Artist showcasing uncommon art form in The Grand’s smallest museum

Artist Deb Groebner stands with her completed smallest museum exhibit smallWAX. The pieces are made using a encaustic method of painting with hot wax

NEW ULM — For this summer’s smallest museum exhibition, artist Deb Groebner is looking to showcase her talent in an uncommon art form.

The technique is called “encaustic” (en-kaw-stik) painting. Groebner said it’s also called hot wax painting, as the art form uses melted wax brushed onto a warm board and fused with a heat gun or torch.

Groebner said she first started using this art form in 2016 as an experiment born out of frustration with a different style.

“I was trying to layer with clear acrylic gels and insert different drawings or marks in between the layers,” she said. “It’s great, except if you make a mistake you can’t go back in and correct it. I learned about encaustic wax painting and found a book at Half-Price Books. I saw the cover and I said ‘That’s what I’m trying to achieve.'”

Groebner had put her artistry aside for several years until her brother passed away in 2012. She said she used art as a way to help heal from her grief, which then spun into creating art regularly.

Artist Deb Groebner assembles her pieces in the way she wants for her smallWAX exhibit. She said wind caused struggles when she was setting up, as the small paintings were prone to falling over because of it.

The title of the exhibition, simply summing up the art form and space it takes up, is smallWAX. Some of the pieces themselves come from nature, including snake sheds collected from her pet snake and a porcupine quill from roadkill. Groebner said as an environmental educator by trade, nature has a special meaning for her.

“I’ve been a collector of natural artifacts for many years, being a naturalist,” she said. “I was inspired to incorporate them into my artwork because they help give a sense of place and grounding. It’s healthy for everyone to have contact with nature. We’ve lost a lot of that. If I can bring it into my art, that’s good for the viewer.”

This is Groebner’s first show, but she has presented amongst others in places like the Carnegie Art Center in Mankato. While the pieces for smallWAX are smaller than her usual works, she said they take the same amount of dedication.

“They can take about as long as a larger piece because there’s more detail and a smaller space,” Groebner said. “This means it’s also easier to make mistakes and you have to go in and fix them. My pieces tend to be relatively small anyway.”

Even though they are small, Groebner said she hopes the pieces have a mighty impact on those who come to observe them.

“I hope they are drawn to look between the layers and really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a small piece of artwork,” she said. “I hope they come away realizing the small encaustic pieces have a big impact.”

The pieces are currently on display in front of The Grand. They will be available to view from now until June 14.


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