- Associated Press - Thursday, February 9, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - A black skillet, a heat gun, pigments and beeswax take up a corner of LeRone Wilson’s art studio in Harlem.

They are simple tools and materials that his skillful hands use to create unique abstract artworks in beeswax _ richly textured, three-dimensional coral-like sculptural paintings in warm tones of yellow, gold and white and in metallic silver and bronze of varying shapes and sizes.

Wilson’s use of molten beeswax _ called encaustic _ is based on an ancient technique used in hieroglyphics. It requires a great deal of patience and control, with one piece taking up to six months to complete.

While he modestly claims he’s still learning, the 43-year-old artist is a master in its use _ a medium he has applied in art for 16 years.

In December, Wilson garnered national attention during Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the largest contemporary art fairs in the country. He bested 4,000 other contestants to win the national Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series. The recognition is a result of his perseverance even in the face of hardship.

Sponsored by media mogul Russell Simmons’ arts foundation and Barcardi, Bombay’s parent company, the prize aims to give exposure to midcareer and emerging artists.

Wilson’s winning piece, “A Path Through the Sky,” is among 16 of his works that will be exhibited at Simmons’ Rush Arts Gallery in Chelsea from Thursday until March 16. Works from the only other Bombay prize winner, Miguel Ovalle, another New Yorker who creates installations out of foam core, will be featured alongside Wilson‘s.

Wilson’s works will be offered for sale, from $2,800 to $15,000.

Of the thousands of pieces shown during Art Basel week, Wilson was the only artist to use encaustic, said Andre Guichard, Bombay’s national curator.

“I thought that was very interesting considering it’s one of the oldest archival mediums in existence,” he said.

There are other artists who use beeswax, including pop art artist Jasper Johns, but usually with other solvents like oils, pastels and newsprint.

“I don’t use any other salvage in the wax,” said Wilson, adding that he began using it after a friend gave him some beeswax that he didn’t want.

“It’s a fun process because it’s very sculptural,” he said.

Wilson’s technique sounds simple enough: Melt wax with resin and pigment in a hot skillet to fuse it into one solvent, then apply it using a palette knife to build up patterns and texture onto a wood panel.

“It takes a lot of technical skill for it to look this way,” Wilson said of the work hanging on the walls of the small light-filled studio he shares with another artist in a Harlem building overlooking a street of multi-story apartment buildings and older brownstones.

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