LOOMINGS: Christopher Volpe, Paintings in Oil and Tar

May 11 – August 27, 2016

Break, Break
Break, Break, oil and tar on canvas

Christopher Volpe has navigated his way to being an accomplished painter with a series of evolutionary steps. From a career in commercial copywriting he shifted direction to pursue a graduate degree in poetry from the University of New Hampshire. Then, in his words, “With a graduate degree in poetry, I taught college English and art history for several years before falling in love with American landscape painting and becoming a professional artist. Painting for me has replaced poetry as a medium for the expression of strongly felt individual and universal experiences of reality.”

I have come to know Christopher through my visits to his studio at Lowell’s Western Avenue. Initially impressed with his technical accomplishment, I subsequently came to appreciate the intelligence and depth of literary and art historical references that imbue his efforts.

On a recent studio visit, my intention being to borrow one or more of Christopher’s familiar landscape pieces, I happened to notice a painting placed rather inconspicuously in the corner. The ensuing conversation led to a change in plans. I am very excited that we will be unveiling a new ambitious series of work at our gallery.

Squall (I heard old Ahab tell him he must always kill a squall, something as they burst a waterspout with a pistol- fire your ship right into it!), oil and tar on canvas

Following are excerpts from Christopher Volpe’s descriptive statement:

  • LOOMINGS, named for the first chapter in Moby-Dick, recasts the imagery of Herman Melville’s novel and the 19th century whaling industry for a contemporary audience.
  • The paintings in LOOMINGS are executed in tar, bitumen (a naturally occurring asphalt), and oil paint.
  • The series was inspired by Melville’s apocalyptic vision of the American quest as well as 19th century New Bedford-born painter Albert Pinkham Ryder’s work, particularly Ryder’s use of tar. In these paintings, the natural color of tar evokes at times the sepia tones of old photographs and etchings, at others a stark, enveloping organic darkness.

About the series, Volpe has written: “After 150 additional years of oil-driven industrialization, humanity continues to exploit nature without adequately understanding our place within it or even our own history, still tempting Ahab's unknowable gods, and flouting signs and portents of extinction.”

There will be a gallery reception with the artist on Tuesday, June 14, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. All are welcome.

This exhibit is made possible by the Groton Public Library Endowment Trust.

Ken Hansen,