Christopher Volpe is one of those renaissance men in the arts, someone who is able to combine the musical - he plays guitar and piano - with the visual, in which he's gradually making a name for himself as a realist painter.
After working for 15 years as a professional writer — successfully navigating the public relations realm writing advertising copy and PR, he left Long Island to earn a graduate degree in poetry at the University of New Hampshire. The literary arts experience allowed him to teach college English and poetry and then, while teaching classes in art history, he discovered the American landscape tradition. It was there that his heart and career took a detour as he fell in love with the 19th century Barbizon and Tonalism landscape artists.
Largely self-taught, Volpe learned to “work backwards,” in that he was articulate and skilled with words, but lacked the technical skills to execute art. Yet he wasn’t afraid to wade into
the water. He took classes, studied the realist painters and mustered the courage to pick up a brush and venture into the visual arts. That was a mere five years ago, and now his realist paintings, which border on abstract, at times, more than hold their own.
“On Location: Plein-Air Paintings of the Seacoast,” his current solo show of 25 works at Kennedy Gallery in Portsmouth, runs through the end of May. The works represented are renditions of his favorite byways in coastal Maine, Portsmouth, Rye, Newburyport and other shorefront environs.
Volpe’s exhibition of landscape paintings captures the region’s rural spirit that many times blends into atmospherically abstracted pieces portraying some of his favorite subjects: twilight, misty streams, swamps, seasonally changing trees, rolling clouds. His work expresses inner states embodied in the geometry and imagery of nature. So, indeed, Volpe leans toward the poetic beauty that can be coaxed from interaction with landscape as well as in the new forms of artistic expression since modernism.
Volpe’s goal is beautiful works. And yet, he’s a believer in Francis Bacon’s idea that “there is no excellent beauty
that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” For Volpe, that’s what keeps it real.