Encaustic, the technique of painting with pigment-infused molten wax, dates back to Egyptian mummy portraits of the first century. Rediscovered by modern artists like Jaspers Johns, encaustic artists are reclaiming their place in the art world. Baton Rouge painter Christy Diniz Liffmann has spent the last three years working with encaustics, and a trip to China last year with artist Wan Ding enabled her to fuse the classic images of oriental art with her ability to manipulate the tricky medium.

The resulting paintings defy conventional description. The subjects are landscapes, trees and flowers, filtered through the lens of classical Chinese painting and calligraphy. Process as much as content drives her work. "When you layer with encaustics, you don't really cover an underlying layer," she says. "Some paintings might have 20 to 30 layers ' then I'd scrape them back. You can always see what is beneath. There is a history of every brush stroke encased within the painting. I couldn't stop working on them. I was consumed."

The way the wax holds color gives encaustics a great depth and sculptural quality not found in most oil paintings. They are tactile, luminous, dense works of art. While Diniz Liffmann fuses every brush stroke with a heat gun or high wattage bulb during the winter, her favorite heat source is the sun. "Such slow, controlled heat," she says, "makes working in wax like a meditation."

Christy Diniz Liffmann's exhibit of new work, Silk Road, inspired by her trip to China, opens at Galerie Eclaireuse during the Saturday, March 10 ArtWalk. Call 234-5492 or 247-3002 for more info, or visit www.dinizliffmann.com.

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