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Marc Awodey's painting, "Boy with Oxen," is one of more than 30 of his paintings on view at the Vermont Supreme Court through Feb. 15.
Photo: Courtesy Photo

Marc Awodey paintings at the Supreme Court

For a writer, Marc Awodey is surprisingly uninterested in using his paintings as a way of telling stories. (He says narratives are egocentric, in his artist's statement.) Nor does he want to be profound.

And, even though Awodey, more than most, understands the power of critique, (he is the visual arts reviewer for Seven Days) he also has no interest in "worrying" about his critical relevance or even "what a viewer might read into a piece."

That's because Awodey sees himself as a formalist: He is more interested in the organization of forms in his work than he is the content.

But perhaps most importantly, when Awodey talks about his relationship to the painting, he talks about it terms of a way of working out his own emotional responses to universal precepts.

His dramatic, haunting paintings, now on view at the Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier, are a study in alienation, disconnection and melancholy. He creates landscapes that are like no place you've ever seen; they more aptly picture the way you've felt in a particular place. They ride the line between moody abstraction and realism.

But it's Awodey's unidentifiable figures fixed in Hopperesque scenes of alienation that are the most provocative. You think you know what you're looking at, say a guy putting slabs of meat on a grocery freezer shelf, or a woman sitting in a chair knitting, but then again, maybe not. The blue figure reaching toward those red slabs of meat on the blood-smeared shelves looks as macabre as a scene from a chainsaw murder film, or as ordinary as a genre painting of a guy picking up supper at Shaw's.

Awodey's technique is bold. He often outlines his figures in heavy lines, blue or black, as though we should be able to see through them. His broad brush strokes, palette work and opaque layering of color give his compositions heft.

But it's his compositions that put his technique over the top. Awodey tends not to anchor his figures in space. The woman knitting, for example, seems to be floating above her overstuffed chair. The striped walls of the room enhance this absurd feeling of vertigo.

Marc Awodey's paintings are on view in the lobby of the Vermont Supreme Court at 111 State St. through Feb. 15. The lobby is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, go to marcawodey.com.


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