My name is V.F. Wolf and I am a mixed-media painter who currently lives and maintains a studio in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I am employed as a night watchman at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum located in Providence, Rhode Island. I was an officer in the Army Reserve from 2000-2007 and have traveled extensively throughout the United States and lived in both Egypt and Ireland. I have received my Bachelor’s degrees in Art History (2007) and a Bachelors of Fine Art in painting (2011) from Rhode Island College. In addition, I received my Masters of Fine Art from Massachusetts College of Art and Design (2013). Recently, I received a Certificate in Painting Studies (two year program) from Rhode Island School of Design (2018).
I create semi-abstract faces/bodies that resemble tragic, grotesque harlequins. These works are character studies of figures sprung from my imagination The way in which I combine and arrange the figures creates a mysterious adventure and quiet world inviting the onlooker to use their imaginations too fill in the missing pieces or narrative. My paintings are created through the process of actively manipulating the oil paint over a textured surface made up of found objects. Layers are built up by overlapping and using violent strokes in which create various densities and textures. The palette is mostly garish/acidic colors, colors of discord. Occasionally, a bright color pops out of muddy ground. One can witness traces of color buried beneath suggesting the time invested in making the pieces. Like memories, paint layers are built one on top of the other. I have one color in mind and before I know it another color will be on top of that one and then another; until the right combination is reach in my mind.
I take inspiration from various art movements throughout history. These include: Early twentieth century European modernism which include painters like Chaim Soutine and Amedeo Modigliani to post-war expressionism, as exemplified by artists such as Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach. I also get much of inspiration from my memories of my trip to Cairo, Egypt; that I went on while I was serving in the Army National Guard.
“Abject Art… inherently disrupts conventional identity and cultural concepts.” (Wikipedia)
I want my art to be repulsive and attractive. I paint the ugly and disturbing, mask-like figures because I use them as metaphor to analyze the shadow that lies in every societies sub-conscious, that part of the psyche that craves violence and destruction.
Thus, my art has many affinities to the concept of Abject Art/Abjection and the theories of Julia Kristeva. Art ask the big questions, through using metaphor, that help disrupt the status quo of any given society. Julia Kristeva claims “Revolt is an integral part of the pleasure principle. We can feel no pleasure without first overcoming an obstacle, some prohibition, authority or law which allows us to measure our authority and freedom.” Art helps to bring attention to issues thought to be otherwise resolved. No, art cannot give the answer but it can point the way for healthy discussion to occur or debates which can open up dialogues that can get possible new ideas generated. Art can open up new possibilities which collectively uplift/enlighten a society.
This fascination of studying the dark side of man most likely started when I was a young man in the military. I would witness the violence and brutality on a daily basis and this became the starting point that informed much of my artwork. My art is the by-product of thinking about my life, in particular my military experiences.
I use my military experience as source material only and that's it. I would never do direct illustrations of my military experience, that's not universal enough. I am looking at my time in the military as something to pull more universal themes from, which include anger, frustration, happiness, sadness, etc… Like I mentioned before the military was my first art school for it taught me a lot about discipline/routine and the daily practice of routine. But, that's where it ends for me, I am not a military/combat recorder of any type, but instead am someone who uses his life experience as source material. The specifics of any war does not interest me, only the universal effect it has does, this effect is what I concentrate on.
With this stated, I find it a very crucial part of my practice to distance myself from whatever subject matter I’m portraying or else it becomes too much of a personal story, I’m after a wider context than that. I look to internalize a sense of collective violence. Thus, I paint crucifixions, imagery portraits of historical figures and imposing anonymous faces. I find that detachment comes up in the way the figurative is abstracted and distorted. The end product of the abstraction acts as a filter to keep my work from becoming too specific.
It is the filtered residue that is a more concentrated form of my life, at ends up getting away from my life to a place that is more universal.
In conclusion, my work, with roots in European Expressionism, Surrealism and Neo-Expressionism. My work uses dark humor as a tool to probe into larger, more universal themes. The way in which I combine and arrange the abstract heads/figures in the paintings creates a mysterious and quiet world that invites the viewer to use their imagination, as I did to create them, too fill the missing narrative. There is an ironic twist to using dark humor to expose more universal truths.