After the long summer break, I was immediately attracted to the riot of color sitting inside the Woodbury Campus Center. If you haven’t seen it while walking through, you will. From a distance the paintings resemble violent storms of color seemingly splashed across the canvas; closer up, the command of the paint’s texture is obvious. As you move close you begin to notice figures, or more accurately, shadows of figures blending in and out of the seas of color. One could easily spend 20 minutes or more staring at even one of these prints and still find themselves noticing new nuances in the color or shapes in the background.
Artist Thorpe Feidt, who is also a professor at Massachusetts’ Montserrat College of Art in addition to being an author and actor at various points in time, originally created the “Ambiguities” series (which consists of over 400 paintings and drawings) as a reaction to the Herman Melville novel Pierre: or, The Ambiguities. Although most readers will probably know Melville for the whaling epic Moby Dick and its rambling existentialism, Melville wrote many more novels as well as several books of poems in his lifetime.
Having read Melville before I can attest to the similarities between Thorpe and Melville’s respective artistic approaches. Both of them have a knack for combining the surface elements with something much deeper and more abstract. If you can avoid being overwhelmed by the scale and passion of the statement you will find yourself fascinated by the message.
Thorpe’s work has a strange quality of motion to it. The wild swatches of color, while seemingly fits of random passion, have a strange logic to them. One will focus in on a single face or fragment of one and soon find themselves seeing other figures moving in the shadows behind the storm of colors. The extremity of the colors used, as well as the sheer amount of paint, creates the feeling of looking at the world through the veil of a dream or the surface of the ocean.
As a student of four years I can say easily say that this is the most visually arresting art exhibition I have seen yet. If you’re in Portland and have a some spare time, you owe it to yourself to check this exhibit out.