An artistic journey through encaustic wax & photography

O’Donnell’s Artwork Reflects Travels

O’Donnell’s encaustic wax art is on view in the Art Barn over the next two weekends. Independent/Courtesy Beth O’Donnell

Folioeast presents two more weekends featuring the photography and paintings of Beth O’Donnell now through December 16, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 PM, in the Art Barn at Larkin Pond in East Hampton.

O’Donnell has lived a life of inspirational accomplishments beyond the confines of a studio. She took her photojournalistic efforts to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2000 where she then published works in Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, and other publications. Her work “Angels in the Slums” and “AIDS and Orphans,” landed her a repeat guest spot on Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen Network. O’Donnell has exhibited her work at the United Nations, wrote a successful book Angels in Africa, and has continued to positively impact her world while also raising a family — the achievement closest to her heart.

How did you get involved with folioeast?

My friend met an artist on the Hampton Jitney who had great things to say about Coco Myers, the founder. After I heard that, I Googled folioeast and bravely sent an email to Coco. I wasn’t sure how she’d like my work.

What’s your connection to the East End? Why a studio here?

I moved to New York City after a divorce of a 25-year marriage to take a photography course at the International Center of Photography. I bought an apartment and rented houses in the summer until 2005, when I bought my first East Hampton home. I lived there for 11 years with a nice studio in the basement but wanted a studio separate from the house so my partner in life, Paul Shavelson, and I went looking at houses to buy that had everything we needed as artists and for our blended families.

What drew you to encaustic wax paintings?

I lived for a short time in Santa Fe, Tesuque Canyon, New Mexico, and met a couple of wonderful artists who introduced me to the encaustic method. When I was then back in East Hampton, I decided to learn more by going to R & F Paints in Kingston, New York. That was in 2005. For my newest encaustic work, I paint with encaustic wax on Japanese rice paper, tissue paper, and the very thin Japanese gampi paper. I do this on a Roland hot box, a box heated up to 170 degrees with a stainless steel plate on top. I paint directly onto the paper or on to the plate making monotypes. I sometimes use vintage children’s book pages to make single, diptychs, or triptych images.

Tell me about some of your photojournalistic work. What drew you to Kenya in 2000?

I went on safari with my family in 1997 and fell in love with the landscape and people there. I could feel that this is the land where we were born. I met a friend and starting working on a book about amazing African women and work with Marie Claire and other magazines. Eventually the book Angels in Africa was published in 2006, after seven years in the making.

Artistic photography is very different from photojournalism. Do you find yourself preferring one as the years progress?

Yes, I am leaning now more on shooting flowers with a macro lens but would still love to do another photojournalism project if it were brought to me. I just love the camera, especially shooting on film. The slowness of it and the surprise of not knowing and just reloading of it slows me down to look again and again.

In your opinion, of the two styles, which is more powerful to the viewer?

I think there is more story to photojournalism. It can spark an emotion which can bring about change. But also, artistic photography can bring also the emotion of joy and stillness. A meditation of sorts.

What photographs will be shown at your open studio?

The photography at my “Open Studio Visits” are a combination of many styles. I have a portfolio of flowers shot with macro of orchids and peonies. I have file drawers full of photography shot over the years all over the world. I have a collection of very small Polaroid type images. My newest work has been shot on our pond of water lilies printed in sepia color on gold metal each one 8×12 to make a large grid of up to 60×60.

Tell me about some of your mixed media work. How do you choose what media to work with?

My mixed media work always consists of photography and/or found objects like feathers or shells or small photographs glued on board, then covered in encaustic wax, oil paint, and finished with brush stroke.

Given all that you’ve accomplished, would you say your work has a worldly, spiritual connection?

I think my work has a spiritual connection in that I’m hoping that when viewing or owning my work you feel that there is still so much good in the world, on our planet. I want to give the idea of hope in this ever changing world.

If you were photographing yourself for future generations to remember you, how would you want to be captured?

That is a very hard question to answer. I think I would be a very mixed up media picture of an artist, friend, mother, lover, and grandmother to eight.

Art Barn at Larkin Pond is located at 132 Swamp Road in East Hampton. Learn more about O’Donnell at http://www.bethodonnell.com and more about folioeast at http://www.folioeast.com.

nicole@indyeastend.com