Jimi Hendrix gazes coolly down from his post above a topless woman in a sunhat. Next to them, a large canvas with interlacing splotches of reds and pinks glows brightly on the wall. A dead squirrel. The Skaneateles lakefront. A cup of coffee steaming beneath a brilliant moon.
“There’s anything and everything,” says Thaddeus Chapman, “And then everything in between.”
He stands in the middle of the new Hawley-Lodi neighborhood gallery at 522 Hawley Ave., staring around at the 40 plus pieces he’s chosen to display for his March show. Celebrity portraits, nudes, abstracts and scenes grace the walls, most of the work leftovers from previous shows Chapman has held in the past. “Good, fast, and cheap,” he says. “That was the whole idea.”
Chapman has lived and worked in Syracuse all his life, so naturally he has loved Syracuse University basketball just as long. He was an illustration major in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts when the Orange won the NCAA men’s basketball national championship in 2003. “I went into class the next day, and I’m like, ‘Where is everybody?’” he says with a laugh. “Half the guys got arrested.”
He remembers students climbing up buildings on Marshall Street, lighting T-shirts on fire and swinging them above their heads, and stumbling riotously into and out of bars all night long. This year, the Orange is hot again, and Chapman decided that the run toward the championship weekend, March 31 to April 2 in New Orleans, would be a perfect theme for his show and sale. He’s selling his pieces at a strongly discounted 50 percent off. He wants to give local people a chance to get quality artwork at bargain prices, so his work ranges from $20 to $500. Now that’s madness.
By getting rid of all of his old work, cleaning out the cluttered closet spaces that had become miniature museums, Chapman hopes to spur himself to create fresh work. “Because you no longer have a big pile, it’s a good motivator to create a lot more artwork,” he says.
The pieces on sale range from works recently finished to random pieces Chapman had forgotten that he even had. Although the diversity of subject matter is staggering, a unifying characteristic captures the viewer from every square inch of the covered walls: emotion.
The thing that I’ve always liked about painting is that you start out with nothing, with a blank piece of paper, and you turn it into something. And you have to grab emotion from that, no matter what it is,” Chapman says. “If it’s an abstract painting, or if it’s a painting of a dead squirrel, you should be able to pull out emotion from it. No matter what it is.”
He made a whole series, two of which are for sale at the gallery, where he used pictures of road kill—really gruesome images—to fight for a beautiful outcome. A murdered duck becomes a work of art. There’s a redemption of an unfortunate, fatal accident.
Chapman creates many of his paintings using thin rice paper worked on with gouache, which is a more pigmented type of watercolor paint. Using those media has forced him to evolve his style and technique. “You let things happen,” he explains. “You realize that you’re not making mistakes, you’re just adding new things.”
Chapman plans to keep his work on display and for sale until March 29. Interested parties can visit the gallery every Tuesday and Thursday, 6:30 to 9 p.m., or by appointment.
And yes, along the way, Chapman will continue to root for his team as well as the clearance of his artwork. “I watch every game, no matter what,” he says with a grin.