The Power Of Myth: James Dye At Wam

James Dye, A Feast "Beneath the God Stone," 2017, India ink on Bristol board, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2018 James Dye.

by Brian Goslow

It didn’t take long after James Dye had heard his name announced as the winner of the Sally R. Bishop Prize for Best in Show at the 2017 ArtsWorcester Biennial for the enormity of what had just occurred to set in. Along with a cash prize, he would receive a solo exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum — and he had 11 months to pull it together.

His 40” x 27” “The Temple of the Burdened Host” dip pen and India ink drawing was selected as the top work by juror Samantha Cataldo (contemporary arts curator at the Currier Museum of Art), who in her statement explaining her decision wrote, “While the technique and imagery evoke art of the past — such as medieval manuscript illuminations or relief carvings on Hindu temples — the visuals of the work are not wholly indebted to any art historical moment or religious folklore.

“In fact, some of the illustrative elements in the work resonate with contemporary media like graphic novels or even video games,” Cataldo’s writing continued. “In this work, varied traditions are conflated within the artist’s vivid imagination to produce a surreal, methodically rendered mythology of his own creation.”

The wheels were already turning by the time Dye had returned home. “Because all my pieces take a very long time to do, about five minutes after I got the award, I was planning out my next year and what I could do with it,” he recalled. The winning work would serve as the starting point for what was to come.

“I knew, based on the size, how long it usually takes me to do a piece,” he explained. “I knew I wanted to do one more that was close to the size that won the biennial. I knew that one was going to take me at least three months. I wanted to do two more medium ones and a cou-ple of smaller ones. So, I was building my life around making this show.”

The largest work, “A Feast beneath the God Stone,” which took Dye three and a half months to complete, welcomes visitors into the exhibition space. The accompanying description notes, “While mowing his lawn, James Dye overturned a rock, revealing a colony of insects living beneath. Inspired by the imagery of a civilization underneath a single stone, he envisioned a pantheon of gods with a unique set of rituals.”

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