At the Rodger LaPelle Galleries in Old City, painter David Campbell Wilson’s solo show, “Last Day in Maya,” proves that this artist has a keen eye and a knack for working in a number of different styles, including photo-like representations of light, figurative studies, landscapes, still lifes and surreal perspectives. The exhibit is also a testament to the fact that Wilson’s output is impressively prolific, with more than 40 pieces on display ranging from wall-sized canvases to tiny, framed paintings.
One of the most intriguing works in the show is “The Golden Ring.” Two canvases comprise this image, with two thirds of the width dedicated to the right-hand section. This portion depicts a man standing on railroad tracks while spinning fire poi in a circle in front of his body. While much of Wilson’s imagery focuses on the Burning Man and festival tradition of fire spinning, the left third of this piece introduces the surreal element of a group of tiny people hailing a taxi at the corner of a building, barely a quarter of the spinner’s height. This perspective shift is not present in such obvious forms in the rest of the artist’s work, and it is notable for this experimental exchange.
As previously mentioned, many other paintings are lifted from photos Wilson takes of these fire spinners and the orange trails of flame they warp around their bodies. “Behind the Back Butterfly” shows a woman performing a particularly beautiful winged pattern with her poi. The subject’s gaze is directed straight at the viewer and the background is a mottled shade of metallic gold, further highlighting the angelic form of the performer.
Other figurative studies by Wilson are flameless, and focus specifically on the body. The artist works with patches of oil paint comprised of parallel lines which serve to starkly capture shadows and reflections. In “MR,” the back of a standing man serves as the hilly surface that Wilson illustrates with surprisingly detail. Every ridge and accent of the muscular back and outstretched arm is visible at a slight distance from the canvas, but up close the artist’s hand is visible in the meshed colors and precise application of pigment. This is easily one of the most stunning creations in the show.
Not all of the paintings in “Last Day in Maya” are figurative studies, however. A few pieces are renditions of the artist’s room/studio, at least one still life and a number of landscapes. The landscapes focus on the Delaware riverfront area on the east side of Philadelphia, with hazy views of ships, docks and worn-down industrial expanses. These robust scenes are a welcome complement to the muscular bodies and fiery forms present in the rest of Wilson’s work.
David Campbell Wilson will have this exhibit hanging in the Rodger LaPelle Galleries through October 31st.
The Rodger LaPelle Galleries are located at 122 North Third St., Philadelphia; 215-592-0232; rodgerlapellegalleries.com.