Selected Critical Overview
"August geometry is best experienced as a single extraordinary installation before it is contemplated in terms of individual works. But this is a hard trick to pull off: We’re presented with too many individually distracting tours de force."
-- Jerry Cullum, Arts ATL, August 26, 2015
"I was dazzled by the well-handled triangles of Joanne Mattera's Chromatic Geometry 21 (2014)."
--James Panero, Gallery Chronicles, The New Criterion, November 2014
"Joanne Mattera’s monochromes exude luscious indulgence but are tempered by a savvy sense of portion size. As well, with her small panels on a long wall of panels, Mattera’s eye to the material painterly edge and its role in scale come across with surprising clarity."
--Daniel Kany, Maine Sunday Telegram, December 29, 2013
"Her game is formal as she determines what kinds of color relationships to set in motion and how to balance or destabilize them within the geometrical structures that hold them."
--Elizabeth Michelman, Artscope, September/October 2013
"As usual, Mattera demonstrates tremendous mastery over her materials and a seductive approach to color, while introducing some quirky compositional strategies. Although she usually discusses her work in terms of formal exploration, the timeless fascination of the figure-ground reversal that points to our shifting notions of meaning and perception is compelling on a metaphorical level as well."
--Sharon Butler, Two Coats of Paint, September 8, 2013
"Joanne Mattera's Diamond Life 20 has a structural rigor that counters the dreamy side of waxy paint. Her work has the near dry juice of the medium that suggests the poise of Piero della Francesca."
--David Raymond, Art New England, July/August, 2013
"Coming up For Air (2012) is a testament to the command that she has for her medium. Using a coarsely bristled brush and applying very straight bands of color that waver between precisely taped edges and carefully painted ones sans the tape, Mattera creates a hypnotic blend of visuals that is at once uplifting and calming. I also love the witty title that to me, references . . . the transitions of color one might experience while snorkeling in a pristine coral sea. "
--D. Dominick Lombardi, The Huffington Post, July 2, 2012
". . . stand-out exhibits at Aqua included . . .the funky abstractionist stable of Conrad Wilde Gallery of Tucson, Arizona, amongst them the sensual encaustic monochromes of Joanne Mattera."
--David Cohen, Artscritical, December 2, 2011
"Appreciating this series of 129 paintings [Silk Road] solely on the basis of its tour-de-force technical achievement would be to miss the richer sphere that the work inhabits. Each painting contains the inherent mystique invoked by the series; which is to say, each piece promises a journey full of visual delights without a specific roadmap . . . color on the scale of intimacy that Mattera achieves is a powerful experience.”
--Liz Hager, Venetian Red, February 2010
“What Joanne has done is lay down encaustic in layers, over and over, and then gone back in with a carving tool and scraped out lines. So each line reveals, through the layers, a varying sampling of the colors she's laid down. The carving is, of course, imprecise and in places stuttering and halting, so you can see the effort and manual nature of the carving, which both brings out and is brought out by the different colors. The effect is far too subtle, in terms of resolution, to look correct in reproduction. In fact these paintings are closer to sculptures; what you also can't get until you see them in person is the very tactile nature of the encaustic, the way its waxy sheen communicates with the carving . . .with Joanne allowing the encaustic to lap over the edges of her panels like the rind on good cheese. Elegant, simple, precise in their imprecision -- very wabi sabi, as the Japanese might say.”
--Chris Rywalt, NYC Art, March 25, 2009
“Mattera . . . excels in taking encaustic, this oldest of media, in the most lush minimal and formal directions. “Contemplating the Horizontal" features stripes that manage to retain strict geometry while never forgetting the gestural touch of the artist's hand, especially in a subtractive sub-series where wax is scraped away in horizontal bands to reveal underlying layers of color and texture. While most of her panels are square, the show doesn't lack for variety or vibrant color.”
--Shawn Hill, Boston's Newbury Street Galleries, Berkshire Fine Arts, December 27, 2008
"These pieces highlight the artist's delicate, almost surgical, touch as she decides how deep to dig, to which level of color. The joyful tones play together, waking up the weary-eyed. The horizontal veins widen and narrow like rivulets. . . Sometimes it's a relief to stop thinking and just gaze on something beautiful."
--Cate McQuaid, "Color Their World," The Boston Globe, December 17, 2008
"Order and beauty form the organizing principle in an engaging new exhibition at Marcia Wood Gallery....Using Baudelaire and Matisse as a springboard for contemporary expression, Mattera's premise is both clever and effective. Fastidious process (order) is essential to aesthetic outcome (beauty). Mattera's selections are smart and pleasing in a show that combines control and creativity, visual and tactile harmony, and individual refrains of luxe, calme et volupte....Verdict: Intelligent and pleasurable."
--Debra Wolf, “Spirit of Baudelaire, Matisse Flows,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 8, 2007
“Over the years Joanne Mattera has gradually reduced the imagery in her work to finally arrive at this celebration of color and surface….Mattera combines conceptual order, as embodied in the structure of the grid, with beauty.”
--Joseph Walentini, "New York Views," Abstract Art on Line, May 17, 2007
“The medium itself is very much the subject of "Silk Road," Ms. Mattera's series of small encaustic panels on view at OK Harris. Each panel is a simple expanse of what appears, at quick glance, to be a single color. But owing to the opalescent properties of pigmented beeswax applied in layers, these radiant fields are irreducible to monochrome. Cunning visual subtleties are the raison d'être of the series…The refinement of Ms. Mattera's touch is all the more impressive when weighed against the handling properties of encaustic, which work against finesse. Encaustic begins to cool — and harden — the instant a brush leaves the heated palette.”
--Maureen Mullarkey, Joanne Mattera at OK Harris Works of Art, The New York Sun, May 3, 2007
“Joanne Mattera is one of the acknowledged American authorities working in encaustic. Her “Uttar 157” shows a mastery that allows the application of the medium in thick, vigorous swipes and encourages the result to stand up above the surface of the work. Its boldness and ravishing color are unique in this event.”
--Philip Isaacson, review of “Fusion: A Portland Encaustic Event,” Maine Sunday Telegram, Feb. 18, 2007
On the Joanne Mattera Art Blog: “Mattera provides literate and important insights into the process of creating art.”
--Raymond A. Liddell, Art New England, December/January 2007
"The buildup of drops of wax signifies the passing of time, a real passing as well as a metaphorical one. The poetry of time passing is seen in the light captured in the layers of wax, seemingly frozen in the medium like a seed in amber. Mattera employs in these paintings what she calls 'disciplined intuition." A superb colorist able to evoke emotional content, she contains the expressive elements within the fomality of the grid."
-- Nancy Einreinhofer, curator of "Luminous Depths" at Wm. Paterson University, Wayne, N.J., 2006
“Mattera…is an artist who delights in the process. With a palette influenced by Indian miniature painting and with a love of non-narrative, non-objective expression, Mattera delivers a world of beauty and order in which individual [elements]—with their spontaneous expressions of color, texture, drip, drop and slather—are valued. ‘Uttar 135’ is a statement of peace and a meditation on life’s wonders."
--Roberta Fallon, from the catalog essay, “Order(ed)”, May 2006
“The light in Joanne Mattera’s paintings is about the present and the just passing present. The light is present in the material— it’s physical, and it interacts with the environment and with current lighting conditions. But if her art has what some might call a contemplative dimension it’s because while the light is a thing that draws us in, it’s the way this light is held in the wax, and the way we look below the surface and into the depth of this light-filled wax, that slows down our looking just a beat to an even more present presence, one that is slow enough for us to see passing. If our looking stayed on the surface our attention might glance off and finish. If our looking goes beyond a surface, even if a only a fraction of an inch into a physical depth and a depicted depth, our seeing is more settled. The physical effect is slower looking. The psychological effect is awareness of self in relation to the phenomenological world.”
--Chris Ashley, Joanne Mattera's Encaustic Paintings, from the blog, “Look, See,” April 5, 2006
“‘Uttar 250,’ part of a continuing series by Joanne Mattera, is the most luxuriant painting here, inspired by the colors of India, by traditional Indian miniature painting with its saffrons, roses, vermilions, indigos, emeralds, cinnabars. Also encaustic, its version of the grid consists of three stacks of more or less even strokes of colors which in turn drip paint, like syrup. This is a voluptuous painting, its grid about to melt down, it seems, into pure, irresistible paint.”
--Lilly Wei, from the essay, Geometry Reloaded, NY Arts, April 2005
“Mattera revels in the medium’s stained-glass-like luminosity. She’s a colorist whose principal concern is how tones interact and play off one another….Throughout, there’s a sense that light is powering these works.”
--Cate McQuaid, An Eyeful of Color, The Boston Globe, December 10, 2004
“Mattera’s play of color and luminosity is beguiling.”
--Rachel Strutt, Arts Media (Boston), March 2004
“Minimalist artists used the grid to downplay the sensuality of color and brushstrokes. The austerity helped focus the viewer’s attention on pigment as pigment, line as line—a primary concern of 60’s minimalism. Joanne Mattera has a different agenda. She uses grids the way classical poets used rigorous rhyme schemes: to impose elegant order onto an otherwise messy outpouring of emotion.”
--Staff review, The Week (New York City), April 18, 2003
“Mattera’s square panels light up the intimate space of the gallery…Mattera’s squares, dots and stripes are minimal, but just enough to hold her emotive colors together. Each painting is a distinct world.”
--Shawn Hill, Joanne Mattera at Arden Gallery, Boston, Arts Media, April 15-May 15, 2003
“’Uttar’ is intimate, embodying the artist’s emotional response to the emotional world. Mattera is in love with color, with material, with process….For Mattera, the process of making art is a process of intuition working within a disciplined framework.”
--Flavia Rando, Ph.D., from the essay, "Uttar: Poetics of Materiality and Process," September, 2002
“Joanne Mattera is represented by nine paintings from her ‘Uttar’ series. The sweep in these one-foot-square paintings of encaustic on panel is in the vibrant color, paced by how the compositions grow from one piece to the next.”
--R.B. Strauss, Philadelphia Daily Local News, May 4, 2002
“One of the nation’s premier encaustic specialists.”
--John Carlos Villani, The Arizona Republic, November 18, 2001
“Mattera’s expert manipulation of beeswax in encaustic creates works of finesse and subtlety.”
--Staff review, The Philippine Star, June 5, 2000
“Despite the complex formal relations present in these works, the overall tone is intuitive rather than cerebral and defines Mattera as a particularly adept representative of poetic intelligence.”--Jerry Cullum, Art in America, March, 2000
“Encaustic, the successive layering of melted colored wax, is one of the world’s oldest ways of putting down pigment on a surface. New York artist Joanne Mattera finds ways to wring contemporary content from the method. Many of her works start with the almost universal theme of the modernist grid, wrenching the grid asunder in various energized and interesting ways….Mattera succeeds in achieving many visual outcomes with a limited range of materials, producing works in which every scratch and drip yield something different.”
--Jerry Cullum, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 17, 1999
“Joanne Mattera…employs a grid-based field for her sensuous abstract encaustic paintings. She works with a classic formula of beeswax colored with oil-based dispersion pigments to build up as many as twenty layers of translucent paint. The surface is further enriched through incising lines into which pigment is rubbed, making marks with oil stick or oil pastel, or scraping to reveal previous strata.”
--Gail Stavitsky, curator, Montclair Art Museum, from the catalog, "Waxing Poetic: Encaustic Art in America," 1999