Shelly Hehenberger Bio

After earning a BA in fine arts from Indiana University, and an MFA in painting from the University of Cincinnati in 1994, I began a career in art and art education that has lasted over 25 years. During my graduate studies I became interested in working abstractly (non-representationally) as learned from my abstractionist professors, fellow students, and artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Terry Winters, and Robert Motherwell.

At that time I was working in acrylic media, discovering the vast potential of large scale collage. After graduation, I continued with collage but also revisited the simplicity of drawing, while also teaching art to all ages at the Cincinnati Art Academy.

In the early 2000’s, my husband and I relocated to the Carolinas where I became interested in working with oils as I had done as an undergraduate. I had been given a small container of Dorlan’s Cold Wax Medium years before, but I had never tried it since I was not using oil mediums at that time. I decided that I would get to know this new material and discover its potential.

Through trial and experimentation, I grew to know the medium well and have been working with it ever since. I still use acrylic and drawing mediums, especially in my collaborative work with artist Luna Lee Ray, but the potential of the cold wax medium continues to fascinate me. Until recently, I knew of no other artists using it, therefore all my knowledge of its applications has been realized through my own continuous working and experimentation. Whether I am mixing it with oil paint, sand, crushed wax, chalk, or other materials and building it into layers, or I am carving into the highly workable surface it creates, I enjoy the cold wax which requires no heating (unlike encaustic,) and has a slow drying time allowing for long-term working.

As a child and young adult, I spent a great deal of time outdoors in the woody environment of the midwest, thereby gleaning a lifelong interest and passion for all things natural. Since then, I have studied natural sciences and gathered enough understanding of how things grow and exist in the physical world to bring a deep influence to my work. This influence can be seen in not only the themes I choose, but in the layer-based working process I use to make my highly textural and organic looking surfaces.

My goals in the future involve continuing to create with cold wax medium and to work with drawing media on paper, and to continue being an active member at Frank Gallery in Chapel Hill, an artists’ collective. I also plan to continue my collaborative work with Luna Lee Ray, and to promote my 2023 illustrated memoir titled Found Objects: an artist’s life.

View my collaborative work with Luna Lee Ray

View my illustrated memoir product page, book also available at Frank Gallery.

View the Frank Gallery website