News Column

Saratoga: Benenati's encaustic paintings are on display

July 24, 2014

By Khalida Sarwari, Saratoga News, Calif.



July 24--A word or phrase, a concept, lyrics from a song, the title of a book, a movie, even a pun. For Linda Benenati, the next idea for a piece of art could come from any one of these places. For her latest piece, the Saratoga artist drew inspiration from a painting by 16th-century Italian artist Parmigianino, but proving herself a versatile artist, she also has done a piece based on the Bruno Mars song, "Grenade."

"I prefer to do just whatever ideas come to me, and either somebody will fall in love with it or they won't," Benenati said, laughing.

Benenati is a Saratoga-based artist who specializes in encaustic painting. This month and through August, she is exhibiting 22 paintings, along with Berkeley artist Barbara Maricle, at the Saratoga Library. The paintings are part of Benenati's Mad Woman series and include the likes of Lizzie Borden and Madame Butterfly.

Encaustic painting, as Benenati describes it, involves "painting" with a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and pigment. The mixture is applied molten to a rigid surface and then fused or re-melted to create a variety of effects. Electric hot plates, irons, hot air guns and flame torches all can be used in the process.

It is a technique that was practiced by Greek artists as far back as the fifth century B.C., but is presently experiencing a revival on the international and local scene.

"There's an artist by the name of Jasper Johns and he did some famous paintings based on the American flag, and I think up until that time not so many people were doing it in the 20th century," Benenati said. "Since that time there are local artists working in encaustic painting now."

Benenati herself became interested in the medium five years ago after seeing an exhibit of encaustic paintings during the Santa Cruz Open Studios tour. Despite having a background in art, she had not been familiar with the technique. After attending two workshops to learn the basics of melting wax and fusing it with heat, Benenati was hooked and spent the following year practicing it on her own and developing her own artistic style.

Finding the process "really addictive," she abandoned the traditional mediums she'd been dabbling in, such as acrylic, oil painting and watercolor, and decided to focus only on encaustic painting. In the last four years, she's accumulated more than 300 paintings and sold nearly half of that.

"I plan to do encaustic painting till the day I die," said Benenati.

What she loves most about encaustic painting is that it is quick and "forgiving," she said. Unlike other art techniques, mistakes can easily be mended. But it can be an expensive art. Boards and hot plates are pricey, and Benenati said she has yet to make a profit from the sale of her paintings.

As quick as the actual painting can be, the entire process takes anywhere from a few days to months to create a piece from concept to finish. Benenati sells her work in stores across the Bay Area and in Southern California. Locally, her work can be found at Frank Interiors in Los Gatos and the Triton Museum of Art gift shop in Santa Clara. Prices range from $80 to $375 and range in size from 4 by 4 inches to 20 by 10 inches.

Her exhibit at the Saratoga Library runs through Aug. 25.

For more information about Benenati or to see a collection of her work, visit her website at instamatique.com/lindab.

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(c)2014 the Saratoga News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit the Saratoga News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com/saratoga

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Saratoga News (CA)


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