Seager Gray Gallery presents Urban Markings, an exhibition of mixed media and encaustic paintings by artist Claudia Marseille. The exhibition runs from January 27 to February 28, 2018.

Claudia Marseille has always been deeply aware of seeing and hearing. Born hearing-impaired and wearing hearing aids since the age of three, she felt she had to be particularly observant of the world. With this keenly developed focus and her considerable intelligence, she has effectively trained herself to see the world as a network of symbols and clues that reveal associations and meanings not always immediately apparent.

In this newest body of work, Marseille explores what she calls “universal hieroglyphics” using as her inspiration photographs of walls she has taken herself in her many travels around the world. What she discovered is a morphed universal language where something becomes other than it was originally. By incorporating her images with their torn edges of advertisements, posters and graffiti into her encaustic paintings she captures the layered elements of time, communication and tattered bits of popular culture. She takes the scarred beauty she sees in these images and integrates them into masterful encaustic paintings.

On first glance the images reminded me of the French artist, Jacques Villeglé famous for his work in “decollage”, where he would rip and excavate thick layers of posters taken from French advertising kiosks. Villeglé too saw beauty in decay and found a fascination with letters as symbols. Marseille does not alter the actual found markings, instead she brings in additional visual elements layering them in concert with her own.

For Marseille, the painting process can be likened to that of an archaeological dig – scraping down and revealing past layers – and in her case it is a particularly apt metaphor. In college she studied cultural anthropology and archaeology, and in her twenties worked on a number of excavations. “I love to travel, soaking in the richness of colors, the diversity of different cultures, and taking in the residues of ancient times. At the same time, I am continually struck and touched by the universals across human civilization. I bring back from these journeys artifacts that are meaningful and incorporates them into the work—whether they are photographs that inspire me, or actual materials, which she collages into her paintings.”

In Urban Markings we see the culmination of this process, where new events and signposts quickly cover the layers of not ancient but very recent civilization. What is relevant changes and shifts quickly leaving only traces and the beauty of torn edges and decoded information.

All of this is enhanced by Marseille’s signature palette and adept use of encaustic - a medium in which few are her equals. Made by combining refined beeswax, powdered pigment and damar resin. She says, “I love encaustic painting because the process is very physical and direct. Its fluidity makes it possible to achieve a tremendous variety of surfaces, from a smooth skin-like membrane to very rough textures. Its evocative nature is very suited to my interests in layers of history, the process of time, and archaeology.”

It has been fourteen years since I first discovered Claudia Marseille’s work and began our history of regular one-person exhibitions. Her work is marked by an extraordinary intelligence, patience, dedication and integrity – a clear and conscious resolve to mine both internal and external landscapes for clues and meanings found beneath the surface.