The title of Christin Couture’s Nearest Faraway Place exhibit might sound confusing to many people. For Christin Couture that Place is about more than a shadowy woodland, and rushing river water. “The view is like a theater. A theater is always changing. This view I have is of the changing seasons and weather. I never tire of this scene. The location is the anchor of all the paintings. Everything else is changeable,” she said.
For nearly 15 years she has been painting the same view from her house with its innumerable changes through the hours of the day and seasons of the year. The 25 paintings on view at the Oresman Gallery at the Brown Fine Arts Center are small. The wood panels measure only 10×8, 6×8, and 9×12 inches, though some are doubled. These paintings use the technique called encaustic. The paintings are mixed mediums using beeswax, candelilla wax, oil pigment, acrylics, and colored pencils.
“In 2005 I did the first painting. I was just experimenting, and I put the painting away in a drawer. Later, Bill, my husband, happened to find it and said they were great. So I started to do some more.
“I went to Peter Curtis of Mole Hollow Candles and he gave me a thick sheet of bees wax. I put it in the freezer because then I could break off a piece when I needed it. I was going to try it with various pigments. This was not at all planned. I was just doing, not thinking about an exhibit. I just got wrapped up in the image and in the colors,” Couture said.
“Encaustic painting is very physical, you can move it around. Its malleable, you can scrape off the wax if you make mistakes. You don’t have that benefit when you are working with other media. You can’t correct watercolor mistakes or acrylics. With oils you have to wait until they are dry. In addition, there is a beautiful translucence. That is the beauty of wax.”
Couture told me about the pleasure she feels working with beeswax. “Beeswax just smells wonderful when it is melting and you are working with it. I also use candelilla wax which comes from a Mexican plant. It is harder that beeswax. You can mix them. The beeswax can get a little harder or the candelilla a little softer. Sometimes I do an underpainting with acrylics and then I’d smooch around with the wax. It was all about experimenting. I felt it was a challenge.
“Bill is responsible for the view, Couture said. “Originally there was just a dense woodland running along a chasm near the house. For a while there were terrible storms and Bill had to remove the fallen trees. He began to be concerned about the view. He wanted to protect the whole length of the woodland beyond his slice. That didn’t happen, but he was able to work in the woods, pleasing his own eye. Actually I couldn’t look at the mess so I began to join him in the clean up.
“Bill is a landscape designer. He is also a sculptor. He does three dimensional art – thinking about spacing, incorporating a lot of elements, making them move. He makes them alive.”
Hosie told me about learning and working as a gardener when he was in high school. He is now in charge of all the landscaping around the Couture/Hosie house. There are flowers and greenery, and the artful woodland. I was particularly taken by his extraordinary moss garden, glowing like an emerald next to the house.
When I first met Couture she was doing many other kinds of painting. I remember paintings of enormous icebergs in a dark sea, and of children that seemed a bit Gorey-esque. Apparently, Edward Gorey thought so, too, because he invited her to visit and talk over a cup of tea – or absinthe.
I remember her beautiful colorful children’s book, A Walk in the Woods. Now I have to wonder whether it was the same woodland that inspired that earlier book, and these new paintings.
The first encaustic paintings did not include figures, but recently she did add small figures like Adam and Eve being expelled from the paradise made of her woodland. She said it was easy to concentrate while working on these small paintings. There was also a special intimacy working on a small scale.
I have often said that a walk down the garden path leads into many other paths from science to art. Monet had his water lilies, and shimmering haystacks. Georgia O’Keefe had her magnificent flowers with amazing color. Like artists, we all see and experience gardens and flowers differently.
Artists are a gift to us gardeners, because our gardens sleep for part of the year. We turn to paintings and our memories of the seasons past.
The Nearest Faraway Place will be on exhibit at the Oresman Gallery at the Brown Fine Arts Center on the Smith College campus. Oresman Gallery Hours: Mon – Friday 8:30am – 4pm, Friday, August 9, 5-8pm during 2nd Friday Arts Night Out. Exhibit will close August 29, 2019.
Couture has also exhibited her work at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center; DeCordova Museum & Sculpture Park; Monique Knowlton Gallery, NYC; Museo Leon Trotsky, and Galeria Arvil, Mexico City. If you are interested in purchasing any of her paintings you can reach her through her website, www.christincouture.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Between the Rows July 27, 2019