Nathan Durfee, October 2010
Opening October 5, 5-8 pm
The Soft Embrace of a Porcelain Night is a striking body of narrative paintings and one very large
Robert Lange Studios upcoming exhibit, The Soft Embrace of a Porcelain Night, features the work of contemporary painter Nathan Durfee. The Soft Embrace of a Porcelain Night is a striking body of narrative paintings and one very large suggestive dreamscape. Durfee will be at the October 1 event from 5:00 – 8:00 and the work will hang until October 28 and can be seen daily from 11-5PM at the 2 Queen Street location.
Durfee’s unique style was recently recognized when he received the award for Best Visual Artist in Charleston from the City Paper (2009). Embraced as a favorite by the community, Durfee’s presences in the Charleston art scene has grown since being picked up by Robert Lange Studios in 2007. The charismatic painter was the featured Picollo Spoleto Jazz Series artist and recently on the cover of Art Mag. His latest grouping of paintings has already created a stir when the seven-panel dreamscape was unveiled at the beginning of August to a select group of collectors.
“As soon as it leaked out that the dreamscape was finished,” said gallery owner Robert Lange, “people were calling wanting to take a look at it.” The piece will not be displayed for the public until the October 1 opening.
In describing the work Durfee says, “The show is about contrast; dark moments in colorful packages. The title, The Soft Embrace of a Porcelain Night, gives a bit of insight as to what I’ve discovered through painting this series. In each work, undertones of endearment show through despite the character’s obviously uncomfortable predicaments.”
There is a dark humor in Durfee’s paintings, macabre in their staging yet whimsical in the overall presentation. The artist, born in 1983, studied traditional portrait painting and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design. As his current work intrepidly exhibits, Durfee decided to take his art in a different, less traditional direction. “I’m transfixed by the idea of creating worlds we can only dream of. I thought I would be a traditional, realistic painter when I first went to art school…but I quickly discovered, if I’m able to create a reality, why do I need to have it adhere to the one we live in now?” Durfee said. This ability to create both conventional and alternative realities allowed him to push and pull his work from the realistic to the abstract with imaginative skill and gained him “street cred” amongst his art school peers.
“I was amazed when I saw one of Nathan’s traditional works,” said gallery owner Robert Lange. “The idea that Nathan made a choice and was never hindered by his ability to render gives an added level of understanding to his work.”
The larger seven panel dreamscape, “The Dreamscape” 114” x 36” oil on canvas, depicts moments found in the imagination, yet is still referencing the artist’s reality. The first panel in the set depicts one of Chicago artist, Nick Cave’s costume/sculptures, consisting of brightly colored fabrics and elaborate embroidery. Nathan incorporated the character after visiting Cave’s show at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. The dreamscape set is anchored by a decapitated self-portrait of Durfee as Frieda Kahlo holding an ego driven #1 foam finger. This piece, shows-off Durfee’s masterful ability to create captivating images. He is intriguing the viewer, leaving them searching within the narrative for more hidden clues, while illustrating, like Kahlo, his own insecurities with his skill.
In the painting “Michael Tries to Fly in Style,” Durfee makes reference to De Stijl art movement. A giant pink elephant adorned with a set of wings designed by the likes of Mondrian and Rietveld, sits precariously on the edge of a cliff reading the wing’s instructions. The overtly cheerful, yet in some regards somber painting challenges the viewer to question whether the subject is ready to fly. Is he satisfied what with what De Stijl has created for him? In this piece, the elephant, which embodies parts of both Durfee and the art movement’s spirit, must take the leap. In many of Durfee’s paintings, the characters are at the mercy of their created situations.
“Many of the works hold a tinge of sweet melancholy. The characters long for something, caught in their own internal conflict of love or growth,” said Durfee. “This is set against beautiful backdrops, which remind the viewer that despite the small trials, they live in a wondrous world.” The mood of each piece is affected by both the different color tones the artist chooses as well as the gesture of the subjects’ varied poses. While a narrative is suggested in all of these works, it is left to the viewer to ultimately complete each story
“The show brings out life’s soft moments of happiness, sadness, and the darkness that is sometimes below the surface, embracing the full spectrum of emotion,” said Durfee.