In 1976, after studying and teaching art history, I decided to focus on the creation and study of paintings. In graduate school in New Mexico I encountered an area of deadfall timber in the Sandia Mountains that served as subject matter for drawings, photographs, and paintings and continues to inform many compositions. My starting points are typically close-up views of trees, highlighting branch and trunk structures and negative spaces. Tree forms are often combined with geometric shapes, suggesting man-made incursions into the natural environment. 

Pictured: Photo of the artist

In 1987 I discovered encaustic, a heat-based paint made of beeswax and dry pigment.  I make tablets (disks) of encaustic paint in an airtight glovebox by melting bleached or unbleached beeswax on a hotplate, mixing it with dry pigment, and dripping the resulting paint into receptacles in a muffin tin.  I make panels using 3/16” gatorboard or birch plywood braced with 1 X 3” white pine or poplar.

Pictured: encaustic palette

When painting I melt the various colors on a heated piece of anodized aluminum and apply the paint mostly with brushes. I also paint with palette knives or paint lines with an electrically-heated djanting needle (designed for batik).  I collage printed papers (often fragments of encaustic monotypes) by heating the surface with a heat gun or crème brullé torch (also used for burning-in) and applying pressure with a wooden wallpaper roller. 

My encaustic painting in the Small Works show, entitled Glimpse, demonstrates my love of color and demonstrates unique encaustic paint manipulations, including lines made by melting into the surface with the tip of a wood-burning tool and comb textures.

Pictured: Glimpse, encaustic on panel—included in Small Works 2023

After thirty-two years of teaching at Medaille University, I retired three years ago. I now paint full-time and I’m also a docent at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo.

Education: A.B. (Art History), Cornell University, MA (Art History) University of Illinois, MFA (Painting and Drawing) University of New Mexico.

Website: marklavatelli.com  Instagram: @marklava

Small Works 2023 includes 219 works of art by 204 artists from 29 states and runs through Friday, December 22, 2023.

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Closed 7/28 through 8/3:

We will be closed to the public Friday, July 28 through Thursday, August 4 as we install our next exhibition, Inspired By Nature. Please join us for the opening reception on Friday, August 4 from 5 to 8pm!