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Romano Inspired to 'Scratch the Surface' in Encaustic

May 25, 2004 – St. Thomas artist Tony Romano, whose work was featured in a three-man exhibition in New York City's Chelsea district last fall, gets a solo show at Gallery St. Thomas that opens with a reception on Friday.
What he'll be showing is a new body of work that includes 18 paintings and sculptures in the medium of encaustic — which until now has been represented locally to a significant extent only by the internationally recognized, Haitian-born artist Tebó.
Romano's show is titled "Scratching the Surface," a literal reference for creative efforts that by his reckoning required him to carve, dig, scrape and scoop, among other things.
"Scratching the Surface" was inspired by Romano's exposure last September to the work of Jasper Johns and the ancient medium of encaustic painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. He visited the museum just hours before his own exhibition opened in the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery.
Encaustic paintings are created from beeswax and pigment. The medium, used by Greek artists more than 2,500 years ago, is considered among the most durable because the wax is impervious to moisture. To work in the medium, the artist heats the wax to its molten state and then applies it by brush or other tools to paper, wood, stretched canvas or other supports.
According to Romano, "Working with molten wax is almost surreal. It flows on the support like warm honey on toast — and then, within seconds, right before your eyes it becomes firm and durable."
He describes the process he employs: "With heated instruments I proceed to shape, carve, dig, scrape, scoop and whatever else may be needed to achieve the desired effect. I find that a hot-air gun is a most effective tool to manipulate wax. With the aid of the heat gun and the music of Mozart, I can actually push and coax the wax to dance gracefully before me."
It is, he says, a challenging and rewarding medium in which to work.
The reward for the viewer, according to gallery owner Claire Ochoa, "is a captivating exhibit of artistry, vivid pigments and the pounds of beeswax that were used to create the paintings, three-dimensional paintings and sculpture. Equally rewarding is the opportunity to relate to themes in Romano's life and work: love, music, compassion, spirituality and nature."
The encaustic pieces he's showing — all created for this show and all for sale– range in size from 8 x 6 inches to 40 x 30 inches.
Romano offers these descriptions of two of the works:
"Deep Affection" (encaustic on copper on wood panel, 24 x 18 inches) – "Two intimates, perhaps lovers, suspended within a deep, mysterious sea, possibly to imply their intense level of passion and promise toward each other. I chose copper wire to sculpt the abstract figures, since it is an essential nutrient to all living things, including life in the field of aquaculture. But more meaningfully, copper plays a crucial role in the proper functioning and endurance of the human heart."
"SSSHHHHHH" (encaustic over sculpted plaster and wood, 61 x 15 x 15 inches) – "This piece could be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, to remind oneself to take a few minutes each day to sit in solitude and quietly listen to the amazing sounds going on around us that so often go unnoticed due to everyday routing; and secondly, the fact that there are people that without question should converse less and listen more."
Romano will be on hand to discuss his work during the reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the gallery, located on Government Hill at the top of the Garden Street steps.
The show will hang through June 18. The gallery is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays when there are cruise ships in port.. For more information, visit the Gallery St. Thomas Web site, or call 777-6363.

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