Miranda Lake describes her encaustic artwork "Louisiana, The Pelican State "as a “celebration of the natural beauty of our state, as well as a reminder that we must carefully tend our future — like eggs in a nest.” Learn more »
New Orleans artist Miranda Lake works in the medium of encaustic, or hot-wax painting, an art form she adopted following an extended workshop she attended in 2003 at Anderson Ranch Arts Center near Aspen, Colorado. An ancient practice, encaustic blends beeswax with pigment, melted together and then applied with tools such as a knife, hot iron, or heat gun. Artists have painted using this method as far back as ancient Egypt; in modern times, artists such as Jasper Johns have used wax to adhere other materials, such as newspaper and textiles, to a wooden surface.
Lake embraces this collage type of work in her encaustic creations. With the help of melted wax, she incorporates family photographs, clip art, maps, stamps and other materials onto plywood, arranging these elements to make personal statements and ponder universal truths. “I love the wax; it’s so seductive,” she explains. Within Lake’s work lie philosophical and spiritual journeys such as childhood to adulthood, life to death, and societal constraints to freedom.
Born in 1969 and raised in Connecticut, Lake grew up immersed in the arts, particularly her father’s op art, a school of abstract art characterized by the use of geometric shapes and brilliant colors to make optical illusions. After earning a degree in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1991, she expanded her creative thinking with studies at the London College of Fashion in 1995 and the Parsons School of Design in 1997.
Her trained artistic eye craved stimulation from an early age. In addition to collecting and creating, she traveled, immersing herself for extended periods in new places such as Alaska, London, New York, Seattle, and finally, New Orleans.
“There is a certain beauty or grace in life’s struggles,” muses Lake. “Oftentimes these engender the best part of ourselves to grow.” This perspective influenced her work following Hurricane Katrina. Using encaustic, she perched flooded houses on trees; set a Harriet Nelson-type housewife, gun to her head, in an underwater birds’ nest; and pitted children against each other with swords. Ironically, she fuses this tragedy with beauty in both her imagery and titles: the condemned houses resemble spring buds (Sanctuary), the suicidal housewife smiles (There’s No Place Like Home), and the sparring children stand upon stars and a golden moon (Crusaders for a Better Tomorrow).
In much of Lake’s work, animals — “armed and dangerous, but cute and fluffy” — are her primary subjects. Among other things, she explores humankind’s adoration for the living creature juxtaposed with its willingness to place that same creature, following taxidermy, above a mantle. For her 2012 solo exhibition at Hidell Brooks Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina, Lake focused on “Animals for the New Millennium.” This exhibition includes not only encaustic works but also dioramas and computer designs. With her dry-mount press and archetypal printer, she manipulates or creates outright elements for both two-dimensional and three-dimensional work, applying beeswax and oil stick afterwards to “frost the cake.”
Like many contemporary artists, Miranda Lake embraces the computer as a new tool. Among other things, it allows original print designs, such as her bicentennial tribute, Louisiana, the Pelican State: “A celebration,” according to Lake, “of the natural beauty of our state, as well as a reminder that we must carefully tend our future— likes eggs in a nest.”
In addition to encaustic, dioramas and computer work, Lake’s creative projects include housewares, upholstery, and other decorative objects.
Cite This Entry
Chicago Manual of Style
"Miranda Lake." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published September 12, 2012. http://www.knowla.org/entry/1145/&view=summary.
"Miranda Lake." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 12 Sept 2012. Web. 22 Jan. 2017.
Would you like to learn more about this topic from books and other reading materials?
Cutrone, Lee. “Living Aesthetic: Artist Miranda Lake’s Home.” New Orleans Magazine, Summer 2011.
“Delicate Burdens.” In Kiesewetter, Erik, and Patrick Strange (eds.), Constance, Issue 2, 2008.
Sanders, Terrence. The Saratoga Collection. New Orleans: University of New Orleans Press, 2011.