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Artist’s concepts wax with medium

October 24, 2008

By day, Daisy McConnell is wife, mother of two, assistant curator of Idea Space at Colorado College and an art teacher for at-risk youths. By night, the petite curly-haired blonde is armed with a heat gun, wax and etching tools, making paintings of buglike women now on display at Rubbish Gallery.

"It would be wonderful if I had days at a time to sit and ponder, but that is not the case," she said. "I keep one foot in there and keep going and pushing my ideas and getting fulfillment from creating art."

Her encaustic paintings - paintings that use wax as a medium - are on display through Nov. 7 at Rubbish.

McConnell is originally from Seattle and stayed in Colorado Springs after she graduated from Colorado College with a degree in art in 1998.

Through the years, her use of different mediums has expanded as she has grown as an artist. She has been a sculptor and printmaker, and now combines those skills and a few new ones with her encaustic paintings at Rubbish.

Encaustic painting as a technique has been around for more than 2,000 years and is seeing a resurgence in the art world. For a more traditional encaustic painting, an artist will apply thin layers of colored wax to a wood panel, fusing them together with a heat gun.

McConnell's art, however, approaches the technique from the eyes of a sculptor and printmaker. Her pieces often will include a base of her own prints, collages or transferred drawings. She uses etching tools to cut into and shape the wax, creating additional texture and depth to the piece.

McConnell calls her approach to the wax "aggressive," as she tends to prefer thick layers that she can dissect to reveal the work underneath.

"I'm not very delicate with it," she said.

She was introduced to encaustic painting by former CC alumnus David Hazlett, who often uses the technique in his own art. McConnell, who is a multimedia artist, was fascinated by the medium and loved the look of the paintings.

"The light shines through the layers," she said. "There's a luminosity you can't get with anything else."

Much of her art revolves around feminine themes of body and binding clothing such as corsets or sky-high heels.

"I am really interested in the body and the way women present themselves historically," she said.

"We mold ourselves. Why do we do these things in the name of beauty?"

She often combines those themes with images of insects or single-cell organisms.

The beauty of these forms intrigue her and the exoskeleton of an insect and boning of a corset have fascinating similarities, she said.

Her common themes come to life in her piece "Lepidopteron," where a corset is attached above a moth pupae.

Brett Andrus, co-owner of Rubbish, said that McConnell is just the sort of up-and-coming local artist that the gallery loves to promote.

"We want to get some young vibrant strong artists in here," he said.

Most of her paintings are small, only 12 by 12 inches, and are a good contrast to the gallery's past two shows, which have included more large-scale works.

"Her work is a little more quiet," Andrus said. "I think she is a talented painter and the paintings are very feminine, just pretty."

Alicia Bailey is a friend of McConnell's and owner of the Abecedarian Gallery in the Santa Fe Arts District in Denver. She has enjoyed seeing the progression of McConnell's work through the years.

"The shift in the use of mediums has been what propels Daisy to take a conceptual stance to her art," she said. "There's a physical engagement in the activities and movements of her work."

Bailey said that she plans to show McConnell's work in her gallery some time in 2009.

"She's worthy of keeping an eye on," Bailey said. "She deserves a wider audience."

McConnell has no plans yet to quit her day jobs, but said she will keep at her art even if she finds time only on the weekends or when her kids are asleep.

"I have kids and a family, I'm not at that place where I can lock myself in a studio," she said.

"But I'll keep working, and hopefully I'll get to that point."


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