Gretchen Papka

10 piece(s) in the gallery

Gretchen Papka grew up in a small town in central Wyoming where her family owned and operated the only newspaper in town. Her early experiences with printing equipment and presses helped develop & direct her toward formal training in commercial art with Parsons School of Design in New York City. After spending a summer studying in Paris and graduation - she worked as an Assistant Admissions Director and representative of Parsons by traveling across the United States speaking and reviewing portfolios for college level artwork. She worked as a graphic artist in the commercial art field for many years, but it is in the last 10 years that she has begun to experiment with mixed media and painting with encaustics. Papka has a trained eye for color, composition, texture, balance and intuitive ingenuity when it comes to creativity. Her current work is described as "an intuitive connection to a piece through experimentation and manipulation of texture, color and content."

Papka's work combines encaustic wax and found objects. Her pieces are inspired by aged textures, science, repurposed utilitarian objects and landscape vistas. The thrill of finding new meaning for an object makes her work spontaneous, and includes varied themes which are reflective of her personal and graphic art experiences. The encaustic process uses melted, pigmented beeswax and natural resins which are then painted onto a rigid surface. After each coat of encaustic paint is applied, heat and tools are used to fuse the layers together. When cool, the wax cures to create a stable archival painting that can last for centuries without fading or losing its radiance. The medium is known for its transparency and it is a delight to paint layer after layer and watch the color shine from underneath.

Each piece begins with a wood panel as a substrate. The gathering of objects can be anything organic or man-made. Scraps of wood, stones, shoes, book covers, discarded organ or piano parts or old dominos can be included in an assemblage. Layers of encaustic wax are painted on the background of her pieces and sometimes cover objects in the wax as well. Papka enjoys manipulating wax to make it look burned and out of another time. After the wax layers are finished - Papka assembles, screws down, nails and/or wires together objects that find their way to the surface. She hopes the work calls for quiet reflection to allow a dialogue to develop between the viewer and the art. Her desire is for these works to create not only beauty, but mystery like the beauty of aged things a "natural history museum of the mind."

Papka predominantly works in series and each has a story to tell. Her "Horizon" series is based on Western landscapes. They are mostly imaginary, some of which she extracted from dreams, and combine her love of old papers, science and art. She begins these pieces with found ledger pages, so that a grid of lined paper and numbers come through. Papka believes both land and atmosphere are tied to numbers, i.e. calculations that determine the height, width, formations, and layers of sediment. Her work has a graphic sensibility, as her background is in graphic design.

The idea of her "Numbers at Play" series began when she decided she didn't want to lose her skills of hand lettering from her days at school. She also loves prime numbers because they have a purity and beauty all their own, being divisible by 1 and themselves. These pieces are 100% mixed media and graphically combine numbers with imagery in a playful way. Occasionally, she uses a process known as "wood icing", a faux finish technique and refinishing product used to transform furniture, cabinets or artifacts into custom creations.

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