"Within the limitations imposed by the confines of canvas and color,
Felice Sharp finds extraordinary and seemingly limitless variations"
Jane F. Garvey - Museums and Gallery's

Tracing the Ancestry of Light 

    This is an architecture of aesthetics.  And if you go digging deep enough, you’ll find out that some of the basic roots of contemporary painting find origins in the earth from which they were borne.

     And that’s where Felice Sharp begins in her paintings.

     This tracing of bloodlines and tree tines began in the south of France, near the Provence region, where Sharp sought the origins of paint in the medieval pigments burrowing there.  In an attempt to return the inspiration and method of her own work to her familial European roots, the remnants of the earth in the French countryside were Sharp’s starting points.

     Sharp works in a modern descendant of the encaustic method in her painting process.  The pigments from the European ground are given what the artist Joseph Cornell call a “second life” when describing the found objects in his boxes.  The particles of earth, having had a duration of service as they were naturally intended on the other side of the sea, are now given a second life as incorporated values and temperatures of color which themselves are planted into the wax and canvas of Sharp’s painting.  The method itself is not new—the Old Masters populated the palettes in much the same way.  What makes this work contemporary is the fact that the same pigments now speak a new language—if there could ever be a universal European language of color, Sharp’s use of them would be an evolved dialect.

     As color itself exists only on account of the presence of light’s various wavelengths, that task of light is given free reign here.  Beginning with a raw, unprimed canvas, Sharp begins with her pigments and water-based and lays down the initial form of the work. At it is here that the task of light, figuratively and literally, begins to have its way with the work.

     The wax used in this “encaustic process” is mixed with varnish to hold form.  This serves the physical purpose of allowing the wax to adhere better to the canvas, but also provides the frozen droplets of wax, the flow of wax over the surface, the memory of form preserved in motion of the wax as it takes to the canvas.  Wax itself is used as a medium here, into which Sharp mixes in some of her pigments.  So on top of the water-base, the wax is a contender for the work’s individual voice, its individual message or storyline.  It is that quality of the wax, its weaving and rolling shapes, that allow for the further harnessing of light’s effects.  Depending on the angle of the viewer, the way physical light appears onto the wax can cause anything from dreamy reflections on shapes that remind us of lakes and forests, to sunlight peering like firm curiosities over the faint appearance of grand arches and buttressed cathedrals.  Sharp’s world is one that conjures in the audience a hazy familiarity that finds its elements in the stuff of sleep. 

     After experiencing a self-imposed deja vu from gazing into Sharp’s work, it is not too difficult to be swayed into seeing reality itself as abstraction when seen with a true-eye.  The landscapes in Sharp’s paintings are almost lethargic swatches of brush strokes combined with the more sensual topography of the wax layers.  These strokes are the painted representations of light and dark throughout the canvas.  If one were to gaze out at a mass of trees, or early morning fog on the lake, those real physical objects of stones, branches, the streets from one’s childhood, one sees in that line of sight, environments that seem to take no definite form despite their reality.  

     The reality of that perception of a real environment touched by different intensities of light convince the viewer that in our real world, routine sights we witness everyday are truly uncertain tangibles.  Sharp does not offer that physicality of the objects to our hands either—instead, in her paintings, she offer us faded daguerreotypes of our own perceptions that are tinged with personal experience, personal memory.

     Her work is a visual journal that transports the audience in the style of a family story passed from grandmother to grandchild, a yellowing tome of a scrapbook discovered in the family library.  We are led to recall our own ancestry of memories, our own personal experiences and passing remembrances, all laid our here like a meticulous excavation of modern art.  And in that light, our own original hum the most warmly, and brightly.

Austin  S.  Lin 2001