Location: Grayslake, Illinois
Featured Work: The Refiner’s Fire
Source: 2017-2018 CIVA Sourcebook
From curator Michelle Westmark Wingard.
The rich use of color and organic forms in Rebecca Stahr’s painting speaks to life, pain, and redemption.
Describe your featured work.
For ten-plus years I have been in a growing battle of auto-immune illness, severe fatigue, and full-body chronic pain. The pain is unending and can go from a nagging murmur to an unrelenting torment in chaotic, unpredictable cycles with no relief. I haven’t been able to find physical healing, but my soul has found a release from the emotional energy that powerfully builds within. Creating makes room for the restoration of my heart to a place centered in hope. My art is wordless yearnings of my soul in prayer as my body cries out for healing. “The Refiner’s Fire” is about that wordless cry and is painted with a deep translucent depth that draws the viewer into more intimate contemplation. The complex layers, deep rich colors, and organic forms all have become symbolic voices in a vocabulary that speaks of life, pain, and the hope of redemption. Working in encaustic allows a rich diverseness unlike any other medium. Various opaque and translucent effects are possible, and the wax can be textured, scraped, and polished to a high sheen. This methodical adding, scraping, marking, and fusing of the wax with the heat of a torch applied to each layer adds to the complexity of metaphor informing my works.
In the quiet of my studio, I am alone in my thoughts as I begin the process of creating. The repetition is meditative and prayer-like as, layer by layer, I begin to build the foundation of the artwork. The continual process of adding molten wax, fusing with heat, marking, and scraping away stirs an inner dialogue, a spiritual connection that starts to flow rawly from deep within my soul. I feel as if I am collaborating with my Creator, my hands the conduit of this conversion, as the energy is poured out onto the canvas. My soul is intuitively aware of what it wants to give and what it needs to receive, and the painting becomes a record of that journey and a path of healing.
What are you making now?
I am currently finishing the details of getting art to gallery for a four-person encaustic artist group show opening in July. After that, I give myself permission to a summer of creative play and exploration. I am endlessly curious about everything; allowing myself to play without purpose and explore every meandering detail and story is what feeds my creative soul. My sketchbook and my camera not only help me record my inspiration but each medium gives its own lens to shape the view. I also strongly believe in the beauty and lessons in the cycles of nature and life, and my health strongly reminds me of the necessity of heeding natural rhythms.
Why do you belong to CIVA?
I love being connected to a resource where people are looking at our relevance and deeper ways to impact the art world, our current culture, and important causes from a deeper spiritual connection rooted in hope. This is invaluable to me as an artist suffering from chronic lyme disease as well as in using my art as a voice of healing and hope.
Rebecca Stahr is an artist living with her family, surrounded by the beautiful native prairie of northern Illinois. She also maintains a working warehouse studio space in the north Chicago suburb of Grayslake, Illinois. For ten-plus years, Rebecca has been struggling with a growing battle of auto-immune illnesses and chronic pain that recently was finally diagnosed as chronic lyme disease. She has learned to use this painful battle as a lens which informs her art.