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April 29, 2005

40 at 40 is the new 30

Douglas Fordyce has his hands full these days

Columbus visual artist Douglas Fordyce has his hands full these days as a professional artist, a graphic designer, a teacher, and a businessman. In addition, he has just turned 40 and is moving his studio from Victorian Village into the heart of the Short North, Columbus’ art district.

To celebrate all these accomplishments he is opening a new show of his works to inaugurate the new space. Titled “40 at 40,” the exhibit will feature 40 of Fordyce’s latest paintings, which by any standards are beautiful to behold.

While he is openly gay, Fordyce’s work is not specifically queer in content. However, through his Studio 16 he has been able to celebrate and represent other queer artists whose works are more overtly gay and even political. Fordyce started Studio 16 in 2002 with his then-partner Dave Jones, who was a huge part of the co-op until last year.

Born in 1965 in Elyria, southwest of Cleveland, Fordyce was raised in his parents’ hometown of Pine Grove, West Virginia. He graduated from Valley High School in June 1983 and moved to Columbus four months later. Except for a brief stint in Newport, Rhode Island, he has spent the past 20-plus years in Columbus.

Like many emerging artists in the city, and in Ohio for that matter, he attended the Columbus College of Art and Design for 3½ years, majoring in illustration. He left CCAD with only a year remaining in his program and decided to go back when he could devote more time to his studies.

During his sabbatical from formal education, Fordyce traveled. He went to New York City in 1993.

“I was amazed by the energy there,” he says. “After coming back from New York, I always feel as if I can do anything.”

Having caught the traveling bug, Fordyce spent a summer in Europe, mostly France, Italy, Belgium with a quick trip to Switzerland. While in Europe, like any good, true-blooded art lover, he admits he “tried to absorb as much art and culture” as he could. “I visited museums and galleries everywhere I went.”

Fordyce returned to school and in 1997 graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor of fine arts in painting and drawing.

Fordyce says that he has been doing that for as long as he can remember.

“My parents were always very supportive of my art from a very early age.” He is effusive and emphatic in the role his parents have played and continue to play in his development as an artist. “They are a constant source of support.”

Fordyce’s most recent oeuvre is a result of abstracting the figurative and natural worlds.

His paintings have a certain rhythm embedded in the strokes, in the compositions. He explains this technique:

“I created a tool that transformed my years of representational expression into a fluid abstraction free from the confines of realism. The tool is a four-foot piece of wood with holes drilled at random locations. Beside each hole is a nail partially driven into the surface. Pencils and brushes can be stuck into the holes and secured by clipping them to the corresponding nails. I use the tool to create drawings. The tool moves across the drawing surface, creating repeated lines, shapes and uncontrolled random marks.”

Fordyce’s paintings are very multi-layered. He works on developing “depth and figure-ground relationships based on ‘found’ figures and others based purely on groupings of shapes.”

He explains that he is often drawn toward a cool palette. One finds blues and greens used in almost every painting. The cool colors are complemented and put into tension by reds, oranges, and siennas “to achieve a sense of warmth that alternately reflects onto and radiates from within the figure.”

Fordyce also notes the occurrence of unexpected landscapes in recent paintings: “I have also found that many of my recent pieces place the figures against dramatic backdrops of sky and clouds.

The unintentional landscapes establish a correspondence between man and nature that reflects the tension and harmony of existence.”

Fordyce has a proclivity for worn objects, which also manifests itself in his work. He explains that by layering color, often beginning with a dark solid background and laying a lighter wash of color on top, allowing the dark to come through in areas, he is able to set a ground that feels aged. Once the ground is established, corrosion is suggested by removing sections of the ‘finished’ surface.

“The work is given a patina that imbues a sense of discovery,” he says. “Abstraction and modernism are blended with an oxidation realized by paint instead of air. I hope in the larger blue oils, the viewer recognizes an effect similar to the oxidation of bronze in ancient Chinese vessels and mirrors.”

“40 at 40” will be held Studio 16, 17 West Buttles Ave., through May 6. An opening night reception will be held on April 22 starting at 7 p.m.

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