Wax Works Exhibition Opens at Miller Art Museum

On March 12, the Miller Art Museum in Sturgeon Bay opens a new exhibit, Wax Works: Textures, Shapes & Stories in Encaustic and Cold Wax with a free reception from 3 – 4:30 pm. The exhibition has been made possible in part by Jack and Susan Anderson, Carl and Lorraine Mengert, and Camilla Nielsen.

Featuring six artists from northeast Wisconsin in addition to an installation comprised of works by an additional six artists, the artwork explores a wide range of subjects using the painting medium of wax combined with pigments. Artists are once again enthusiastically discovering the luminous color, varied surfaces, and opportunities for spontaneity and experimentation provided by these techniques first used more than 2,000 years ago.

“I’ve observed many artists in recent years achieving fascinating surfaces, color, and special effects with wax medium,” says the museum’s Curator of Exhibitions Deborah Rosenthal. “I was previously aware of the use of wax in only an art history setting, having seen the beautifully painted grave portraits from Egypt in museum collections. Wax Works gives us the opportunity to see the variety of ways artists can use wax today to create complex imagery and luxurious, mysterious surfaces.”

"Ode to the Bees" by Donna Brown.

“Ode to the Bees” by Donna Brown.

Beeswax can be used either cold or heated by artists to achieve different effects. When the wax is heated and applied to a surface in layers fused together by additional heat the result is known as encaustic.

Research indicates that cold wax was likely also developed by the ancient Greeks and used extensively by them and by Roman artists. Cold wax is made pliable by its combination with a solvent or softening agent such as citrus oil. Ginnie Cappaert, exhibiting artist residing in Egg Harbor, describes her relationship to these versatile art tools: “If you compare encaustic to cold wax as an art form, they each have special characteristics that make the medium so unique. I worked in encaustic for many years and enjoyed the ‘instant’ and vibrant layers that you could achieve. The smooth finish to the wax was quite wonderful. However, when I was introduced to the matte finish of cold wax and the layered surface you can achieve, I was hooked…. Personally, it is this thoughtful layering process that keeps me working with this medium.”

Members and visitors to the museum will have the opportunity to learn about encaustic painting techniques —also known as hot wax painting— at a free program complementing this new exhibit on March 10 in the Friends Room, located on the lower level of the Door County Library in Sturgeon Bay. The program begins at 10:30 am; doors open at 10 am for coffee and conversation with a brief volunteer business meeting and program following. Wax Works: Textures, Shapes & Stories in Encaustic and Cold Wax continues at the museum through April 18.

Miller Art Museum is located in the Door County Library, located at 107 S. 4th Ave in Sturgeon Bay. Hours are 10 am to 8 pm on Mon. and 10 am to 5 pm Tues. through Sat. For more information visit


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