last of the great navigators

"Last of the Great Navigators" is one of Danny Malboeuf's works that will be in the exhibit.

Visual artist Danny Malboeuf is not here to sell you on his work. He’s barely even there to tell you about his work.

The few words he does say come out in short, usually blunt, bursts of speech at barely above a whisper.

But Malboeuf doesn’t really need to talk about his art. His paintings scream talent on their own.

Malboeuf’s work will be featured as part of the Iredell Arts Council’s Visual Arts Series beginning March 7. His exhibit is entitled “The Atrocities Show.”

And the exhibit seems to be aptly named. Malboeuf’s art could be characterized by his creation of dark moods and portraying mythical moments on canvas.

Works like “Portrait of Emilie Chambarrette” and “Siamsterdam” depict characters after literal physical transformation, and Malboeuf doesn’t shy away from the macabre. He draws flesh as it becomes mangled and contorted to serve whatever function needed by the figure.

But even with such graphic takes on his subjects, Malboeuf does manage to employ a sense of calmness into his work. The subjects he depicts are often young and wear intelligent, sometimes anxious, expressions on their faces. He says that motif stems from his interest in exploring religious ecstasy.

“That’s always fascinated me,” he said. “It’s that religious exaltation and the transcendence from the higher world to this world, and vice-versa.”

Although his art doesn’t show it, Malboeuf claims to be completely self-taught as an artist.

“I was born, started painting and that’s pretty much it,” he joked.

Born in Statesville in 1960, Malboeuf said he’s stayed in the area his whole life. He said he has been creating art since a young age.

He mentioned that he didn’t start seriously pursuing art until he was in his teens, but at age 21 discovered masters like Italian artist Caravaggio.

“From that I got books and read ... It’s a natural progression from that I suppose,” he said.

One thing that’s clear about Malboeuf is his dedication. He claims that creating art is what he was made to do. He describes himself as living like a monk and says faith is a huge part of his work.

“For centuries, art was created under the auspice of the church,” he remarked. “Some of the greatest masterpieces of all time were created under Catholicism and religion.”

Malboeuf was also quick to comment on issues he sees in contemporary art.

“Now it’s like anything goes and everything goes,” he said. “There’s no structure, it’s all amorphous. Like a big, gray blob. Maybe it’ll settle here, maybe there. There’s no structure to it. There’s no definite yes, no, truth, lie, black and white. I like absolutes and I like containment.”

He also said that he detests artistic egos; he believes that good art doesn’t need to be explained.

“An orange doesn’t sell you itself, it just makes what it makes,” he said. “If it's good it will rise to the top, if it’s not it’ll sink and it deserves to sink.”

It’s that stripped-down approach that defines Malboeuf’s work ethic. He said he prefers to work on multiple projects at a time and let his art organically take shape. He called linear thought a distraction.

I can’t put it into words, but if I sit down and plan out a painting, it’s not going to turn out right,” he said. “It’s going to be horrible. It’s going to be contrived and contentious.”

He even said that he doesn’t like putting a price tag to his art because making money on his work is an afterthought.

“It’s just uncomfortable because it makes almost a profession and I’m not doing it to earn a check to pay for the light bill or whatever,” he said. “I’m doing it because it’s what I was created to do. It just kind of takes it into a commercial area that I’m not comfortable with.”

That's not to say he doesn’t mind seeing his work on display. Malboeuf has been exhibited at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Queens Gallery & Art Center in Charlotte and other galleries along the east coast.

This exhibit with the Iredell Arts Council will be his first exhibit in Statesville in five years, and he says it’s both exciting and comforting to be featured at home.

“The Atrocities Show” will run at the Iredell County Arts Council at 203 S. Meeting St. from March 7-28. There will be an opening reception March 7 from 6-8 p.m. with works available for purchase. More of Malboeuf’s art can be seen at kolaboy.com.

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