With a graduate degree in poetry, I taught college English and art history for several years before falling in love with American painting. Painting for me has replaced poetry as a medium for the expression of strongly felt individual and universal experiences of reality. At the core of my practice is a tonalist approach that leans heavily on the expressivity of the materials of painting. Increasingly I’ve been channeling this basic orientation into contemporary idioms that I’m discovering through semi-abstraction and ever-deeper forays into the history of art.
Although much of my work is based in the landscape, I am most interested in painting as a visual language to express ideas and internal states of consciousness. I’m attracted to what Clement Greenberg called the “American chiaroscuro” of the New England writers and artists: Albert Pinkham Ryder, Hawthorne, Melville and Poe, whose work speaks to me about our culture’s haunted and complex relationships with nature, history, and ourselves. My paintings at times seem to be about the tension created between looking and responding to the world – questions of perception, subjectivity, and representation. I hope they’re also mostly about a state of mind – something genuine, non-rational, and intuitive.
I paint on site, en plein air and from life, to absorb sensations and a visual vocabulary of place, that later in the studio I try to draw upon with greater freedom of conception and expression.
“Art does not render the visible, but makes visible.” – Albert Pinkham Ryder
“Even sight heightened to become all-seeing
will do you no good without a sense of taking part.” – from Conversation with a Stone, WisŁawa Szymborska
“Facts become art through love.” – Kenneth Clark.
Teaching paining to others, outdoors and in the studio, helps me to process and integrate these ideas and practices through my work. I teach studio and plein-air workshops and classes from my studio in Lowell, Mass (Western Avenue Studios, #521) and write for several arts and humanities blogs and magazines including Art New England and American Art Revew.
Read a feature on my work in artscope magazine.
Christopher Volpe paints at the border of representation and abstraction. Though rooted in landscape, his atmospheric paintings combine the traditional and the contemporary to express intangible feelings and ideas.
Having earned a graduate degree in poetry from the University of New Hampshire, he wrote professionally and taught American literature, writing, and art history until discovering and embracing painting for its immediate potential to express deeply embedded individual and universal experiences of reality.
He has exhibited his work in galleries, alternative art spaces, and museums throughout the northeast. His work has been featured in Artscope magazine, and he has received grants and awards from MassMoCA, the St. Botolph Club Foundation, and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. He teaches classes and workshops out of his studio in Lowell, Mass. and at Montserrat College of Art, Castle Hill Center for the Arts in Truro, Mass. and en plein air in summer throughout New England and abroad. He lives with his wife and son in Hollis, New Hampshire.
He is a writer for Art New England and has taught at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Chester College of New England, and Franklin Pierce University.