Winston Lee Mascarenhas

Q&A: Winston Lee Mascarenhas & Gallery Director Laura Moriarty

LM: I get the feeling that your paintings are tied in some way to music, especially to reading music. Is this accurate?

WLM: The perception of the musicality in my work is right on. I am very much influenced by music both on a conscious level and a subconscious one. Many times I find a symbol or tempo to drive the work and develop it into an abstracted graphic score, like that of John Cage and other avant-garde musicians, who instead of using symbols with definitive understandings, enhanced the visualized sensation of musicality. 

Several of my pieces are named after pieces of music that share the same spirit. For instance, Firebird is linked to a production of the ballet of the same name. Though the piece was started before, it was not until after I saw that ballet that I knew the direction of the painting. Stravinsky’s percussive score guided the staccato marks.

LM: Mastering the surface of encaustic can become something of an obsession. In observing the way your work has evolved from pristine surfaces to your current disruptions, I wonder what your feelings are about perfectionism.

WLM: I think people confuse diligence and dutiful work ethic with perfectionism. The use and manipulation of encaustic in my work, I feel by definition is a state of controlled chaos. This could be an image that appears pristine or disruptive. It’s the honest resolution to your personal vision that counts. Is this perfectionism?

LM: There is something humorously machine-made in the look and feel of your variations vibrations series, but I imagine you actually worked quite meticulously to achieve this affect. Do you ever feel like an art-making machine?

WLM: The process is very meticulous, you are correct. Every line and disruption is created and then heat manipulated. Even though the process I have developed for the Vibration-Variations series and some of the current Vibrations in Wax series is approached in a similar manner with each work, I have to let each piece dictate its own point of resolution. Allowing yourself to go with the flow is a beautiful thing. Therefore, turning into or feeling like an art-machine was never mindful. Because the wonderment of each step is always intriguing, surprising and inspirational every piece is a new journey and new set of issues to tackle.

LM: These works also remind me of décollage, the torn posters and layers of surface wreckage found along city streets that allow meaning to randomly reveal itself. Is this something you relate to aesthetically?

WLM: I think the relation between my work and décollage is a very logical one because my work is simultaneously additive and subtractive. So much of the work revolves around layering, building up and taking away—revealing and concealing the image that may lie beneath the surface. This way of working generates a particular mystery in my work and encourages a deeper visual investigation on the part of the viewer. It is in this that I am able to develop a dialogue with décollage artists and practices.

LM: What projects are you currently working on?

WLM: While I am continuing to work with galleries in Dallas and Houston, my main focus will be preparing work for a solo show at Wade Wilson Art in Santa Fe in September 2013. I am also in the process of applying for several residency programs. Having done three before, it is extremely stimulating and inspiring to concentrate on a body of work and receive critical review, and being able to be a member of an active and engaged community.

In addition to my professional projects, I will be embarking in the Spring on a pilgrimage through Spain to Santiago de Compostela via “The Way of St. James”. I am looking forward to this opportunity because it will provide a time for self-reflection, self-study and meditation.



With my recent work, I continue to explore color and composition through building up layers, carving, and even adding collage elements. I find inspiration in the act of play and liberation in the slow encaustic process. Again and again, I return to the structure of the grid set against the freedom of the gestural mark in creating my bas-relief encaustic works.

My experiments with monochromatic panels continue; the paintings hum and vibrate, rich in tonality, showing subtle shifts of color, interrupted by regular indentations, like catching a breath while sustaining a note. Following the music idiom, I have rediscovered melody in the form of pattern, variety, and intensity. Using bright colors creates a kind of electricity that charges a piece or a grouping with a vibrancy that fills a whole room. Softer colors, diffused by layers of wax and held by the rigor of lines, emit a reassuring presence and provide balance. In my new paper and wax pieces, the lines are delicate and the scale intimate, while the color is shimmering and the effect is one of delight.

In fact, joy is an apt way to describe my approach to art. I believe experiencing my art should be about pleasure, whether meditative, lively, or thoughtful. Working in encaustic allows me the freedom to solidify small moments, when passages of color, texture, and tactile experiences are at their most interesting and engaging.