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Soft Shadows, Hot Wax: Tim Trelease’s New Art Exhibit
sonja holmberg 11 staff writer
January 28, 2010

Art Department Head Tim Trelease is currently being featured in an exhibit at the A-3 Gallery in Amherst, Massachusetts. His exhibit consists of eight oil paintings and one mixed media collage. These pieces are displayed with some works by other local artists. Mr. Trelease alleged that the experience has been “absolutely great.” He believes it is a positive motivator to have the support of other colleagues.

Mr. Trelease’s pieces are characterized by thick layers of oil paint (sometimes mixed with hot wax and pigment) and are often displayed in diptychs and triptychs (works on two or three panels). All of Mr. Trelease’s works, apart from the collage, are on either canvas or wood. For the pieces involving hot wax, Mr. Trelease explained that wood is “archivally sound,” while the canvas would cause the wax to crack. His other reason is intertwined with his interest in religion: the wood echos some of the early Christian wooden icons, and the frequent usage of diptychs and triptychs resembles that of ancient Christian painting.

Religion and travel are two principal themes that form the exhibit’s backbone. Mr. Trelease, who graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, conveyed that his trip to Italy sophomore year was an inspirational experience for pieces such as Roman Stones. This painting, depicting soft, shadow-like shapes with a palette of white, gray, purple, and orange, was inspired by the façade of the Parthenon. What he found particularly striking about this monument was its scarred surface, due to anchoring devices and the elements, which made it more beautiful.

Italy’s aesthetic beauty enriched his time there, and Mr. Trelease, who is of half Italian descent, found his time in Italy to be spiritually elevating.

The theme of spirituality in Mr. Trelease’s work is significant. Inspired by artists such as Carravaggio, for his beautiful chiaroscuro, and Alberto Burri, for the connection between the canvas and the human body, Mr. Trelease strives to create paintings that evoke the narratives of Christianity without the explicit depiction of icons. His goal is “to transcend traditional Christian stories” such as the Annunciation, and convey them through a palette that reveals the truth. Related to this desire for “spiritual potency,” Mr. Trelease expressed his interest in what he called “pure painting” or viewing the painting process as a type of surgery in which “the canvas represents the bones, and the paint—flowing or dripping—the blood.”

Each of Mr. Trelease’s works, which showcase the mesmerizing contrasts between darks and lights, illustrates not only his ability as an artist but also his skill as an artistic thinker. Every choice Mr. Trelease made for his paintings, accredited to both intuition and conscious decision-making, shows his mastery in illustrating what he calls the “topography of reflecting and absorbing surfaces.” Simultaneously, he captures “the God within.” So if you have a chance, congratulate Mr. Trelease on his exhibit, ask to see some of his works, or arrange a time to view the exhibit in Amherst, an artistically and spiritually edifying experience.