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Artist Jorge Rojas was first intrigued by wax as a creative medium when he came across a block of beeswax in an art supply store while looking for sculpture materials.

"Wax is surprisingly strong, yet very malleable," Rojas says. "It's an organic medium, especially if you use beeswax. I'm very interested in sensory materials in art. Wax is sensual, tactile — it makes you want to reach out and touch the art."

In his new exhibit, Waxworks, at Mestizo Gallery, Rojas experiments with the translucent, amber-like and homey qualities of wax. He uses various mixtures of beeswax, paraffin, damar resin and microcrystalline wax to control the density, color and texture in his works.

It's important to note that though the texture of his art tempts viewers to touch it . . . don't! The works are extremely fragile.

Rojas likes to play wax against technology and industrial-found objects. "Quiet Deluxe," for instance, is an old Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter thickly encased in wax. Beneath the keyboard, a dim LED light silently waxes and wanes.

Besides layers of meaning that wax evokes — bees, hives, regimentation, embalming — Rojas is delighted that the model name of the typewriter works so well for the title of the artwork.

"It's an old relic that no one uses anymore," he says. "It makes me think about the 'ghost in the machine.' "

Anatomical charts form the basis of other works. (Rojas collects medical illustrations.) In his diptych "Carne y Huesos," Rojas mounted full-size human anatomical charts in frames, then poured wax over them to a half-inch depth. The artist then subtly sculpted wax along the illustrated tendons and ligaments, making the work faintly three-dimensional.

The Waxworks show, which represents a decade of work, is a "mini-retrospective," Rojas says, because his creative energy now is focused on other forms of contemporary art.

"Most of what I do now is video and performance art," he says. "But my work has always been exploratory."

Rojas' creative evolution is evident in "Wax TV: My Space," the most recent wax work, which displays one of his video performance pieces on a monitor that is encased in wax. The wax blurs the low-quality video's pixelated appearance, turning it into a murky, through-a-glass-darkly image.

"The wax draws you into the video in a voyeuristic way," Rojas says. —

Waxworks at Mestizo

P Jorge Rojas' exhibit of artworks inspired by and encased in wax will be exhibited through Saturday at Mestizo Gallery, 631 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City

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