The best pieces of art summon a memory. They take the sense to a familiar place, once lost in the current moment.
Nashville-based artist Randy L Purcell is fascinated with art’s impact on memory. Not just the ability to recreate the mind’s image of a thing, but its significance to the observer.
“I find that with a lot of the happiest memories,” shares Purcell “that it’s almost like the whole brain is lighting up. You have this sharpness that doesn’t fully translate in a natural photograph. Because I don’t want something that looks perfect, I want to create a “worn look” that works with pits, blurs, or scratches the way the rods and cones of the eye might not see with total clarity.
The human experience is filled with beauty made from flaws. I think we subconsciencly embellish a memory to fit what we want. As an artist, I get to do that on purpose. I take a memory and make it into what I want. I also like how some people react to my paintings, because it helps everyone tell their own story.
It was his studies at MTSU that Randy discovered “encaustic art,’ which refers to a style of painting that mainly consist of beeswax, and lets an artist “burn in” pigment or other objects into the final product. After trying to find himself through finding the right technique, Randy discovered “ink transfer on beeswax” yielded the best result.
I remember that project turned a lot of heads when it was displayed. It had a lot of small imagery of farm life, and the barn wood was cut into different shapes of barnes.It was the beeswax, though, that that really animated the art piece. It was there that I found my process: Ink transfer on beeswax on wood, followed up with a spray coating of resin that adds a final shine to make the colors more vibrant, adding a pop
The beeswax serves as a binder between the ink and the wood, creating an age that few styles can pull off. I went back to painting with acrylic and oils, but I knew that in that moment that I had stumbled upon something special, and I was excited to return to it to make more ambitious pieces that really said something.”
To add an extra layer of depth, Randy uses the imagery from recycled magazine pages to add visual texture the subjects of his works. “I found this to be the most fluid way to express how the mind is constantly processing our surroundings. We look for things that has emotional value, and we look for the highest emotional value where we are currently. I try to avoid making the images from recycled magazine pages directly relevant to the subject because I don’t want to be redundant. Instead, I’m looking for things that happen to make the subject more relevant. If it happens, it happens.”
But it’s the final effect for the artwork that matters most, and that means serving the subject of the piece in a way that’s both singular and faithful. Purcell’s fascination with the way that light cements a happy recollection in the mind - be it with a hazy backdrop of hope or a way to show the hidden pigments become a primary focus - is what gives a painting a spin. It’s a drive to make something whose exploit of realism justifies a fantastic approach.
The Nashville-based artist has made a noticeable impression in the Middle Tennessee art community, with art shows that have included a mural for the city-wide ARTober celebration, Artclectic, Multiple showcases in the downtown Nashville art crawl, technique demos at art schools like his alma mater MTSU, and some international showcases like ArtPrize and solo gallery exhibits.
Speaking to Nashville Arts Magazine, ARTable founder Matt Fischer once summed up the reception of Randy’s technique: “Randy has taken the encaustic technique to a new level that is totally his own. What he uses for the color in his paintings is amazing to watch and always creates a ‘wow’ moment when the image is finally revealed.”