The Joker and The Queen
More From Dawn Lori Tower-Irvine
About The Artwork
About The Artist
Dawn Lori Tower-Irvine
I’m the weird friend everyone has. The outsider, the carnie, the one whose mom was in cowboy movies. That’s me in brightly-colored nutshell. My upbringing truly informs who I am now- as a person and an artist.
I was raised in California- by parents in the carnival business. We traveled throughout the state every spring and summer- living in a 5th-wheel trailer, and I learned to count stacks of cash as soon as my hands were big enough to hold them.
My youth? Generally unsupervised. Too young to work, I'd wander the midway and the fairgrounds daily and explore. Every two weeks we arrived in a new city and the fairgrounds became a new maze to conquer.
During my fenced-in ramblings, I fed my eyes with the light, sounds, movement and frenetic energy of the carnival, The swinging and churning of the rides, and the music the ride boys played, are embedded in my brain. I spent hours at the Ten-in-One in the big tent, with the freaks, the oddities, even if I knew every one of their spiels word for word. I watched, I listened, I soaked it all in, never flinching when something got weird. Sadly, my father forbade me from becoming a sword swallower, I forgave him, but it took a while.
When I was old enough, my parents put me to work- in my mother’s candy wagon, on our dark ride, our Astroliner, our Cinema 180. I could talk you in like the best of them. It was dirty, gritty, bright, shiny and loud.
This strobe-lit history has worked it's way into my art.
After high school in a suburban Northern California town, I attended California College of Arts and Crafts (now CCA) in Oakland, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Distinction in Painting. If they had offered a
degree in Art History, I think I would have earned that as well. One of the best things about being an artist is teaching others. I have been teaching art in California since 2009.
The path of my of my adult life has often led away from art, but I always return to it. Carnies have always been outsiders. Sometimes, I still feel like one now. Pull the bar down and buckle up. I hope you enjoy the ride.
My art practice focuses on mixed-media encaustic paintings and complex digital collages. I apply all of the same principals that I teach students to my own art: shape, space, rhythm, movement, texture, contrast: all the art buzzwords that make a work interesting, thoughtful and intriguing. In all of my art practice, I want to create images that your eye and your brain want to move around in and explore.
The technique of encaustic painting is as old as the ancient Egyptians. Many of their encaustic sarcophagus paintings are still in perfect condition today. My encaustic paintings on birch panels are heavy on texture. The hot, liquid wax gives me the ability to embed different materials onto/into a painting, as well as build up and carve into the surface. I use graphite strategically on the surface, which is gently fused into the wax to creature a permanent fixture. I can incorporate book pages, and pastels to create depth and tell a visual story.
I also create encaustic works on paper, using inks as base and top layers to create color transparencies on top of the clear wax. These small paintings reflect a delicate balance between the paper and the wax. Design-wise they may be modest, but the complexity of the color and the surface of the paintings is a result of continual trial and error. All of my encaustic paintings are one-of-a-kind.
My other love is digital photo manipulation. The total opposite of the act of painting. I am your friend with the camera that takes photos of things that most people would pass on the street. The graffiti, the trash, the angles, the signs and shadows, and the broken and discarded things. The old and the odd. I use mostly my own photographs, then layer, duplicate and transform to create beautiful, semi-abstract imagery. Working digitally gives me the ultimate freedom: freedom to add, subtract, change and edit endlessly without consequences.