Encaustic artist Gwendolyn Plunkett is primarily interested in the physical languages of the human body – both through nuances of human skin that occur organically and more overt bodily modification. As such, her abstract works explore human skin as both a cultural and historical marker of beauty.
Harnessing the translucency of beeswax, tree resin, and pigment, Plunkett creates rich two-dimensional surfaces that capture an incredible depth through her highly detailed use of marks and materials. By burning, scraping, chiseling, digging, and drawing into distinct layers of her own beeswax, many of her works resemble microscopic views of skin – inked, scarred, and weathered.
Plunkett’s interest in skin hinges on its role as a threshold that separates the interior body from exterior perception. In other words, her encaustics appeal to our shared experience of what it means to inhabit a body: of the discrepancy between the skins surface and what lies beneath. It’s no mystery that skin maintains a record of one’s existence, whether through showing signs of age, health, or trauma. The multi-layered, corporeal nature of Plunkett’s work reminds us that as aesthetic beings, we tend to be preoccupied with outer appearance, concealing blemishes or accentuating body art depending on the circumstance. Yet for Plunkett, beauty is far more complex, spanning the gap between a shallow exterior phenomenon and the scar tissue hidden beneath.Written by Jake Eshelman.