Christopher Volpe is an artist, writer, and teacher working in oil paint, tar, and gold leaf striving to reflect meaningfully on the human condition. His work is held in the permanent collections of Smith College and the (James MacNeil) Whistler House Museum. He has won grants and awards from the Saint Botolph Club Foundation, MassMoCA/Assets for Artists and the NH State Council on the Arts. Raised in Oyster Bay, Long Island, he and his family reside in rural New Hampshire. Volpe holds a master’s degree in American poetry and has taught art and literature at the North Country Studio Workshops at Bennington, VT, Montserrat College of Art, Concord Art, Castle Hill Center for the Arts, the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Chester College of New England, Franklin Pierce University, and the University of New Hampshire.
I try to make paintings that are aware of our moment, that can open a space for reflection on our troubled relationship to the natural world and our own history. The paintings I love and aspire to create turn the pain and confusion of being human into a kind of beauty that doesn’t deny the darkness or sugarcoat reality yet insists on a lyrical engagement, not just with the world around us, but with the deeper mysteries of the human heart .
These two paintings come from a series in tar called Nature Morte, the French term for "still life." I'm using tar, occasionally mixing it with oil paint for color, because it's such a visceral material - a primal, toxic-industrial muck from which to coax something mystically life-affirming and, hopefully, beautiful.
D.H. Lawrence takes up the idea of finding one's way using a kind of torch that gives off darkness in the poem "Bavarian Gentians," which was the inspiration for these two works. I'm right there with Lawrence when he calls for flowers that can be radiantly dark:
Bavarian gentians, big and dark...
darkening the daytime, torch-like, with the smoking blueness of //
Pluto's dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter's pale lamps give off
lead me then, lead the way.
Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower....