For the past few decades, artist Hank Chiappetta has been best known for his intricate hardwood carving work.
But when he was diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago, he realized that if he wanted to continue creating art, he was going to have to find a new medium.
The physical strength necessary for carving hardwood by hand, he said, was evading him.
“So I sat down to paint,” Chiappetta said.
And he has hardly stopped since. Today, he still carves occasionally, but for the majority of the time, he paints.
On Friday night, “Wood, Watercolor and Words: Hank Chiapetta Occupies the Kolva-Sullivan Gallery,” an exhibit featuring Chiappetta’s carved and painted work from the past two years, will be on display at the Kolva-Sullivan Gallery.
Strength permitting, Chiappetta will be carving live in the gallery during the opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. The Kolva-Sullivan Gallery requires visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing.
As far as materials go, Chiappetta uses only a mallet, a chisel and “found” or reclaimed pieces of black walnut, ship oak and hard rock maple.
Chiappetta’s painted work, exhibit organizer Jennifer Larue said, has always had a political streak.
“I look at what’s going on around the society right now and the way it is for people and the disabled and the way that money is made in corporations,” he said. “Corporations are not people … my paintings are mainly based on that idea.”
His carvings, Chiappetta said, have always been tied to the Northwest. His painted work also focuses a great deal on nature – especially bees.
“I’ve been doing bees for a long time (because) I believe bees are the saviors of our world,” he said. “Without them, we don’t have a food chain or plants, and that’s inspired me a lot.”
The collection hinges on colorful portrayals of negative emotion.
They represent “all of his pain and fear, pain and fear of what’s going on in the world and in his body,” Larue said. “Seriously, it’s like he just threw out all his emotions on paper and canvas.”
Each painting is like an entry in Chiappetta’s diary of visual art.
“His paintings have a very childlike quality because they kind of just come from a place of emotion,” she said. And, “his carvings are just amazing, ancient-looking. You really get a feeling from them … this brightly colored angst.”
Chiappetta hopes visitors will be entertained and moved.
“I hope they think it’s beautiful,” he said, emphasizing the “heart” and effort he has put into his carvings and paintings over the years. “Everything I do is created out of me.”
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