Art and literature on canvas

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First Posted: 8/19/2013

A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes words are the reason for the picture in the first place.

Chad Stanley, who is an English professor at Wilkes University who teaches courses on writing, British lit, drama, and comparative grammar, has found a way to meld his love for both art and literature. Though he is immersed in writing currently, his roots actually lie in art, as he was a painting major at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, which he continued at Syracuse. He eventually found his way to a degree in English, but even then he used his artistic talents by doing paintings for in-class presentations as a visual tie-in. Much of his work deals with literature, so he considers it “semi-illustrative.”

Stanley will have a chance to show off his artistic skills on Aug. 21 at The Rattler in Pittston, an evening to celebrate not only his paintings but the film work of another local man and the musical stylings of local musicians.

There will be a 7 to 9 p.m. art opening with a Q&A with Stanley, followed by a screening of a local film and some local acts performing. At some point in the evening, Stanley will be giving a painting away to someone in attendance at the event, selecting them by a very “hush-hush” process.

Stanley’s paintings are oil on canvas, some with an acrylic wash underpainting, sketched out in Sharpie. Many of his pieces have meaning drawn from literature, such as “Coleridge and Albatross,” which takes inspiration from a poem.

“This painting is drawn from ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and based on a death mask of Coleridge,” he said. “I’m fascinated by the old tradition of making death masks of significant people, and one of the paintings now at The Rattler is from a death mask of an unknown woman who drowned in the Seine River in the 1800s. It’s probably the most famous death mask.”

His paintings also run along a personal theme, with one being a portrait of his dog Nixon, who he lost to cancer this spring. Still, he remembers his furry friend fondly.

“He was named as such because my in-laws suggested that I give the new dog, in 2005, ‘a good Republican Name,’ and I said, ‘Gladly, but don’t blame her if she starts shredding things and wrecking hotel rooms,” Stanley joked.

The painting is a tribute to a pup who loved anything minty, and the painting depicts a small Starlight mint in her eye.

There is also a self-portrait in the show that was inspired by Joe Hill’s novel “Horns,” in which a man wakes up to find horns growing on his forehead.

Stanley is honored to be a part of the show at The Rattler, a place owned by James Callahan, who Stanley said is “a true patron of the visual arts.” As he was hanging his paintings at the venue, Callahan offered some insight into the portrait of Nixon and Stanley’s self-portrait.

“He helped me realize that these paintings are actually a diptych, two parts of one whole,” Stanley said. “He placed them side-by-side while we were figuring out the hanging arrangement for the room at The Rattler, and that was the moment I realized their connection and decided I’d never sell them.”

Stanley is currently working on commissioned paintings for a couple in London and might soon start work on two more pieces for a musician in Sweden. He will also have a show at Wilkes’ Sordoni Gallery titled “Visual Literacy” from Oct. 29 to Dec. 15, which will feature paintings from literary texts.