MM Summer 2019 exhibition
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Worlds of swirl: Kathryn Beals for Laura Mercier

As soon as I laid eyes on the mesmerizing swirls of this Laura Mercier bronzing compact I knew it was a Museum must-have.  Only when I visited their website to find the official name of the compact for the summer exhibition label did I discover that this beauty was the work of California-based artist Kathryn Beals

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

I was hypnotized by the marbleized pattern well as the color scheme of celestial blues with ribbons of gold. 

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

I believe the bronzer is a cream formula so it began "sweating" a bit when I placed it the windowsill to take photos. 

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Beals, a self-taught artist raised in British Columbia, is a third-generation painter who began selling her artwork at the age of 13.  Her love of the outdoors led her to pursue a career in forestry studying aspen trees.  She eventually switched to painting full-time, and both her professional background and camping adventures in the Northwest made landscapes her primary subject matter. 

Kathryn Beals, Death Valley Superbloom

Her technique changed in 2017, when she discovered "fluid pouring" in which streams of variously colored acrylic paint are poured onto a canvas to form abstract, yet organic-looking, imagery. "[I] immediately fell in love with the way fluid paintings come out looking like something in nature; from cells to rocks to aerial photos to galaxies," she says. In this way they function sort of as nature's inkblots in that the finished product can resemble different natural phenomena to different viewers: one might see a night sky or geological formation while another sees a microscopic organism or ocean waves, or it could be all of these simultaneously. Beals also credits her grapheme color synesthesia - meaning she sees words and numbers in color - and migraine auras as key influences on the patterns she creates.

Kathryn Beals, Pink and Yellow

Kathryn Beals, Ocean Colors

Beals began experimenting with incorporating metallic leaf into her abstract works to add a bit of structure and sheen to them. She pioneered a unique metal leafing technique by using liquid adhesive to outline natural details (trees, rivers, etc.) and applying gold, silver or copper leaf on top. The paintings are then topped off with a layer of shiny resin for a reflective, three-dimensional effect. Earlier this year she launched her own online course to train other artists in this technique. All of Beals' series are based on nature - riverbeds, forests, and glaciers seem to be her favorite sources of inspiration.

Kathryn Beals, Gold and Sunrise

Kathryn Beals, Gold Aurora Borealis

Kathryn Beals, Glacier series 2

Kathryn Beals, Glacier series 2 detail

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 7

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 11 - green geode

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 6

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 6 detail

To give you a better sense of Beals' process I've included this video. I love how it combines a slightly haphazard technique (acrylic pouring) with a more intricate one (metal leaf outlines) to create a perfect marriage of abstraction and traditional landscapes. It also looks like she's left-handed, and you know how cool I think lefties are.

I enjoy Beals' work, but I'm even more impressed by her charitable mindset. She is fully devoted to donating a good portion of the proceeds from her art sales to various nonprofits. She explains, "I want to remember my connection to forestry and the outdoors in my work, so I use my art to raise funding for conservation nonprofits. As a cancer survivor, I want to give back, so I plan to do a benefit series every year with my artwork." In the past Beals has given The Nature Conservancy, the American Cancer Society, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Doctors Without Borders, among others. Her most recent series this month raised over $5,000 for Leave No Trace, an organization that educates those who manage public lands and the public itself on reducing their environmental impact. From 2017 till now, Beals has donated over $20,000 to charitable organizations and hopes to raise $100,000 in her lifetime. I'd say she's well on her way! And, uh, I also know a museum she could donate to. ;)

Anyway, I was pretty excited to find that Beals had posted the original artwork that was used for the Laura Mercier bronzer at her Instagram.

Kathryn Beals

Of course I had to highlight the section that's on the case.

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer/work by Kathryn Beals
(images from and @kathrynbeals)

I'm still itching to know how the collab came about and why Laura Mercier selected Beals for this piece.  I left a comment on the artist's Instagram to no avail, but that's par for the course I suppose given how infrequently artists actually respond to my requests.  Oh well.  I think the company may just happened to have been one of the over 6 million views of this 2018 viral Facebook video/artist interview, and approached Beals for a collab.  But I'd like to talk with the artist and get her views on makeup and beauty, especially since she looks to be bare-faced most of the time - I'd be curious to know if she'd actually use the product her artwork appeared on.  I also think it would have been really cool if Laura Mercier had added clear acrylic on top of the case to make it resemble one of Beals' finished pieces even more.  (Check out NARS's Man Ray lipstick coffrets if you can't picture what I'm talking about.)

What do you think of this bronzer and of Beals's work?  If you had to choose, would you buy this one or MAC's Electric Wonder collection?

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