3 Questions Digital Series

Alicia Tormey

An interview from Art in Embassies 3 Questions Digital Series with Alicia Tormey, who speaks about her creative process and artwork.

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Full Transcript

My name’s Alicia Tormey, and I’m an encaustic painter, the piece that I have there now is Glacier Song, and that is a work that is inspired by climate change and are retreating glaciers and the color palette is all of these beautiful, rich, deep blues and white, and it’s all done in encaustic and as well as shellac, which is sort of my technique that I’ve developed in almost all of my work is done with and caustic and shellac. And the opportunity to have my work hanging in the embassy, I feel like that is making a cultural impact and to have other people see my work to even be invited to have my work displayed

There really is an honor and a jewel in my artist’s crown, if you will. It really is validating for me as an artist and inspiring, and I’ve always believed in the power of art and how it crosses every boundary.

There’s no language barrier, there’s no economic barrier. There’s no cultural barrier. Art is art, and it is truly my goal as an artist to have my work, make an impact, be seen, communicate to the world, to viewers the importance of art and the relevance of art today and knowing that my art is out in the world in

another country, making an impact really is an honor for me. I have been an artist my entire life. I’ve always been a maker. I’ve always been creative. It was never a question what I was going to do with my life.

And honestly, my biggest inspiration is curiosity. I’m so curious about everything and nature in particular because it’s such an integrated part of our lives. And I am so fascinated by the patterns that appear in nature by the effects of wind and water and temperature on the world, on life.

Those things are really fascinating to me, and when I’m creating my work, it has a really organic look and feel to it. And of course, my materials themselves are actually organic, and the patterns that emerge really resonate with me from patterns that I see in the natural world.

And I just find that really inspiring, and it just makes me want to keep creating in that vein, if you will. I had first seen in Kostek in the late 1980s, and even today in Kostek is incredibly obscure when compared to other art materials.

But in the eighties, it was just unheard of. But I was working in an art gallery and we were hanging an exhibition, and the artist had incorporated a very tiny amount of uncosted on a much larger piece, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

I had to learn more, and I had to know more about this material. But it was actually probably a decade later from my first exposure to in Kostek that I started working with it. And in Kostek is painting with a medium that’s made of beeswax and DeMarre resin in order to work with and kostek.

You need to heat it to liquefy it so that you can use it as a paint medium. And unlike normal paint materials where you’re typically and traditionally working wet and dry within Kostek, you’re working hot and cold. And when it’s hot, it’s liquid and you can use it like a paint.

When it’s cold, you can carve into it or you can actually cast it poured into molds. So it’s really a versatile and super interesting medium to work with. And because you have to work with it hot and cold, and as soon as the caustic leaves a heat source, it begins to quickly cool down and solidify again.

So when I’m painting with it, I have to quickly apply it to my painting surface and then very quickly follow up with heat in order to relinquish fire and fuze it down to the painting. And for that, I use a torch.

You can use other heated tools, but my preference is the torch, and I really like that. My creative practice involves fire, and it’s just really it’s a really fun and dynamic paint medium to work with. It’s also incredibly challenging, as you might imagine, if it’s quickly going from a liquid to a solid, if you’re constantly having to

reheat it. So there’s this creative challenge about it that I feel like I’m sort of chasing the material sometimes, and it requires your full attention and full engagement. And I think that’s also why it’s captivated me for over 25 years now.

Typically, it takes me about 40 hours to make a piece, sometimes more, sometimes less. And then, of course, when you start talking about scale. So the larger the work, the more involved it is, and especially within Kostek, very challenging to work at scale.

So it just depends on where I’m trying to get with that work, how long it’s going to take me to execute some pieces take me as long as three months to finish, but that doesn’t mean I’m working on it every single minute because with art, there’s there are moments when you put that work aside and contemplate it, live with it, reflect on it, determine what next to do. Sometimes the work talks to you and you know what you need to do next. Other times, if you can’t find a way in, maybe that work is done.

But I like to have a long period of gestation with the work before moving on, either to work on that further or call that piece done.