Wax Works

By Kevin Williams, Staff Reporter

As you approach the paintings of Dan Addington, prepare to be lost. Immersion is the only real way to describe the process of looking at the artist's work. There is no way for the newspaper reproduction process to do justice to these paintings, which resemble relics from another time.

"These paintings are often about mystery, a kind of treasure hunt," Addington said. "I want to create the feeling that you're peering down into the work, seeing beneath the layers. I want the viewer to enter into the piece."

Viewing "Kindle and Keep (Dublin Garden)" is like looking through a window into a garden suffused with the lush, vivid colors of fall, except that you can't get past the intricate, filigreed designs of the window.
Not bad for an artist who works with beeswax and tar.

"The mixture of materials gives them an evocative presence," said Addington, whose work is on display at Gwenda Jay Gallery. "The wax remains very translucent, and tar can create a rich black unlike any other material. As you work with it, it acquires an ancient, almost burned-in feeling. I want these paintings, instead of feeling like they were created by an artist, to seem as if they somehow just came into being."

Another important thing to note is that unlike his dark, ancient-looking images, the man is youthful and gregarious, with the ready laugh of someone who loves to make art and is serious about his vocation, but doesn't take himself too seriously.

Addington's path to art came through other performance media. He received a degree in theater from Northwestern College in Iowa, before succumbing to a muse that was really there all the time.

"Becoming an artist was just something I wanted to do, before I even knew what it meant." Addington said. "It was always just a path I was on. There wasn't really a moment of realization that I was an artist. It was more of an affirmation."

Addington has been working in his current style since 1992, turned in that direction in part by the

confluence of a terminally ill parent and subsequent contemplation of mortality. Since then, his work has involved a work-intensive wax and tar process.

After an image is painted onto a wood panel, the paint is sanded, scraped, and reworked to create a background. Melted beeswax is then poured over the panel and smoothed with a heat gun. The final step involves the application of tar to create the central image with a black so deep, it's Stygian.

Addington is philosophical about the viewing process.

"The experience of having people view the work is the completion," he said. "It completes the process. I can make the work, but until someone brings their own experience to it, completing it in their own mind, the process isn't actually finished."

Through the years, Addington acted and played music, exhibiting an attraction to collaborative efforts that comes through today in his fondness for curating group shows.

These quiet, contemplative works carry titles that bridge gaps in our minds, while at the same time taking your thoughts elsewhere, "Black Cross" is intensely religious, the brilliant reds and oranges much like staring into the biblical burning bush.

"Titles can be important," Addington said. "They're one more way you can involve the viewer, another spot where you can place a clue about the piece."

These works containing organic shapes are the creative detritus of the working process, a process that Addington finds almost as critical as the works themselves.

"What is created from the process is the evidence of the important thing that is done, like the snail's trail left behind." Addington said. "The journey is the most important thing. These paintings are like residue. It doesn't make them invalid, but instead like the tracing of where I've gone in my mind. I can look back on this trail of breadcrumbs and see where I've been and where I'm going.

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