Encaustic Installation

Artist Statement

Afterlife is an installation of giant-sized mussel shells made with encaustic wax and Tyvek -- an industrial spunbonded breathable paper used to create building envelopes for houses and offices.


Historically, mussels have been religious emblems of life and death.  Holding the living, they contain prosperity; while empty, they bear misfortune and loss. 


Mussel shells and Tyvek play the same role: allowing interior life and beauty to grow and flourish, while offering surrounding protection and breath. Shaped like a vulva/uterus, mussels have long been associated with the feminine; their visual connotation emphasised further by their physical function of protecting vulnerable interior life.


Dull on the outside, these invertebrates secret lustrous interiors. In their paradoxical wholeness, mussels embody both beauty and ugliness; protection yet vulnerability; life and death – the mystical contradictions and realities of human existence and nature. 

© 2020 Shary Bartlett.  All Rights Reserved