Artist profile: Diane Slater
Diane Slater remembers the day just over two years ago when she decided to become an encaustic artist. “It’s like it was whispered to me,” she says. Since then, she’s chosen a blowtorch in place of a paintbrush.
Encaustic painting—which Slater describes as “primal” and “anti-digital”—involves melting beeswax with damar crystals, to ensure that the wax hardens, and then adding color. Slater often uses less flexible board instead of canvas, and she works in layers, scraping away wax to create works that are uniquely textured and wholly emotional.
Slater describes her process as a “communion” with her art. “When you get into that spiritual commune, the conversation is so wonderful that you go back to it a lot. It’s sort of like falling in love—when you meet somebody and you can’t get them out of your head,” she says.
Like so many Cape Cod artists, Slater is inspired by the natural scenery of the region. “It’s hard to ignore the Cape Cod landscape,” she says, but much of her work is also influenced by her time in Providence and Manhattan, creating a dichotomy between cityscapes and country scenes.
From living in Manhattan in the ’80s to a recent bout with cancer, Slater has no shortage of life experience, but she says what she enjoys most about life now is the calmness that painting brings her. “I found out that there’s so much magic in the world that people aren’t paying attention to. When you’re so busy trying to be in control of everything, you miss all that magic,” she says. Slater focuses on positivity and expressing that through her art. It’s what motivates her to delve into the type of pieces that take all winter—“heartbreakers,” she calls them.
“It’s almost like asking, ‘How do you make room for prayer?’ or ‘How do you make room for meditation?,’” she says. “You make room for it because it makes you feel better.”
From the moment the word “encaustic” whispered through Slater’s mind, her journey has been almost clandestine. Recently, her work has been hung at Gallery on Jarves in Sandwich. Owner Wendy Sweet Wilson says she loves Slater’s paintings because of how emotional and detailed they are. Slater found herself in Gallery on Jarves after quite the serendipitous moment. Wilson called her before opening the gallery and said, “I can’t get your name out of my head. I’m redoing this space and I feel like you’re supposed to be in it,” Slater recounts. The sublime part? Wilson had never even seen her work.
Even though she’s relatively new to the art world, it’s clear Slater’s role as a Cape Cod artist was fated. “When you come out of cancer and have those experiences, the word gratitude doesn’t even express the depth,” she says. “Life is full of surprises.”