Meet Marissa Voytenko, an abstract encaustic painter and member of Rez. The ancient wax medium of encaustic means “to burn in” in Greek. In her basement studio, Marissa focuses a blow torch to fuse layers of molten wax on large, birch panels, creating shiny, tactile surfaces. We learned how she fuses faith and art-making in this interview with Resurrection.
Q: How did you start integrating your creative work actively with your faith?
I view it as a partnership now, but even up to five or six years ago that was still foreign to me. There was a disconnect before: I’m a Christian but when I went into my studio, I was just an artist. Now it’s much more integrated.
It’s natural for me to bring my burdens and struggles to my work. They just come out in the art-making process. However, there were times that I got creatively stuck.
I brought this problem to my spiritual director, who asked, “Why don’t you talk to the Lord about this while painting?” She suggested that I simply ask, “Lord, what color should I use?” I started to bring very basic questions to him as I painted. At first, it felt awkward or forced and I had a lot of doubts about the process. However, the more I conversed with the Lord while painting, the easier and more natural it became.
Q: Do you have any specific practices now for entering into creating art prayerfully?
Journaling about a specific painting or simply asking the Lord to go before me and to work through me is a helpful way to orient myself. I find Every Moment Holy, a book of liturgies, as a wonderful starting point to allow the Lord to enter my mind and my space, and to be intentional about where I’m going.
I also remember that it’s not about me. I know that my work is not going far unless I invite the Lord into what I’m doing. When I go into the studio and just have a list of boxes to check, that’s all it is. The inspiration comes when I invite the Lord into the space.
Q: Do you see a difference in how you approach art now?
My attacks from the Enemy usually come as self-doubt and anxiety. If I pray beforehand and offer the time to the Lord, then I know he is before me and I don’t need to fear. Then I don’t go into my studio with anxiety. Even if mistakes happen along the way, I know it’s not chaos in the studio. I’m not lost, but I know the Lord is with me there and he can help me to problem-solve.
Q: What resources have you found helpful to your understanding as a Christian artist?
The Creative Call, a book by Janice Elsheimer helps artists find their voice within a Christian context. Makoto Fujimura has been a big model for me; not only his paintings but his writings. Also, Christians in the Visual Arts, a resource for emerging and established artists, is a good way to connect with artists from various denominations.
You can see Marissa’s paintings on exhibit at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago through January 30, 2022. When she is not painting, she is homeschooling her two children, 7 and 11. Marissa enjoys gardening and travel adventures with her husband Vitaliy. Find her online at marissavoytenko.com and on Instagram and Facebook @marrissavoytenko.