By Alec Clayton
Imagine a billboard that is a work of art — not just a commercial that’s artistic, but an actual painting, and not a full-size billboard but large enough, and lighted for nighttime viewing. That’s what local artist Teri Bevelacqua created for Burning Man 2019.
The title of the piece is “From Here to There & There to Here,” and it’s made up of 10 24-inch-square encaustic paintings on moveable panels. The individual panels picture people and landscape, trees, a power pole with many wires, amorphous shapes that appear dreamlike or otherworldly. In one panel there’s an upside-down tree and a woman on a zip line.
Or maybe the woman is upside-down, and the tree is right-side-up. Or the woman and tree could both be sideways depending on how the panel is positioned at any given time. All of the panels are painted in fiery tones of yellow and red with areas of blue and green.
The billboard is freestanding with a wood frame built by Bevelacqua’s husband. It is styled after the type of billboard typically found along smaller state and county roads. It was made displayed on the open playa during Burning Man, and Bevelacqua continued working on it throughout the event in the desert, rearranging the pieces. And other people there were allowed to work on it too.
Prior to erecting it on the playa Bevelacqua wrote, “I’d like to take advantage of the environmental and sociological forces that will evolve this billboard. Daily I will work it and anyone that’s around can participate. I don’t want to direct their interaction or what they do to the painting, rather observe and use that interaction to feed my work. I am fairly sure that when I am not around the paintings will be interacted with in unexpected ways.”
After Burning Man, Bevelacqua worked on the billboard squares some more, and she now says, “I have finished them up after the influences of the journey to the desert.” They were scheduled for display outside at PARC Foundation for Olympia’s spring Arts Walk, which was cancelled due to Cornonavirus.
Each of Bevelacqua’s 10 paintings can be enjoyed as a traditional painting, but she said, “Hopefully [viewers will] get up close, find familiar and new things in them, touch them and realize they can leave marks in the surface adding their stories.”
Surely there will be another opportunity for people to see and interact with “From Here to There & There to Here” and see other artworks by this prolific local artist.
Bevelacqua says, “My painted collages are layers of images that play off of each other and mood. The images, both personal and universal are like memories you think you have neatly tucked away; they emerge and fade in the strangest ways.” She continues, “I tend to react to the world around me and build my paintings from shared personal experiences. They create a sense of place, a sort of snapshot along the road of life. We are constantly overwhelmed by all that goes on around us. Some days it feels like bombardment.”
Over the past few years, Bevelacqua has become somewhat ubiquitous in area art galleries. She was in last year’s Juror’s Invitational at South Puget Sound Community College, which featured works from the award-winning artists from the 2018 Southwest Washington Juried Exhibition, selected by juror Asia Tail. Most recently she was in a show at Oly Pop-Up Gallery with fellow artists Lois Beck and Faith Hagenhofer.
Bevelacqua began making art as a young child and never stopped. “My grandmother, an aunt and my mother were hobby painters and always encouraged me,” she says. She grew up in an upper middle-class western suburb of Chicago, where she was privileged to go to a public high school with three full-time art teachers.
“I was very fortunate to have access to the museums, public art and music scene in Chicago while growing up,” she says. “As a latchkey kid, I easily had the freedom to hop a train and go independently downtown from a pretty early age. In college I was less than two hours from downtown Chicago and that full and active art scene.”
After high school Bevelacqua attended a local community college and then Northern Illinois University. She graduated there with a BFA in Painting and Sculpture and additionally studied printmaking intensively. She was influenced by a large and eclectic group of artists, including Lee Bontecou, Jean Tinguely, Rauschenberg, Kandinsky, Georgia O’keeffe, Dali, many of the Impressionists (“The Chicago Art Museum has some wonderful ones,” she mentions), Degas, Picasso, Claes Oldenburg, Joseph Cornell, Louise Bourgeois, Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers, Andrew Wyeth and Judy Chicago. These were influences from her formative years.
“I’d say that my last 20 years have been much more influenced by music, local artists and access to the internet and all it opens up,” says Bevelacqua “Banksy projects (especially Dismaland!) intrigue the heck out of me. I find myself seeking out art that has layers, pushes our comfort zones, speaks about humanity, society and is presented without the gallery barriers.”
Sometime in about 2004 Bevelacqua began looking for ways to get away from some of the limitations acrylic was putting on her ability to create what she wanted to create. She took a workshop with Debra Van Tuinen to learn encaustic.
“I made the changes to my studio to work safely with the medium,” Bevelacqua says. “I struggled with it, had some success and kept experimenting, experimenting, experimenting. In 2016 after a year and a half filled with the passing of the parents in our lives, I went to Kingston New York and took a weeklong workshop at R&F Paints.”
Bevelacqua continues, explaining, “The workshop was led by Lorraine Glessner and attended by an amazing group of women artists. The workshop helped me refine many of my experiments and remember things about art making that I had forgotten – most importantly it brought color back into my work.”
Bevelacqua was scheduled to show her work at Olympia Arts Walk April 24-25, 2020. The event was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.