective, Eva Hesse: Sculpture, curated by Elizabeth Sussman and installed at the Jewish Museum this summer (May 12-September 17), seems to have been the catalyst.
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Installation of Eva Hesse: Sculpture at the Jewish Museum, New York City, May 12-September 17, 2006

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The Jewish Museum, located on Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile, is a lovely turn-of-the-century structure that was once a private home, but it's no Whitney. The exhibition is installed in one large U-shaped gallery on the ground floor, with a low ceiling. Still, this was the institution that made a commitment to showing Hesse’s oeuvre after the Whitney backed out a few years ago. I was grateful to see this work in one place. As an art student I remember seeing Hesse’s work around town and periodically after that at MoMA until the work’s fragility required it to be archivally sequestered. Here, it’s everything I remember and more.

 
Eva Hesse: Repetition Nineteen III, cast resin, 1968


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Hesse, as you well know, used non-beautiful materials—modest conventional stuff like twine and rope; industrial stuff like fiberglass; and at-the-time archivally untried stuff, like latex and resins—to effect her reductive and repetitive, and largely translucent, forms. Hesse’s great works are here: the 19 cast fiberglass vessels of Repetition Nineteen III (1968) in curatorially organized disarray; the protuberant grid of Schema (1967-1968); the multiple box-like segments of Sans II (1968); the stuffed latex and canvas panels of Aught (1968); the wall-like curtain of Expanded Expansion (1968); the latex-dipped sheets of Contingent (1969) and more. Since there was no photography in the gallery, I have pulled images from the Internet.

 

Eva Hesse: Aught, stuffed latex and canvas, 1968


 
Eva Hesse: Sans II, cast resin, shown in a segment, top, and in full installation, 1968; (segments have gone to various institutions and private collectors)


Eva Hesse: Schema, cast latex with movable elements,1967-1968. The hemispherical elements look as if they were cast from a handball. Their placement is ordered but not perfect, and each element rests unattached on the flat latex surface. This is a floor sculpture; you can see it in the tiny installation picture above


Eva Hesse: Contingent, 1969


Perhaps because she intentionally left the trace of her process, including imperfect shapes and the impression of her own fingertips, her sculpture is as maximal as Minimalism can be—formally reductive but still resonating with Hesse-ian energy. Am I anthropomorphizing her work? Maybe. But her process—the dipping, casting, rolling, stitching, knotting, repeating; low-tech construction and the evidence of her hand—is so much a part of her work that it’s impossible not to “see” her still in the work.

An audio component allowed you to hear her as well, as it included fragments from interviews.

Many of her two dimensional works and some of her sculptures have a decided textile reference. Her four-part Aught--latex on the front, canvas on the back and stuffed with some kind of textural material--reads not only as sculpture but as blankets or quilts. The latex and fiberglass sheets in Contingent hang like, well, sheets, though Hesse herself said something like, "It’s really a painting hung in another material than a painting." Hesse worked early in her career as a textile designer, and that might account for the way she connected her particular dots—her use of thread, twine and rope; the sheets of latex--or it may be my own background (I am the granddaughter of tailors) that sees those connections.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that time has not been kind to the sculptures. Conceptually they are as strong as they always were, but structurally they are old before their time, the latex having become yellow and brittle with age. See the difference between Expanded Expansion when it was first made in 1968 and more recently. (The paintings and works on paper appear to have aged better.)
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Hesse standing in front of Expanded Expansion in 1968 or sometime in the late 60s, above; a more recent shot of the work, which has yellowed (and become brittle) over time


While the work has aged, Hesse has not. She will always be pictured as a round-faced woman in her early 30s. The exhibition includes black-and-white--and voiceless--Super-8 footage from that time showing her working in her studio. Hesse never lived long enough to grow old. Born in 1936 in Hamburg, she died of a brain tumor in New York in 1970 at the age of 34. (It comes as of a shock to realize she would have been 70 this year.)

The show is over, but the museum has produced a catalog, Eva Hesse: Sculpture, and there are a number of additional good books on the artist.


This post was adapted and edited slightly from New York's (Extended) Minimal Moment, posted November 24, 2006, on the collaboratiove blog I wrote with artist Chris Ashley, Two Artists Talking, now archived. In addition to reporting on "Eva Hesse: Sculpture," I talk about two gallery exhibitions--"Elemental Forms" at L&M Arts, and "Minimalism: On and Off Paper"-- and finished with "Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings" at the Museum of Modern Art.

11.18.2006

Art With a View

This is my work: a painting from the Quadrate series (acrylic on canvas, 34 by 34") above the mantel; an installation of Silk Road paintings (encaustic on panel, each 12 x 12") at rear

At the moment I’m in a show at a unique gallery, DM Contemporary, on Long Island. The gallery is in Mill Neck, in an architecturally compelling modernist home that overlooks a pond and small island that in turn overlook the west end of Long Island Sound. It’s a beautiful setting for art.

The art hangs throughout the public areas of the home. My paintings are installed in the large living area—over the fireplace, on a long wall catty corner to the pond-facing windows, next to the large dining table, and in a light-infused hallway. When you’re used to viewing art in the classic white cube, a domestic environment requires you to adjust your perception of “gallery.” But of course we all live with art, so it’s a minor adjustment. And let me say that I love seeing my reductive work in setting that is so beautifully reductive itself—just white walls, light wood and modernist furniture.

A Quadrate in the hallway and Silk Road installation near the table

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The outdoor environment is different but just as spare: sky, water, trees and pond grasses, with a strong horizontal between water and sky. A modernist landscape. The home’s double-height panes and oversize skylights mediate the transition between indoors and out.

Room with a view: Quadrate 3 (acrylic on canvas, 46 by 46 inches) on the wall; and a pond-and-island landscape outside the windows

While gallery lighting maintains an appropriate level of illumination inside, the outdoor light changes dramatically throughout the day. Inevitably the landscape reflects these changes, creating subtle shifts in the light indoors. The art absorbs and reflects all of this.

The two other artists showing at the gallery are Nancy Manter and Babe Shapiro. The eponymously titled show, Nancy Manter, Joanne Mattera, Babe Shapiro, is up through December 15. Doris Mukabaa Marksohn, director of the gallery and owner of the home, has conceived and installed the exhibition as three discrete solo shows.

Manter’s work records her interaction with her environment. She photographs her footprints in the snow or tire racks on the road, for instance, and these images become the reference for her paintings. Manter works in distemper, paint made from pigment suspended in hide glue. She paints in layers, so her whites are sensuously milky and her colors deeply luminous. Here, take a look:

Paintings by Nancy Manter at DM Contemporary

Shapiro is best known for his geometric abstractions throughout the Sixties and Seventies. Here he shows small-scale watercolor-like paintings, a series of lighthanded organic forms, made with transparent dyes and pigments on paper.

Works on paper by Babe Shapiro. Below: closeup view of the two paintings at the far end of the gallery wall. Manter and Shapiro photos courtesy of DM Contemporary


DM Contemporary is open by appointment. You can e-mail or call the gallery to arrange a visit.

For the rest of my Fall/Winter schedule, visit my schedule blog, www.jmschedule.blogspot.com. And of course I’ll be writing about many of the shows here.

11.14.2006

Waxing Enthusiastic (and vice versa) in San Francisco and Sonoma


Over the past couple of years I’ve been traveling around the country to give workshops and consultations. Mostly I talk about career issues for artists and do individual consultations, but sometimes I hold Master Classes related to encaustic. I just got back from San Francisco and Sonoma where I offered some of each.

Back in April I was invited by Hylla Evans—painter, paintmaker (Evans Encaustics) and entrepreneur extraordinaire—to fly out to Sonoma to do a Master Class. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. She said she would line up the participants and handle all the details. She did, and I went. Here’s a recap of the trip. . . . . . Cakes of paint at Evans Encaustics


Wednesday, November 8
I flew into Oakland and caught a commuter bus to San Francisco where I’d stay for the next couple of days. Flying West is a workaholic’s dream because you get to cram extra hours into a day—in this instance, a second afternoon. So my first order of business after checking into the Cartwright Hotel was to hit the galleries on Sutter, Post and Geary, more of which shortly.

In the evening, tired but still kicking, I met my longtime and dear friend Frank Wild for dinner. Frank is a DJ, art collector and world traveler. We were neighbors on 21st Street in Manhattan,
D.J. and friend, Frank Wild

and I love going to his Mission Street high-rise to see him. I also get to see his fabulous collection and a south-facing, almost aerial view of the city. In the living room are a luminous painting by Prudencio Irazabal, deep color achieved through layers and layers of translucent resin; gridded drawings by Sol Lewitt; and a relief sculpture in yellow beeswax by Jack Pospisil, whose surface is covered with hundreds of circle-and-cross impressions (made by casting or pressing philips-head screws), and much, much more, including a marvelous collection of black and white photographs of the male figure in action. Did I mention that Frank has my work in his collection? And not just in SF, but in his Miami apartment, where I’ll be hanging with Lewitt.

Detail of a beeswax sculpture by Jack Pospisil showing his signature texture
Thursday, November 9
Continuing with the all-art-all-the-time theme, I started the day at 9:00 am sharp at the Andrea Schwartz Gallery where I viewed Howard Hersh’s solo show. Howard met me there. Who needs the exhibition list when you’ve got the artist himself to give you the painting-by-painting tour?


At Andrea Schwartz: Howard Hersh, Double Take (2), encaustic on panel, 42 by 68 inches, 2006
Howard is a visual alchemist who combines geometric abstraction with a cursive gesture—he calls it a "tendril"—plying transparent, translucent and opaque elements into lyrical, deeply spatial compositions of poetry and order. His paintings are often comprised of multiple panels misaligned in a way that makes you think about their planar placement at the same time that you are acutely aware of the space within them. Howard works primarily in encaustic, the medium that brought me out West and will serve as the unifying element of this blog entry.

Howard Hersh in the studio

From the gallery we drove to his studio, Howard at the wheel of his little sports car. Like many artists at midcareer, Howard owns his loft. If there’s one thing artists can to make their tenuous place in the world a little more secure, it’s to own the spaces they live and/or work in. Howard's work-only loft was filled with big paintings, some in progress, others being readied to be shipped out. Howard’s working method includes a lot of pouring, and poured wax can be messy. There’s something of a topographical environment near his worktable—mounds and hillocks of wax that have accrued from successive pours. Ah, the things you see in the studio.

I met Cynde Adler for lunch. Cynde and her husband Jim are the principals of Adler and Co, the Post Street gallery that represents me in San Francisco. If you visit the gallery you’ll see my work on the walls. The Adlers’ vision is eclectic—modern (such as Hilla Rebay, painter and a founder of the Guggenheim) and contemporary (my buddy Jeff Schaller, whose pop-inflected images show his remarkable skill in encaustic).




At Adler and Co: Jeff Schaller, B, encaustic on panel, 12 by 12 inches, 2005, above; and Play, encaustic on panel, 24 by 24 inches, 2006
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Later that day I met my blog buddy Chris Ashley at SF Moma where we spent the afternoon at the Anselm Kiefer exhibition, "Heaven and Earth." This is a beautiful show—intimate ideas (we are tethered to the earth and yet our spirits soar) on a monumental scale. Most of the paintings and sculptures are worked in common, even ugly, materials like mud, straw, seeds and lead, but there is a sublime sense of poetry in each work.

At SFMoma: Anselm Keifer, Buch mit Fl├╝geln (Book with Wings), 1992-94; lead, steel and tin

At the museum Chris introduced me to several of his artist friends and later sent me links to their sites. Nancy White works in geometric abstraction. She summed up her focus in one word: "triangles," though her exploration of the shapes and the space they define (or are contained within) is subtle and richly varied. John Zurier paints monochromatically, reductively. He's represented by Paule Anglim, and in Philadelphia by Larry Becker. I'll be in Philly in a few weeks and will stop in to see more.
Nancy White: #19, gouache on pigmented paper, 10 by 12.875 inches, 2006. You can see more at www.nancywhite.net

After the museum, Chris said, "Let’s go to the Gay Outlaw opening at Paule Anglim." I went expecting to see work by a queer collective. But no. Sometimes you just have to leave your New York point of view in New York. Gay Outlaw is a sculptor, and a good one. The upper-case Gay is a woman; I have no idea about the lower case. Outlaw creates reductive sculptures with repetitive elements and a material bent—wood, plastic, felt, knitted fabric.
At Gallery Paule Anglim: Gay Outlaw, Three-Legged Intersection, 2006, plywood, milk paint, 48 by 64 by 64 inches

Chris and I have been blogging together since July. We should have marked our visit with a photograph so that I could have included it here—it’s only the second time we’ve met in person—but we didn’t. But I can show you a picture of his recent work. Next trip I'll take pictures of us, and I hope to visit his Oakland studio as well. In the meantime, you can read our blog at www.twoartiststalking.blogspot.com . You can also read's Chris's own weblog on his website, www.chrisashley.net

Chris Ashley: Three paintings titled Bojagi, oil on canvas, 2006. From left: 18 x 24", 20 x 16", 16 x 14"

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Friday, November 10
Today was "Gallery Day." Painters Daniella Woolf, Eileen Goldenberg, Hylla Evans, Lissa Rankin (Californians all: Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Sonoma and San Diego, respectively) and I visited galleries around town.
Our first stop was at Himmelberger Gallery on Sutter, where David Himmelberger graciously ushered us into the back to show us the range and depth of his vision. It’s primarily contemporary European with forays into contemporary Californian, with a sensitivity to sculptural forms and tactile surfaces. Typically there's a reference to the figure, whether realistically or abstractly rendered.


David Himmelberger in his Sutter Street gallery

What was on display in that back room was not just the wide-ranging work (painting, sculpture, drawing and prints) of a midcareer Romanian artist named Drobitko, but the passion David brings to his job as gallerist. Any artist who’s ever complained about the gallery commission needs to see a good dealer at work representing his artists. It’s a partnership, and something of an art in itself.

We stopped into the Jenkins Johnson Gallery across the street where Sonya Sklaroff’s New York street scenes were on view. Sonya is a friend, a paint-everyday artist who supports herself from the sale of her work. Her rooftop views of Chelsea, looking west to the Hudson in late afternoon, are luminous and her street scenes are often reduced to their most graphic elements. I promise: you’ll never look at a water tower or a fire escape in the same way again.

At Jenkins Johnson: Sonya Sklaroff, Shoes Over Broadway, 30 by 20 inches, left; and Ninth Floor Panorama, 16 by 48 inches, both oil on panel, 2006

Continuing on Sutter, we stopped into Caldwell Snyder, a big gallery given to bold color and big visual statements. T.R. Coletta was on the walls. Roger Azevedo was the personable, well-dressed man behind the desk. With humor and an insider's point of view, Roger helped demystify the process by which dealers find artists, and by which artists might find dealers. ....


The entry to Caldwell Snyder Gallery on Sutter Street

We broke for lunch at Bangkok Best, a great little Thai restaurant at the corner of Bush and Kearny. (Good food, great prices.) Jackie Battenfield, New York painter, arts adviser and good friend in town on business of her own, joined us for lunch.


Then we headed off to 49 Geary Street, a SoHo-like building that’s home to a number of good galleries.
49 Geary Street, home to galleries such as Elins Eagles-Smith, Brian Gross, Haines, Gregory Lind, Don Soker and Patricia Sweetow

First stop there was Elins Eagles-Smith where we asked to see the work of Tim McDowell. Tim’s botanical images, rendered primarily in encaustic, are a glorious combination of lush and spare, abstract and representational, landscape and still life, and--to me--magic and reality. Here's how Tim describes them: "The metaphysical and the phenomenal in defining a sense of place that hopefully connects to the viewer's memory of place. "

At Elins-Eagles Smith: Timothy McDowell's Hearth, beeswax and pigment on panel, 48 by 40 inches, 2006

We also stopped in at Brian Gross, Gregory Lind, Toomey Tourell and Patricia Sweetow. At Don Soker, we looked at the work of Eleanor Wood, who creates spare and formal drawings of thread and wax. Don brought us into the back room so that we could see more work. He’s committed to artists who employ substantive materials: wax, graphite, concrete, glass, resin. The work is spare, usually, but counterpointed by a rich material presence.

At Don Soker: Eleanor Wood's spare, formal drawings in wax, paint and thread

Hylla wanted to see Howard Hersh’s show, so five of us piled into a taxi (you couldn’t do that in New York; four’s the limit) and drove down Second Street to the Andrea Schwartz Gallery. Having seen the work the morning before, I appreciated the opportunity to see it again at the end of the day. Andrea came out to chat briefly with our group.

If you’ll be in Miami during the fairs, look for Andrea's booth at the Bridge fair. You’ll also see Elins Eagles-Smith at Bridge, and Gregory Lind at Aqua Art. (I expect to be talking more about the Gregory Lind Gallery, one whose program I like a lot, in my Miami report, which will be posted in mid December.)

For our last stop, we walked back up to Mission. I’d arranged for Frank Wild to talk to the group about his collection—what he collects and why--so as we looked at his work, we learned how many of the pieces came into his collection. There were gallery visits, of course—he talked about the dealer-collector relationship—but also open studios and lots of on-line looking.

The group would reconvene the next day at my Master Class in Sonoma, so just after sunset I headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge with my host Hylla at the wheel. Hylla had arranged for me to stay at a loft in her complex. My head was on West Coast time, but my body was lagging three hours behind. After a tasty dinner at Cafe La Haye in downtown Sonoma, I crashed. The clock said 11:00 pm; my body said 2:00 am. And more to the point, it said, "Sleep."



Saturday, November 11
The main reason for my trip was to give a Master Class, a beyond-The-Art-of-Encaustic-Painting workshop. Twenty artists, most of whom work in encaustic, convened at the Sonoma Arts Guild for a day of Q&A, show and tell, and my slide talk, "2000 Years of Encaustic Painting."
Among the participants were Judith Williams, and Mary Farmer. Hylla is a well-oiled machine of organization, and the day came off without a hitch.
A small group followed the class with dinner at a Thai restaurant across the street (everyone was invited, but some folks had other plans). Dessert was at "my" loft, where a smaller group still—Hylla, Eileen Goldenberg, Cari Hernandez, Kathleen McMahon, Christine Towner and Daniella Woolf and I--satisfied our collective ice cream jones with fig and goat cheese gelato (hey, this is Sonoma) and some Ben and Jerry’s classics.

Sunday, November 12
Today was Consultation Day. Hylla scheduled five one-on-ones for me. I never get tired of consultations. Each artist’s work is different, and each artist’s career aspirations are focused differently—who wanting to show locally, who regionally, who looking to make a place in New York. It’s emotionally draining work, but at the end of the day I’m oddly energetic. Each artist has given me as much as I’ve given her or him.

Throughout the weekend I found time to hang out at Hylla’s loft. Hers is a robust live/work space dominated by double-height windows and a large work table. The tools of her trade—pigments and wax—are safely ensconced on one wall of cabinets. There’s a wall of small plein air paintings, and abstractions in encaustic everywhere else.

Monday, November 13
I arrived in the dark on Friday night and left in the dark on Monday morning (to catch the 5:45 bus to the Oakland airport), so I’m taking the locals at their word that Sonoma has a landscape of vineyards and lemon trees. Next time I hope to see it in the daylight.



What I didn't see in Sonoma

P.S. If you missed out on the weekend, Hylla is already planning two Master Classes and a day of consultations for me in November 2007, as well as several days of teaching her own workshops. She expects enrollment to be filled by early April. Contact her through the Evans Encaustics website. See you there?

11.02.2006

"Luminous Depths"

Two panoramas from the "Luminous Depths" show. Above, looking into the gallery, from left: Sylvia Netzer (suspended sculptures), Rachel Friedberg, me (Mudra on back wall), Diana Gonzalez Gandolfi; Megan Klim

I'm in a group show at the Ben Shahn Galleries of William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, about 20 miles outside of Manhattan. Curated by gallery director Nancy Einreinhofer, it’s called "Luminous Depths: Six Women Explore the Ancient Art of Encaustic Painting." The six of us are Rachel Friedberg, Diana Gonzalez Gandolfi, Gail Gregg, Megan Klim, Sylvia Netzer and myself. The thematic element here is light. Encaustic—pigmented wax—is particularly suited to luminosity given that wax is almost ethereally translucent, and as light passes through the layers of paint and is reflected up through the surface, an encaustic painting is essentially illuminated from within. Each of us explores that luminosity in a different way, though abstraction is another unifying element.

Below, looking toward the entry, from left: Megan Klim, Gail Gregg, Sylvia Netzer, Rachel Friedberg

Apropos of the exhibition’s title, someone at the opening asked if women comprised a majority of artists working in the medium. I don’t think so. This show happened to be six women, but from my experience writing The Art of Encaustic Painting, I’d say that wax is less about gender than it is about sensuality and process. If those things turn you on, you're drawn to the medium, whoever you are. Sylvia Netzer is the sculptor in the group. Her fired clay forms, gourdlike in shape, are cloaked in bright wax. They are suspended from yellow rope to within a few feet from the floor, yet they seem to hover, belying the weight and substance of their materials.

Sylvia Netzer's wax-covered clay forms, foreground, from The Baby Barry Family; Gail Gregg's paintings and relief sculptures, including Reisling, second from right, and One Way, right

Gail Gregg's forms emerge slightly from the wall, satisfyingly mysterious. Closer inspection reveals that the forms, symmetrical, geometric and topographical, are in fact carton separators laid flat or fast food containers given a healthy new life as art.

Rachel Friedberg's work is figurative in the most reductively abstract way. There are bowties, neckties, trousers and spats along with full-body forms that suggest Cycladic figures or even mummies. The imagery might be a comment on maleness, or the role of males in society, but those reductive forms suggest something about transitional states.

Rachel Friedberg's paintings and work on paper

Diana Gonzalez Gandolfi combines geometric abstraction with softer organic shapes. Four paintings, almost twice as long as wide--like windows--open a metaphorical window into her personal iconography.

Four paintings by Diana Gonzalez Gandolfi, including From March to March, second from left, and Hidden Truths, second from right

Layered and netlike, Megan Klim's work was new to me. The paintings were different from one another--one grid based, two landscape like, two biological forms with an erotic charge. Klim seems to be feeling her way through the medium. It's a welcome reminder that wax is a process-intensive medium, and that we are all in some way indebted to the process.

Megan Klim's paintings, back wall on the right

I showed a grid installation of 21 small paintings from my Mudra series, as well as a diptych of larger proportions. Nancy Einreinhofer writes in the catalog: "The build-up of drops of wax signifies the passing of time, a real passing as well as a metaphorical one. The poetry of time passing is seen in the light captured in the layers of wax, seemingly frozen in the medium like a seed in amber." You can see more from my Mudra series on my website.

Joanne Mattera: Big Mudra, left; installation grid of Mudra

After the opening, Nylvia Netzer, Christopher Knowles and I entered the newly dark evening. We'd turned the clocks back the night before, and by 5:00 all daylight was gone. But the moon, a perfect half slice, lit up the sky. "It's a waxing moon," said Christopher. A perfect complement to the show.

"Luminous Depths" is up through December 1. The Ben Shahn Galleries are open Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Here’s the link for directions: http://ww2.wpunj.edu/aboutus/directions.cfm (click onto the campus map, and you’ll see that the Ben Shahn Center is building #9).

There is a catalog.

Post-exhibition addendum: Paintings from my Mudra series are now at Simon Gallery in Morristown, NJ.

Mudra 24, 12 x 12 inches, encaustic on panel, 2004