Personal Reflections on the Wax Room: Part 2

In celebration of the Laib Wax Room‘s first anniversary as a permanent installation at The Phillips Collection, Membership Associate and Marketing & Communications Intern Rhiannon Newman, who was one of four assistants in the preparation and installation, describes her experience in a four part series.

Rhiannon in the wax room. Photo: Elizabeth Lubben

The action of breaking the wax apart lulls, quiets, calms. The metronome-like thuds of hammers and mallets hitting the wax blocks, the repetitive arch of my arm coming down hard on the yellow-orange slab, the slight sting of the hammer building calluses on my palms—the rhythmic silence leaves me alone with my thoughts. The giant double broiler of wax percolating in the corner is filled to the brim and the perfume is oppressive. All I can think about is beeswax. And then I remember.

Wax.
Beeswax.
Beeswax Chanukkah candles.
My grandfather wrapping his fingers around my tiny five-year-old hand holding the shamash candle.
Baruch atta adonai.

The memories, stored and tucked away, suddenly surface. The moment seems almost a little too poetic to be real, saccharine sweet, and I brush away the errant thought and the emotions that come with it. Weeks later I pass the wax room and overhear two old women talking.

“It reminds me of Mother’s candles, doesn’t it? The tealights she had in her old apartment, right?” Her companion murmurs something softly and moves into the next gallery. I turn back on the stairs, ready to say something, to share in the moment and… what to say? She is standing alone in the room now, her gaze set on years before. I tiptoe away, leaving her in the company of her mother.

Rhiannon Newman, Membership Associate and Marketing & Communications Intern

Personal Reflections on the Wax Room: Part 1

In celebration of the Laib Wax Room‘s first anniversary as a permanent installation at The Phillips Collection, Membership Associate and Marketing & Communications Intern Rhiannon Newman, who was one of four assistants in the preparation and installation, describes her experience in a four part series.

Rhiannon pics_melter_part 1

Photos: Rhiannon Newman

The scent of the wax permeates this room. It penetrates every pore—you could sweat the smell of beeswax. It absorbs into the follicles of your hair. It embeds deep into your clothes and when you bathe, it hangs like a thick fog in your shower. The smell of wax invades your every waking hour until… you stop smelling it altogether.

I stare irritably at the stranger in the grocery store who has stepped into my personal space. He inhaled deeply, and my tense posture sent him out of the cereal aisle and towards the fresh produce. A moment later I belatedly realize that his sniff was more inquisitive than perverted. I glance down at the beeswax spattered leggings I’m wearing and sheepishly move towards the check out.

Rhiannon Newman, Membership Associate and Marketing & Communications Intern