Francisco Benitez, Remember, 2011, encaustic on panel

The Future of the Past: Encaustic Art in the 21st Century

Curated by Barb Cone and Harriet Chenkin

About The Future of the Past: Encaustic Art in the 21st Century:

The Future of the Past: Encaustic Art in the 21st Century features an expansive collection of 37 emerging, established, and historical artists that primarily utilize the medium of encaustic in their artwork.

Encaustic is derived from enkaustikos, a Greek word meaning “to burn in.” Used as early as the 1st century BC by Greek painters, it is one of the oldest and most enduring of all artistic mediums. This ancient technique is a combination of heated resin, beeswax, and pigment that is applied in layers onto any porous surface.

Boston artists play a significant role in encaustic’s revival as a contemporary art medium in the 20th century. Three artists in particular, Karl Zerbe and his protégés, David Aronson and Esther Geller, are featured in this exhibition.

Continuing their legacies are the internationally invited and juried artists that expand upon encaustic processes and incorporate this versatile medium in painting, sculpture, printmaking, book arts as well as a variety of installation, collage and mixed-media work. Ranging from the hyper-real to the surreal, the collection on view includes portraiture, landscapes, still life and abstract pieces that explore the world around us from the artists’ individual perspectives.

The Future of the Past: Encaustic Art in the 21st Century includes a series of multimedia presentations within the gallery for visitors to learn more about this complex and fascinating medium. These educational videos include: excerpts from an encaustic painting demo film of Karl Zerbe; a demonstration of its techniques and applications by participating artist, Nan Tull; and a recent interview with Esther Geller.


  • Historical Artists: David Aronson, Esther Geller, Karl Zerbe
  • Invited Artists: Francisco Benitez, Kevin Frank, Cari Hernandez, James Meyer, Paula Roland
  • Juried Artists: Natalie Abrams, Zoe Ani, Diane Bowie Zaitlin, Eunice Choi, Elena De La Ville, Peggy Epner, Fanne Fernow, Michelle Hegyi, Marsha Hewitt, Christopher Jagmin, Diane Kleiss, Karen Krieger, Jacqueline Mallegni, Barbara Maricle, Mary Maynor, Johanna Paas, Gretchen Papka, Kelly Porter-Santamaria, Marybeth Rothman, Michal Sagar, Clarissa Shanahan, Tracy Spadafora, Joan Stuart Ross, Nan Tull, Zane Turner, Cathy Valentine, Mira M. White, Linda Widstrand, Judith A. Williams
  • Jurors: Barbara O’Brien, Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Collections, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO and former Editor-in-Cheif, Art New England; Judith Tannenbaum, Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; Craig Bloodgood, Contemporary Curator, The Art Complex Museum, Duxbury, MA

Related experiences:

Opening Reception
Friday, October 5 | 6pm

Artist Talk & Panel Discussion
Thursday, November 1 | 6-7pm
Moderated by RISD Museum of Art Curator, Judith Tannenbaum
With participating artist panelists Eunice Choi and James Meyer

Performance: Cloud Point
Friday, November 2nd | 7pm

Cloud point: the temperature at which dissolved wax is no longer soluble, giving the material a cloudy appearance. We’re hosting Liz Roncka (movement artist), Nicole Colella (visual artist/costume designer), Amir Milstein (flute) and Haggai Cohen Milo (bass) to create an evolving sound and movement landscape set against The Future of the Past: Encaustic Art in the 21st Century exhibition in the Mills Gallery. Together, they will explore and interpret the qualities of wax in this site-specific, multi-disciplinary performance.

Artist Demo / Studio Visit
Monday, November 12 | 1pm
Hosted by participating artist, Nan Tull
249 A Street Coop #46 South Boston

BCA Families Connect

Smashing Crayons
Saturday, November 3 | 10-11:30am
Experiment with wax and transform it into art with encaustic artists James Meyer and Amy Jenkins.

Ear Wax
Saturday, November 10 | 10-11:30am
Spend the morning with the Community Music Center of Boston creating your own wax instrument to play and discovering connections between visual arts and music.