Rainy Day Designs showcases encaustic art inspired by shells
In this space each week, given that it’s the editor’s pick and I’m the titular editor, I feel it’s important to show impartiality in my choices and not give in to the urges of nepotism. I like to remain unbiased and give everyone a fair shake, but not this week. This week I’m hyping an old friend: Erin Rigney, longtime Carbondale resident and, recently, impressively successful encaustic artist.
For Rigney, who has run the Carbondale graphic studio Rainy Day Designs with husband Craig Wheeless for nearly two decades, it all started a few years ago when she stepped back from graphic design to concentrate on art, seriously, for the first time since college.
A self-described “art-class junky,” Rigney enrolled in a CMC class to explore her concept of paintings inspired by ocean waves and the intricate patterns of shells and was promptly told by the teacher to quit taking classes and get cracking.
“She said, ‘You need to start putting yourself out in the world,’” said Rigney. “She sent me the link to submit some pictures for the Launchpad when they were doing a call for submissions, and Carbondale Arts thought the concept was good and wanted me to do a solo show.”
The result, an exhibition called “Shellscapes,” opened in February 2017. A series of 54 mixed-media works and paintings done in the encaustic style – working with heated wax to which pigments have been added – the pieces are like a tranquil day at the beach listening to the waves on the sand, and they apparently struck a nerve.
“I’d never done anything on that scale,” said Rigney, “and the show was just really, really well received.”
That show led to exhibitions and gallery associations the last two years in a couple of Jersey Shore towns back in Rigney’s home state, as well as space in a show at Aspen’s Red Brick Center for the Arts earlier this year. “Shellscapes” also attracted the attention of local neurologist Dr. Brooke Allen, who was planning to open the newly expanded Roaring Fork Neurology center in Basalt and thought Rigney’s work would be perfect to adorn the walls.
Allen, a proponent of the healing power of art, commissioned Rigney to do a whole series, and both the center and Rigney’s first batch of pieces, including a large triptych hanging prominently in the reception area, had a grand opening last Thursday, Aug. 23.
“It was really good until someone pulled the fire alarm and we had to leave for about an hour,” laughed Rigney.
It may have been a false alarm, or it could have been that Rigney’s art career is so hot right now she set it off.