Antoinette Walker ‘s “Beached” is one of the encaustic paintings in her July 2019 show at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Antoinette Walker ‘s “Beached” is one of the encaustic paintings in her July 2019 show at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Walker’s paintings seek ‘a sense of the past and the present’

In encaustic painting, artists melt a media of beeswax and damar to about 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a warm, sunny day earlier this month for First Friday at Bunnell Street Arts Center, a soft odor permeated the gallery for the opening of Antoinette Walker’s show of encaustic paintings.

Like perfume warmed by skin, Walker’s paintings gave off a pleasant smell hinting of the media’s origins: beeswax, tree resin called damar, and pigment. The scent added a sensory element to the showing of two-dimensional work.

Walker’s exhibit continues through the end of this month at Bunnell, paired with the embroidered thread vessels of Beth Blankenship.

In encaustic painting, artists melt a media of beeswax and damar to about 220 degrees Fahrenheit. An encaustic artist’s palette is a hot griddle — some artists use old electric frying pans — where clear encaustic media gets mixed with pigments.

At her artist’s talk for First Friday on July 5, Walker said she first saw encaustic paintings in Oaxaca, Mexico.

“It had such translucency and depth,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was.”

Walker ordered a start-up kit, started painting “and didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” she said. “I took a three-day workshop in San Francisco, learned the basics, and I’ve been working in encaustics ever since.”

Encaustic artists usually paint on a rigid surface like plywood. For abstract work, encaustics can be liberating because it’s hard to control. The media has to be kept hot to work with, but then it also becomes fluid and can run or splatter. It’s one of those techniques that looks easy and then becomes challenging when the artist tries to assert command of her media.

Walker shows fine control in her work, often painting realistic subjects. Whether of boats, cannery shacks or landscapes, her art exhibits an attention to detail and a solid understanding of color. One ocean scene of sailboats, “Fair Winds,” evokes the power of sea and sky seen in Winslow Homer’s maritime paintings combined with the luminosity of Van Gogh’s landscapes.

A longtime Kodiak resident, Walker also is a commercial fisherman.

“I express my creativity and experience through coastal marine themes that capture the wild beauty of my home,” she writes in her artist’s statement. “The inspiration for these paintings is an image of time-worn canneries, setnet sites and fishermen working their gear as I travel the ocean towards our fishing grounds in Bristol Bay.”

In creating her encaustic paintings, Walker demonstrates an encaustic technique that literally gives it depth.

“When you’re painting, your surface is laid down,” she said. “You paint and can embed pieces of paper, which I do a lot of, and then you fuse it with a torch or a heat gun, and you just layer it up. That’s the way I work.”

Many of Walker’s paintings include scraps of text, such as shingles of roofs. One painting, “Life on the Pier VI,” is more sculpture, done on a log cut in half. It includes scraps of metal and barnacles built up out of wax. Another painting of a Bristol Bay double-ender boat includes a nail found near the actual boat that inspired the painting. One work has a piece of metal found on the beach.

“I do that a lot — a lot of beach found objects on my pieces,” Walker said.

One painting, “Red Curtains,” features a gray, weather worn shack with a splash of a curtain in a window, a painting inspired by a cabin in Naknek.

“I was drawn to it for the lines, and they way they attach to the roof that was blowing off,” Walker said. “…And then the curtains, the red billowing curtain and the invitation to go inside.”

One of her paintings is of an old Homer wooden boat, Altair, seen now on the Homer Spit.

“I think the lines on it are beautiful when it was in the water,” Walker said. “It has peeling paint. I am drawn to peeling paint when it’s not on my house and rusty metal as long as it’s not on my car.”

The ethereal quality of encaustic media reflects the theme of Walker’s paintings. While some subjects might be of old boats and buildings from history, others are of cabins still used and well loved.

“What I aspire to do is give it a time worn appearance, to give you a sense of the past and the present,” Walker said of her paintings.

In her introduction of Walker at the First Friday talk, Bunnell Street Arts Center Artistic Director Asia Freeman praised Walker’s paintings.

“Your work just resonates in this community and to many of our visitors. You capture something really specially and powerfully,” she said.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

Antoinette Walker ‘s “Red Curtains” is one of the encaustic paintings in her July 2019 show at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Antoinette Walker ‘s “Red Curtains” is one of the encaustic paintings in her July 2019 show at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News
                                Antoinette Walker poses by one of her encaustic paintings, “Diamond #7,” at the First Friday opening of her exhibit on July 5, 2019, at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska.

Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News Antoinette Walker poses by one of her encaustic paintings, “Diamond #7,” at the First Friday opening of her exhibit on July 5, 2019, at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska.

Some of Antoinette Walker’s encaustic paintings on exhibit in July 2019 at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Some of Antoinette Walker’s encaustic paintings on exhibit in July 2019 at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Antoinette Walker’s “Fair Winds” is one of her encaustic paintings on exhibit in July 2019 at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Antoinette Walker’s “Fair Winds” is one of her encaustic paintings on exhibit in July 2019 at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

This painting of a Homer boat, “Altair,” is part of Antoinette Walker ‘s exhibit of encaustic paintings in her July 2019 show at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

This painting of a Homer boat, “Altair,” is part of Antoinette Walker ‘s exhibit of encaustic paintings in her July 2019 show at Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

More in Life

In 1964, two years after the Fairs moved to their homestead at the end of Forest Lane, Calvin Fair took this photo from neighbor Dan France’s SuperCub. Note the dearth of large trees in the foreground, where the 1947 Kenai Burn wiped out much of the hillside forest. (Courtesy Fair Family Collection.
One man’s misfortune becomes my family’s good fortune

Without his misfortune, almost everything changes for me.

Snickerdoodle cookies have a distinct cinnamon sugar scrawled shell, photographed on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Memories of snickerdoodles

I asked my grandma if she had her mother’s snickerdoodle recipe.

Russell Wagner graduated from the dental school within the College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco in the spring of 1931. Shortly thereafter, he made his first trip to Seward. (Photo courtesy of college archives)
When the Kenai had just one full-time Dentist, Part 2

Part One discussed how Dr. Russell Wagner, the Kenai Peninsula’s only full-time dentist in 1960.

Christina Whiting poses for a photo on Oct. 5, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Taz Tally)
Homer artist takes pandemic project on road

‘Behind the Mask - Our Stories’ invites people to share experiences

Homemade ice cream steeped with chai spices and churned with local honey is frozen and ready to be enjoyed, on Monday, Oct. 5, 2029, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Churning ice cream at home

Winter is a great time to break out the ice cream machine

This is the 1908 birth certificate of Russell Martin Wagner. (Certificate courtesy of ancestry.com)
When the Kenai had just one full-time dentist, Part 1

Wagner graduated from dental school at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco.

Butternut squash soup picnic is enjoyed on the rocky beach at Eklutna Lake, on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: A soup to match the color of the leaves

Getting outside can be a balm to that isolation and grief many of us are experiencing.

File
Minister’s Message: Are we seeing flowers or weeds?

In diffiult times, we need to watch what we watch

A plate of fried fish is photographed in this undated photo. Frying up cod or halibut in a beer batter is a delicious way to enjoy Alaska’s catch. (Courtesy Victoria Petersen)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: A secret ingredient for fried fish

Victoria Petersen serves up beer-battered halibut with a not-so-secret ingredient.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: So sayeth the almanac 2020

Once again, the summer has rocketed by and we find ourselves on the precipice of the autumn equinox.

Photo from the Anchorage Museum of History and Art 
                                Dr. David Hassan Sleem stands on the front porch of his large Seward home in 1906.
The multitalented D.H. Sleem, Part two

Syrian-born David Hassan Sleem settled in Seward in 1903.