Home & Garden

UnCommonwealth: Loudon Avenue turret house gets new owners — and an ancient art style

Seggebruch's attic holds more of the supplies and workspaces she uses to create her artwork.
Seggebruch's attic holds more of the supplies and workspaces she uses to create her artwork. Herald-Leader

The part of the 135-year-old house that drew in Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch was the third floor.

Not that it was anything exquisitely maintained: The room was big and airy, up in the trees, with brick walls, exposed roof beams and cabinets that had been installed by some ambitious previous owner. Though in rough shape, it gave a working artist lots of quiet and privacy to create. And on one end, a hobbit-size door opened into a tiny turret room where you could really get away from it all — just you and the birds.

"There's just a different feel to it," Seggebruch said of the space, which is reached by a set of steep narrow stairs.

Seggebruch is an artist specializing in encaustic work, in which heat is used to melt a beeswax and dammar resin mixture and later, via butane torch, to fuse together the layers of the artwork. In her teaching studio on the house's first floor she keeps some works in progress and materials for students.

Encaustic painting, also known as "hot wax painting," uses heat in two forms — heating the pigments and wax, for which a pancake griddle is sometimes used, and, after the medium is applied to a surface, a hand torch is used to set and fuse the resulting artwork. Additional layers can be added, and original layers altered, until the artist is happy with the result.

Seggebruch's work has taken her all over the world, and most recently to an extended stay in Australia. She and her husband, John Govaert, came to the Bluegrass to follow his dream of working with horses.

Initially, they were looking for farmland: "We thought we'd get a farm, get a horse. It didn't work that way."

Instead, they wound up in a huge stone house with extensive black metalwork outdoors that looks as if a fully fortified castle landed on the periphery of Lexington's booming NoLi neighborhood. Govaert found the house on Trulia, a residential real estate website.

The previous owners had installed new HVAC and plumbing, and updated the electrical systems. The kitchen has been renovated; the second floor is fully finished and its three bedrooms used for Airbnb rentals.

The house looks like a patchwork of features that are either beautiful or simply waiting to be beautiful again: the art glass on the first floor stair railing, the stained glass windows, the swaths of aged plaster and flooring on the first and third floors awaiting repair.

Meanwhile, Seggebruch is bringing an emphasis on encaustic art to Lexington.

She has written four books on the subject: Encaustic Revelation, Encaustic Painting Techniques, Encaustic Mixed Media and Encaustic Workshop.

Her website, Pbsartist.com, calls the house her "Encausticastle."

Encaustic art, used by the ancient Greeks to decorate warships and by the Egyptians for burial portraits, has seen a more recent revival. The encaustic technique can be used in a number of genres, from realistic to abstract.

Seggebruch works in the abstract, and you'll see a lot of circles in her work. She feels that the symbolism of the circle is grounding and soothing.

On the second floor, she points to a series of four small framed encaustic works she created.

"Encaustic works with everything," she said, such as gold leaf and gold mica powders. One of the items has a texturing effect accomplished by using lace as a screen while adding other layers, then removing it later.

"Encaustic can be reductive as well as additive," she said.

Seggebruch got her start as an artist by painting walls and floor cloths. Then she discovered the uses of wax as a source of texture and has specialized in encaustic art for more than a decade.

She is planning work for a show with longtime Lexington artist Blake Eames in early 2016. Eames is known for color saturation; Seggebruch is planning a light-colored palette for her parts of the exhibit, to be called Crosstown Colors.

"Airbnb has been a perfect mesh" with her artwork," Seggebruch said.

Guests can come in conjunction with encaustic instruction or — as they are this week — for a Lexington event such as the Breeders' Cup.

There's also family: The two have five grown children between them: Seggebruch four sons, Govaert a daughter.

Although encaustic was not well known in Lexington when she arrived, "I've had a great reception from our community here."

"The beautiful thing about encaustic is that it cools right away," she said, thereby fusing bonds between layers. "The possibilities are endless."