The first time Regan Rosburg attempted what would become her signature art medium, in 2001, she glued the piece to the floor.
"I didn't know what the hell I was doing," she says.
In another attempt, this time while traveling in Bali in 2002, she nearly set a porch on fire.
In time, Rosburg, now 31, mastered the elusive resin (also called acrylic) an ultra-hard and particularly unforgiving clear plastic that she describes as "emotional."
"I love how hard it is to do ... it's almost like I hold my breath every time I do a piece," says Rosburg, who grew up in Monument, received a degree in painting from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and operates out of a studio in Denver.
She combines the resin process which involves heating a special plastic to form thick, clear layers with her skill in painting to create effervescent, misty works that are often embedded with insects, ribbons and grasses. Smokebrush will host a new batch of these works, in addition to some of Rosburg's more traditional canvas paintings, in a solo show this month titled Breakaway.
Smokebrush curator Holly Parker details Rosburg's laborious process: "She'll paint some blades of grass on a back layer, build up the resin layers so it's thick and clear, and paint more blades of grass in front of that, build up more layers of clear resin, all the while getting three-dimensional with it."
Rosburg's aforementioned five-month traveling excursion through Indonesia and Bali helped develop her artistic vision.
"That's where my obsession with nature and different natural systems and biology started," she says.
Inside layers of resin, Rosburg will float insects, many of which are exotic species she purchases from ethical, sustainable farms in Southeast Asia. Rosburg sees them as messengers for sustainability and ecological responsibility; she alludes to assaults on both via dark details hidden within the outwardly beautiful scenes.
"What you do here, purchase here, affects their environment," she says. "And the fact is, their environments are being obliterated daily."
Through friends, she was invited to participate in the recent Washington, D.C., Manifest Hope: DC show co-hosted by activist and artist Shepard Fairey. She contributed a monumental resin painting titled "Catharsis," which featured scraps of garbage encased in an earthen horizon. The work tackles the irony between the medium Rosburg loves with her passion for the environment.
"There's a dichotomy in my work that exists," she says, "because I'm using a live insect and [talking about] environmental issues, and yet I'm using plastic."
The works are not without hope themselves, Rosburg says. For instance, dragonflies carry antique tools she also embedded in the resin, signifying nature's strength to overcome any obstacle, even gravity. While the effect is dreamlike and fantastical, Rosburg sees a streak of reality.
"[It's] nature having to take on this huge burden we've given it," she says. "I'm constantly amazed at how nature evolves, it's this magnificent process that just cannot be stopped."