For Amy Goforth, the act of creating her latest exhibit, “The Spirit of the Devilfish,” was a spiritual journey. Goforth, who had stopped painting after her graduation from Indiana University Southeast, endeavored to gain some creative momentum by trying to get a single piece shown at Tim Faulkner Gallery three months ago. Impressed with her work, they invited her to have a solo show, which opened earlier this month at the Butchertown gallery.
A dozen large-scale canvases of boldly colored cephalopods fill the gallery’s largest room — quite a feat for only three months of work. “I work better under pressure,” the painter admits. “And it’s acrylic, so the paint dries fast.” Octopuses expand and contract on backgrounds of red and cerulean, hot pink and lime green — it’s the color scheme of a nightclub aquarium, with organic forms floating on seas of acerbic hues. Previously, Goforth took inspiration for her work from human anatomy and physiology — her first painting in the series, “The Devil in Me,” shows a dark human figure locked in combat with an aggressive and sprawling octopus. The composition is dynamic and heavy, recalling in its shading the rendering of the human form by expressionist Egon Schiele. She cites this painting, in which the octopus is edging out the human in the composition, as the gateway from her old body of work into the new. “Truthfully, I didn’t really understand why I was doing what I was doing (painting sea creatures), but then I thought of Native American totems. I’m drawn to them because of my Native American background and their meaning in the subconscious.”
Starting with reference photos she sourced from the Internet and her home library, Goforth followed form but then took liberties with anatomical verity until she was satisfied with the aesthetic qualities of the paintings. Some of the paintings are gestural, like “Mystery,” which features the tentacles of the jellyfish outlined in fuchsia against an aquamarine background, while others are more styled and realistic. This form-over-function approach highlights the abstract qualities of these creatures and is a manifestation of Goforth’s expressive style, but it also occasionally leads to a feeling of visual vertigo.
The strength of Goforth’s painting is in her willingness to be bold — with her colors, her compositions and the scale of her work. She pours a good deal of emotion into her work and sees the octopus as a metaphor for the creative self — something elusive she has pursued in the psychic depths. She sees her time painting them as fulfilling a journey of self-expression and knowledge, and hopes that people will see evidence of her process and be inspired to pursue their own metaphorical deep-sea creatures.
Amy Goforth’s ‘Spirit of the Devilfish’
Through Jan. 2
Tim Faulkner Gallery
943 Franklin St. • 851-2380