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German artist Brigitte von Ahn came to the United States in 1990. Together with her husband, journalist and retired news anchor Gary Warner, she has made El Paso, Texas, her home since then. Brigitte and her husband own the Encaustic International Art Studio & Gallery The museum has very limited hours, but special tours and showings can be arranged by calling the gallery in advance. She has found the harsh desert landscape with all its surprising colors and elements is the main inspiration for her abstractions. Additionally fantasy guides her to paint thoughts and impressions. In 1997 a German friend introduced her to the encaustic medium. This ancient medium is known to be first used by the Greeks and Egyptians, and it is painting with bees wax. Brigitte von Ahn is continuously exploring new ways how to make this flowing medium work for her. Her painting surfaces are different papers, canvas and include collages with oriental and handmade papers.

The gallery specializes in encaustic artwork and shows the works of international and local artists. Artists currently on display include Sally Avant, Gaetane Dion, Jan Wisbrun Dreher, Jon Escandon, Ju-yi Fu, Monika Romer, Patricia Siegelman, Joyce V. Stine, Eugene Thurston and Lori  Wertz.

Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid or paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used. The simplest encaustic mixture can be made from adding pigments to beeswax, but there are several other recipes that can be used—some containing other types of waxes, damar resin, linseed oil, or other ingredients. Pure, powdered pigments can be used, though some mixtures use oil paints or other forms of pigment.

Metal tools and special brushes can be used to shape the paint before it cools, or heated metal tools can be used to manipulate the wax once it has cooled onto the surface. Today, tools such as heat lamps, heat guns, and other methods of applying heat allow artists to extend the amount of time they have to work with the material. Because wax is used as the pigment binder, encaustics can be sculpted as well as painted. Other materials can be encased or collaged into the surface, or layered, using the encaustic medium to stick them to the surface.

For the artists that have re-discovered this art form, experimentation and adaptation to new tools, nee media, has made for some very clever and innovative advances. One should seriously consider a visit to this gallery, because this is the cutting edge of the art form. The owner and primary artist also has another gallery in Canada, so the art form is on the rise. For more information on the art, artists, and are form, don’t hesitate to contact the gallery to schedule a visit and to speak with the artist herself.

With all the variety in which art can be found, finding such a unique opportunity in El Paso is a find indeed!