For ages depictions of the great goddesses of the world have been molded from clay, brushed onto canvases and chiseled into stone. Since the time of antiquity, the techniques of repoussé (French for “pushed up”) have immortalized a goddess’ likeness in malleable metals like gold, silver and copper. Today, the ancient art form that once created Greek armor, Egyptian jewelry, ritual burial masks, and even the Statue of Liberty is still practiced by local artist Linda Hartman. Breathtaking examples of her work are currently on display at Artful Living Group in Carolina Beach.
“I think Linda’s work is amazing,” says Mo Lindquist, co-proprietor of Artful Living Group. “I really like her input of the feminine [aspect] and the way she has evolved to bring that to life.”
While her collection of “Artful Ladies” reflects Hartman’s passions and respect for females in art, goddess worship wasn’t always on her radar. A while back a close friend and psychoanalyst suggested she take on a muse, but she didn’t want to get locked into anything at the time. It wasn’t part of her journey.
“I’m one of those ‘I got to explore it all‘ people,” she explains. And explore it all she has. Since exiting Virginia Commonwealth University in her junior year, Hartman has dabbled in a plethora of professions. “I got bored,” she jokes. “I wanted to get out, see what life was about, and what I was getting myself into.”
Hartman’s free-spirited nature led her to Kansas City. She moved there with her then-sweetheart, now-husband, Al. She worked a string of extremely stressful freelance graphic design gigs for advertising agencies, until Al convinced her to go back to school. It was at the University of Kansas where Hartman took her first 3-D art and bronze foundry courses. Post-graduation she spent five years as a general contractor for her own building company. She also created a line of animal figurines that led to a gift-manufacturing company that lasted 15 years.
Today, Hartman thrives in Wilmington. Her craft reflects a multitude of life experiences and mediums. Now, her feminine muses flow onto metal like peaceful exhalations. Don’t be fooled: The fine art technique of repoussé consists of shaping and ornamenting metal by applying pressure from the reverse side to create a design. It’s hard on the hands but easy on the eyes.
Her process begins by etching swirling shapes on flat, metal sheets, using an inkless ballpoint pen. Once her design is complete she raises and lowers the surface on the front and back of the metal with an assortment of handmade clay tools. Surfacing the metal with a rough pad gives it a little tooth and holds the various acrylic paints and markers she uses to decorate the piece.“The best part of my job is that I get to color,” she says.
The shimmer of translucent paint on metal is pure magic. As light filters through the color it bounces off the metal creating an opalescent luster. The effect imbues each piece with an energy that constantly shifts with the movement of the sun.
A potent representation of this stunning effect is called, “Someone to watch over me.” The inspiration came from Hartman’s belief in guardian angels. The large, square-shaped copper plate is adorned with the figure of a feathered goddess in hues of peacock blue and aquamarine. The goddess’s appendages curl out like oil sheen as she looks pensively toward the sun.
Hartman also enjoys collecting pieces of driftwood that remind her of something—most often mermaids and birds. With an idea in mind, she molds a two-part resin compound over parts of the driftwood and fills the spaces with forged copper pieces. A bronzing solution and patina are added to accent the sculpture.
“Weirwood Whispers in Autumn” is a fantastical smelting of plant and ore. It was inspired by her and her son’s shared love of the popular book-series-turned-hit-TV-show “Game of Thrones.” The 15-by-12 inch wreath-like sculpture features a striking driftwood spirit that floats at its center. Her lips pucker as if conjuring a wind that rustles through the copper leaves above.
Hartman’s artwork traverses the dynamic landscapes of the imagination. If a GOT-inspired piece wasn’t enough, another driftwood creation, “Muses of Poseidon,” will appear in an episode of this season’s “Sleepy Hollow.”
In the meantime, her otherworldly works continue to inspire a sense of whimsy and invoke the goddess in us all. Her exhibit at Artful Living Group will be held through September.
Repoussé and mixed-media fine art by Linda Hartman
Showing through September
Tues. – Sat.: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sun.: noon-5 p.m.
Artful Living Group
112 Cape Fear Blvd.