North Carolina painter Hal Boyd stages his second painting exhibition at the Minás Gallery in Hampden starting tomorrow night at 7. The show runs through late November. Boyd, an abstract expressionist with a keen interest in psychoanalysis, philosophy, and literature, studied art and English in college, then worked for several decades as an advertising copywriter and ad agency head. I met him many years ago when I was living in San Antonio, Texas.
In fact, I met him the first day of my life, not that I recall the exact exchange. But I do remember fondly our regular Saturday morning paper-doll-making sessions, while my mom slept in, during which I drew a variety of “students” and he cut them out with sharp scissors. These students attended our Palace of Learning, for which I served as school administrator and Dad played the principal. Other weekends, especially around the holidays, we’d bake dough into sloppy sculpture. Once in a while Dad would write and design a pop-up book that moved like a real pop-up book you could buy in a bookstore but told a more personal story. I’m grateful to him for teaching me the value of daily creativity, and I’m so excited about his latest paintings. Please come join us in a toast tomorrow evening. Here’s a short interview to learn more.
When did you first know that you wanted to make art?
This is harder to answer than you might think. Making pictures has been a really important part of my life since before I could read. To encourage what she saw as talent, my mother made arrangements for me, as a third-grader, to take art with high school students in the Clarksdale, Mississippi, public school system. I was a big hit with the girls, who were juniors and seniors. By fifth grade, I was drawing pictures for classmates in Blytheville, Arkansas. Our currency was notebook paper. A single drawing might fetch 15 or 20 sheets. I took drawing and painting pretty much for granted, and, only in high school, did I begin to think of drawing and painting as art-making. I was committed to making art by the time I graduated.
What inspires you?
Feelings, ironies, dreams, news photographs, imagined scenes, psychological concepts, admired work of others.
Who are your influences?
Major longtime influences include the European (mostly German) expressionists, plus , in alphabetical order, Balthus, Max Beckmann, Pierre Bonnard, Willem de Kooning, and Henri Matisse. More recently, Jean-Michel Basquiat belongs on the list.
In addition, I have learned crucial lessons from a number of teachers, from fellow students, and from painter friends. The list of names is long. The ones who might be easily researched include Ole Miss friend Warren Dennis, sculptor David Smith, abstract expressionist painter Jack Tworkov, and San Antonio-based artist Carl Embrey.
What is your training?
I studied drawing, painting, sculpture, and lithography as a college undergraduate, first at the University of Nebraska as a freshman and throughout the rest of my undergraduate years at Ole Miss. I graduated with a double major in English and in art. Later, I took courses–including life drawing–at the San Antonio Art Institute, San Antonio, Texas.
When do you know a painting is finished?
When I can’t take my eyes off it. When I find it deeply affecting. If I don’t find it deeply affecting, I paint it out. Just about every one of my paintings has several failures under it. That’s one reason the surfaces are so dense and irregular, with lots of blemishes. I like knowing–seeing–that all that thought, effort, and turmoil–in a word, frustration–is there, under the picture, and that the buildup of paint results in colossal “flaws” in the surface.
How is your current work different from and similar to your projects past?
Abstract expressionism was “the thing” when I was in school, and I see abstract expressionism as the core of my work still. Subsequently, maybe as a kind of reaction, I concentrated on rendering. For the past decade, my lay study of psychoanalysis–in particular, the ideas of Jacques Lacan–has become a strong influence. The result is often a blend of expressionism and surrealism. Because I love literature, the work tends to have a story quality. My goal is to enlist the viewer in the making of a narrative–in the making of art.
Minás Gallery, 815 W. 36th Street — show opens Friday, 9/20; join us for a celebratory toast between 7 and 10 p.m.
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