After nearly three decades in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, I now live in New York’s Northern Catskills. Although I am a New York City native, I have spent most of my adult life in the northern mountains which are a continuous source of inspiration for my work. As much time as I spend in my studio, I spend even more outdoors—walking and observing, studying the land, the vegetation, the light, the birds and other wildlife, the impact of past human activity, and all of the changes that occur across each day, each season.
My art career encompasses painting, photography, ceramics, printmaking, and theatrical painting. About 8 years ago, I was drawn to encaustics by their luminosity and subtlety, and once I started working in wax, I knew that encaustic was my medium—one that could give voice to my aesthetic, my sensibility, and my quiet personality.
Rooted in my sense of awe and deep connection to the natural world, my paintings are an expression of my sense of stewardship for the fragile balance that allows life to exist and thrive on this planet. They frequently feature the northern landscape at the edges of day and rarely are based on any specific location; rather, they are syntheses of my experiences and observations. While abstracted landscapes are, on one level, the theme of my paintings, I think of them more as an invitation to viewers to stay closely connected to the natural world and thus, to one another.
I work almost exclusively with encaustics and oils with beeswax, and recently began using those media over watercolor. Beginning with watercolors on gessoed panels, I build opaque and transparent encaustic layers, carving and scratching into them with blades and knives creating depth and texture. Next, I apply oils mixed with beeswax, enhancing texture and luminosity. Layering, carving, scraping and incising allow earlier layers to emerge, much the way geological and weathering processes obscure and expose, and as visual memories come into focus even as they fade away.
Each day as I paint, I challenge myself to try new things, to experiment, to continue to explore and grow. This entails practice and the willingness to abandon the direction I set out on with a painting. It also means being willing to destroy a piece that just does not fully resonate with the intensity of my experiences in the natural world.
Dawn, the 12 x 12 encaustic with oils and beeswax over watercolor painting that is in Main Street Arts’ 2020 Small Works show, is a perfect example. The painting started out as a winter hillside at dawn or dusk. Not quite satisfied, I reworked it significantly and, suddenly, the painting had the feel of being in the deep woods looking out into the light beyond the forest. It was almost there. One morning, I looked at and felt it lacked a certain kind of mystery, abstraction, or ambiguity that characterizes my best work. I scraped back and began building again. Stepping back a few hours later, there it was—a sense of being on a shore on a foggy morning before the sun is above the horizon. I had that deep sense of resolution that whispers, “the painting is done”.
Encaustics are a challenging medium with which to become proficient. Over the past couple of years, my skills have developed and, I believe, my work has matured. I’ve begun to exhibit my work more widely in galleries, art centers, and museums across the country and was recently honored with the Faber Birren National Color Award. The juror’s words moved me deeply because I felt that what was within me had fully reached another person: “The Faber Birren Color Award goes to Regina Quinn for the quiet vibrance of her Wetland at Dusk. In a present moment in which so much of our consumption of images—in various forms of isolation—is defined by the mediated sheen of digital screens, her masterful use of encaustic with oils and beeswax imbues her panel painting with an ambient life. The evening’s final hints of light seem to shift before the viewer’s eye; quite literally layered, periwinkle, umber and marigold break through with striking effect to illuminate what appears at first glance to be a subdued palette, dominated by deep greens of the darkening coastline.”