Mary Ellen Sisulak
Address: 11736 Mink River Rd.
Website: maryellensisulak.com & turtleridgegallery.com
Medium: Mixed media, Encaustic, Fine crafts
Gallery Representation: Edgewood Orchards Galleries, Turtle Ridge Gallery, Ellison Bay, Encaustic Art Institute of Santa Fe
Mary Ellen Sisulak
Interpreting the power of stones, grounded in earth, I stretch hide over manipulated wood panels, carving, forming and painting into this primal surface. My strength is in the line, which can be seen throughout my work, but sometimes, just a color or an object is the impetus to start a new piece. I return to some of my favorite subjects, which have become sort of spiritual for me. I find the description and narrative to be part of the piece only after I have completed the journey, but it is always there in my subconscious. My subject matter is always connected to nature and history.
I am an enthusiastic and long time encaustic artist. I started in the 60's after I was introduced to the media by my high school art teacher. The medium was taught with the added benefit of its Greek history and origins. At the University of WI-Milwaukee in 1974, none of my professors were versed in the medium and so, I had to experiment with it; including some very unsafe practices of mixing my own cold wax with heat and turpentine and a lack of knowledge in safe and appropriate surface preparation. After I produced a collection of work in 1996-1998, I decided to switch to gouache because of its portability. Still enamored with the medium, in 2018, I took some workshops with Francisco Benitez and Ellen Koment in Santa Fe. The introduction of water soluble encaustics, safe practices and new techniques was like a catalyst for me and I fell in love with the medium again. I like to combine very detailed areas with looser areas, so the combination of water-soluble encaustic and hot wax in my pieces gives me control and freedom. I start with a pencil drawing, then rub the dark areas with graphite. Water soluble encaustic lets me build thin layers of details and I can incorporate the hot encaustic as well as layers of water soluble medium to get the translucent quality I strive for, leaving areas thick and textured or thin and articulated. I am deeply influenced by my habitat. I live in Door County, WI, a peninsula surrounded by water and I have the benefit of the Mink River Nature Conservancy adjacent to my studio. It is a wild place that has many unique indigenous species. I like to study my subjects in depth: how plants, flowers and trees grow and our relationship to them. My paintings are an exploration of my surroundings.