Benne’ Rocket likes to dig deep. Whether as an art therapist or as an artist, uncovering the truth has been her raison d’être for many years. But it is her passion for encaustic painting that has her wielding her tools and torches towards sculpting a new discovery – herself.
You worked for many years as an art therapist. How did this come about?
When I went to Graduate school in Berkeley California, it was there I discovered art therapy and decided I could be both—an artist AND an art therapist. I did a dual Masters in Fine Arts and Art Therapy.
And were you able to pull that off—the dual career I mean?
Post grad school I was recruited to work at a hospital in Austin with traumatic brain injured patients, and at the same time I began exhibiting my work in a gallery there so yes, I embraced both with a passion for over 25 years.
When did you start working in encaustic?
I first worked with encaustic in Mexico in the late 90s, and one of the reasons I moved here is because I’m interested in the Melipona (stingless honeybees) that are native to the Yucatan. Not only is the honey unique, so is the wax. It’s a very challenging medium that I’m still trying to master, but I love it—it spreads like butter so I use it with all my pigments.
Your pieces truly are indigenous to the Yucatan!
All of the pigmented colors are made using the local beeswax. Here I’ve found a nice range of mineral pigments, and the Copal resin I buy in the local market gives the darker colors a nice depth. Honestly, it took me almost a year to figure out the formula for these pigments.
When I think of wax and heat, I think of it melting off the surface. How stable is the technique?
Encaustic is one of the oldest painting techniques in the world, practiced by Greek artists as far back as the 5th century B.C. The combination of beeswax tempered with resin is applied to a rigid surface and is very stable, becoming more resistant to damage over time. The word ‘encaustic’ literally means ‘to burn in’. Each layer of the painting must be fused at high heat to form a solid surface, and this fusing also continues the process of hardening the resin.
This is your first time on the Merida Artist Studio Tour. What do you want to share with people about the work they’ll see?
This work is my visual experience of being immersed in the rich and vibrant story that is the Yucatan, and I hope visitors on the Artist Studio Tour in February will see the joy and love I have for my new home.
Visit over 25 new and returning artists at the Merida English Library Artist Studio Tour held Saturday, February 20th, 2016. Tickets go on sale mid January 2016. For more information and the list of artists, visit meridaenglishlibrary.com.
Big thanks to David Hubbard for the great photos!