Back to All Events

William Bolton -- It's Bigger Than That

Opening Reception: Saturday, August 19 5-7pm

Mostly begun in 2015 while on an extended stay on the outer Cape and then completed in the spring and summer of 2017 in my studio in Lambertville, NJ, the paintings in this exhibition show locations along the walks that Henry David Thoreau once took when he spent time on the Cape in the 1800s. Unlike Thoreau, who stayed on Cape Cod sporadically over many years, and for only about thirty days in total, my wife and I found ourselves on Cape Cod for six months in the fall of 2015, while waiting to move into our house we had just bought in Lambertville, New Jersey. 

Prior to that, we had lived in New York City for over a decade each, and with all of our belongs in a storage unit in Gowanus, Brooklyn, we were forcibly made to “live simply” as Thoreau so strongly advocated. Perhaps because of a detox from the city, or perhaps because of the words of Thoreau or both, the paintings I made while taking the walks became more economical and sparse. At the same time that my paintings became more streamlined, my appreciation for the outer Cape became more robust. Just as Thoreau formed his own unique relationship to this place in his time, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to develop a more nuanced appreciation for a place that I thought that I knew well up to that point. 

 Although my experiences following in the footsteps of Thoreau were transformative personally and artistically, the memories of making the paintings felt more profound than the paintings themselves. For that reason I reluctantly abandoned the project after leaving the Cape in the winter of 2016.

When given the opportunity to exhibit at the Preservation Hall in Wellfleet, I immediately thought of my Thoreau paintings. After pulling the work out of storage and bringing it to my studio, it became apparent that a central aspect of my current studio practice, the use of text, would serve as a way to finally complete this body of work that had become so meaningful to me in my time away from it. The result is not only a hybrid of my plein air and studio practice, but also a blend of two places that have special significance in my life. Making these paintings has been a circuitous, multiple-year process that has resolved a lingering thread in my art making.

Thematically, I explore territories related to religion and spirituality, my curiosity driven in part by the tension I feel between religious impulse and intellect,  memory, nostalgia, and desire. Born and raised in a religious household in South Carolina, the experience of moving to New York in 2004 acted as a catalyst for me to question and eventually abandon any remaining religious beliefs that I held as a younger person. However, like hearing echoes of some original resonance, I do still experience religious reverberations and attempting to connect with the foundation of these echoes is fundamental to my work.  Also important is the idea of searching. I am constantly searching for some sort of spiritual satisfaction as well as a solution to the problem of how to relate to the material world.

The text in my work is sometimes relational to the image, but often not. Either way, I would like for the text to function as an idea in and of itself. The images and text I use have personal meaning for me, but ultimately the subjective nature of how the image and text work together in the mind of the viewer is what creates meaning in the work. 


Earlier Event: June 13
Jon Verney
Later Event: August 20
The Woodfleet Project