A Marriage of Images and Words

For persons unfamiliar with my work, the first question likely to be asked concerns the writing on my pictures; what does it mean?

I have been painting and exhibiting professionally since 1958, and have been writing (short stories at first, and later novels) since 1962. In 1973, words first appeared on one of my pictures as part of the composition, a mixed media work entitled Evil Conversations (image 1). In the upper right-hand corner, I wrote: “Everything was said with extreme caution…and then complete silence.” I cannot tell you exactly why I felt the need to incorporate the statement – or what it necessarily means – but at the time I felt compelled to make these words part of the picture. Since 1973, many of my paintings reflect what I’m calling a marriage of images and words.

Evil Conversations, 1973,  Mixed Media  26”x 29”

A partial explanation for this penchant of mine is that my earliest goal as an artist – and my reason for studying art at Auburn University in the mid to late 1950s – was a desire to work as a magazine illustrator. At that time, I wanted to make pictures that conveyed the essence of someone else’s story. I suppose it’s fair to say that by 1973, I started illustrating my own stories. Perhaps it’s also accurate to say I think of myself less as a painter and more as a visual story-teller.

I want my pictures and stories to provoke a viewer to engage with my creative vision and, in turn – through the process of empathy – draw their own meaning, or conclusion. I want my viewer to establish this personal “connection” with a work of mine through his or her own experiences and sensibilities. Some of my middle-school grandkids ask from time to time what certain of my pictures mean, and I always try to turn the question around. “Why don’t you study the picture for a few minutes and make up a story to go with it?” They never fail to do so! I challenge you to try this. If you’ll just trust your instincts and inclinations, I have the feeling you can establish that kind of personal connection. Remember, you don’t need any artist telling you what you are supposed to think or feel about a given picture. Trust your gut. 

Noyes Capehart will be showing a collection of recent works at the Art Cellar Gallery in Banner Elk, North Carolina from August 20 – September 7, 2019. The reception scheduled for 4-6pm on August 24 is open to the public.  

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