‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ opens at Sweet Briar

| March 20, 2014

Encaustic paintings inspired by specimens in Sweet Briar’s biology department and the Sweet Briar Museum will be on display at the College. “Cabinet of Curiosities, The Sweet Briar Suite: Recent Encaustic Paintings by Leslie Van Stavern Millar” opens with a reception and gallery talk by the artist at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 27, in Babcock Gallery. The exhibition runs until May 4 and is free and open to the public.

Leslie Van Stavern Millar, “Indigo Bunting, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, and Sweet Briar Fan,” encaustic on panel, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Millar, a visual and performance artist based in Montana, first began working on the collection in 2011 when she was in residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. The artists’ retreat is located across from Sweet Briar on U.S. 29.

“[Millar] contacted me and [biology professor] Linda Fink about looking at some of our holdings to use them as inspiration for her work,” says Sweet Briar galleries director Karol Lawson.

Encaustic painting, which involves the use of beeswax on wood panels, is just one medium Millar works in — others include gouache painting on paper, photography and printmaking.

In April 2012, the first examples in her Sweet Briar-inspired suite were exhibited in the one-person show “Timeless/Transient – New Encaustic Panels” at Page Bond Gallery in Richmond. Millar returned to campus at that time to speak to one of Fink’s classes.

Two years later, the results of her research have made it back to Sweet Briar, which Lawson is very excited about. But it’s not just the subjects of Millar’s artworks that make them interesting, Lawson says. It’s what she does with them.

“Encaustic is a very tactile painting medium; it can appear almost warm and flesh-like, but also imparts a visual sense of vintage decay in the imagery, like a bug caught in amber,” Lawson explains. “So, with these montages of Virginia insects and plants and, for example, one of Daisy Williams’ baby shoes, a viewer can be both drawn in and almost repelled at the same time. To me, her images somewhat mimic the push-pull dynamic of being entranced by the beauty of a dead past but also wanting to inspect its relics with an unflinching eye.”

To learn more about the artist, visit her Facebook page. For more information about the exhibit, contact Karol Lawson at (434) 381-6248 or klawson@sbc.edu.

Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. The gallery closes when the College is not in session; it is recommended that visitors call ahead to confirm hours.

Janika Carey

Category: Art Galleries