Jim Inzero Transforms Melted Wax into Stunning Art

The Point Pleasant–based artist describes the process behind his unusual medium.

Artist Jim Inzero in his studio. Photo by Justin Borucki

A trip to Mexico changed Jim Inzero’s life. The Connecticut native studied architecture and interior design in college, thinking it was “a steady and consistent way of being creative,” he says. But, while visiting his mother-in-law, he joined her in a class on the encaustic method of art. “I was instantly hooked,” Inzero says. He returned home, created two encaustic pieces, and sold both very quickly. That was in 2004. “The momentum started,” he says now.

Encaustic painting dates to 100 A.D., when the Egyptian upper class employed the technique to create mummy portraits. More recently, it has been practiced by renowned artists such as Jasper Johns and Diego Rivera. For Inzero, the process entails melting tiny wax pellets in a skillet over a camp stove. He then adds a powder pigment, and when it’s liquified, brushes it onto a canvas made of wood. The wax dries instantly, “like a drip candle,” he says. Inzero uses a torch to soften the brush strokes. The colors mix and emerge from beneath. “It’s literally thousands of layers,” he says. “It could be several inches thick.” The material is durable—it won’t fade or melt in the sun.

A blowtorch is used to soften the pigmented wax for blending. Photo by Justin Borucki

Inzero does not make prints, so each piece is one of a kind. “Everything is completely unique,” he says. “When people buy, they’re getting my original art.”

During the creative process, Inzero wears an apron and a respirator with a complete ventilation system to protect himself. With each new piece, he says, “I have no idea what it’s going to look like.” When he thinks it’s done, he takes it to his gallery. “Then I sit with it. I may feel it’s not finished and I will change something,” he says. “This art is a moving process. It’s melting, it’s fluid. It’s never complete.” 

From left: Hula, from Inzer’s wave collection; a newer series depicts abstract flowers. (“I wanted to do something really happy,” Inzero says.) Prices vary; pieces are generally between $1,200 and $4,000, and nothing is more than $10,000. Inzero’s 8-inch ceiling tins are $250. Courtesy of Jim Inzero

By 2007, Inzero realized he could make a living as an encaustic artist and stepped away from his interior-design career. He moved into studio space above the Point Pleasant Beach shop, Stella e Luna, owned by his wife,  Lauren. There, he was a hidden treasure, tucked away on the second floor, but sought out by those in the know. Then, last fall, the space adjacent to Stella e Luna opened up, giving Inzero ground-floor exposure. “The foot traffic is enormous here,” he says. Open on weekends year-round, with plans to extend hours during the summer, Inzero greets every customer who walks in the door. “I can’t have someone else here. It’s my passion; it’s my life,” he explains. “This is my calling, and I never get sick of explaining the process.” 

Jim Inzero Gallery, 502 Bay Avenue, Pt. Pleasant Beach; 732-451-2666

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