Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Just as philosophers go into the wilderness seeking Truth, artist Scott Dye enacts his soul-searching in an oil-and-acrylic jungle of animals and their purest instincts.
“I love how animals exist without pretense,” he said.
Many of Dye’s latest zoological creations are displayed at the Lost Dog Bar & Lounge, where he’s the featured artist through July 16. His is one of several one-man shows in town; his June 14 opening came in between solo shows by Bradley Kachnowicz at Eno and Clint Reid at Studio &.
Unlike artists whose work exists largely for visual effect, each of Dye’s pieces holds a deep and enduring message about human nature and its parallel, or imagined parallel, in the animal kingdom.
Dye, who has a background in Southwest Studies and has come into his own style as a painter in the last few years, marries the struggle to exist as a psychological being with the beauty inherent in the experience. While past pieces bespoke a graphic-design approach, Dye has branched off with his new work into intimate and bright portraiture.
“Ginger,” an alert and fiercely alive Atlantic Puffin, engages the viewer with her strong glance and the shock of color behind her.
“There’s a level of pride in each animal I’ve painted that is inherent to their personalities. On some levels, I connect with that,” Dye said.
Penguins play a feature role in many of his pieces, tenderly showcased in “Three Penguins in the Moonlight.” A soft pause among more challenging and heartily playful pieces, this painting captures a moment we recognize: Earth-bound creatures looking up at the moon and struck by its light.
“I just love how expressive and regal penguins are. They’re these amazingly resourceful, flightless birds that can survive in desolate and harsh climates.”
Pandas feature prominently in Dye’s most surreal pieces, which are works that hit like an ironic jab in the arm. His examination of human facades and the masks we use to hide our flaws manifests itself as humans sporting elaborate panda suits that might easily have come from the cute, fluffy pandas climbing on multi-colored abstract cones in “Five Pandas in a Tree.” This subtly macabre choice makes demands on the stomach of the viewer, a willingness to go deep and like it.
“Some of us work very hard to put on this beautiful persona in public ... yet underneath it we’re still human,” he said.
Dye describes the garbage in the box dragged away by the man in the panda suit in “The Things We Left in the Wilderness” as “falling out” and “impeding his progress,” evidence that his proverbial dirty laundry reveals itself despite his efforts to bury and hide it.
Yet the message here, amid the candy-colored landscape, is that this soul-baring moment cleanses and heals. By taking off the masks, humans find that they don’t actually need them.
At the heart of this showcase is a striking work-in-progress. Centrally located in the exhibit are small white canvases painted with dots of bright color in abstract forms. This installation, part of a larger work that will include 108 paintings, represents a call for wholeness.
“One-hundred-and-eight is an auspicious number ... in Vedic culture it represents the wholeness of existence. For me, it’s a way to acknowledge the impermanent nature of life and let go ...” Dye, who recently lost a close friend, plans to donate all profits from the project to the family of the deceased.
In Dye’s latest work, we have both the question and the answer, the search for wholeness in a wide world of images and simple generosity to a cause that matters.
Talk about coming full circle.
Chelsea Terris is a freelance writer and social-media specialist. Reach her at email@example.com.