Visual Arts For British artist Mackenzie Thorpe, there’s nothing cynical about love in all its expressive manifestations. Thorpe, an internationally regarded artist with a working class background and early struggles with dyslexia, lives out the belief that this, the most durable and hard-won of human emotions, is something to be perpetually grateful for. So Thorpe keeps cranking out art, showing it all over the world, all the while making the extra effort to connect with children who may have similar challenges to the ones he endured. Thorpe’s traveling exhibition, Into Three Dimensions, making its presence here in Indianapolis at Editions Limited Gallery of Fine Art through July 17, is no exception to the connect-with-local-children rule that Thorpe has devised for his global sojourn. Working with local (and widely known in her own right) artist Lois Templeton, and collaborating with VSA arts of Indiana, Thorpe facilitated artmaking with “underserved” youth in Indianapolis during the exhibition’s opening weekend. The results of this reaching out are on view at Editions through the duration of the exhibition, and are testament to the power of unfettered expression. We all need it, no matter what circumstances life throws our way. And when given the opportunity to express themselves, children, no matter their station, are far more honest than their adult counterparts. Their voices will continue to be heard as their heart-themed art follows Thorpe on his travels, ultimately to be part of an international exhibition in Tokyo.
The art of Thorpe himself is highly evolved in the stylistic sense and with an easily identified “Thorpe” voice — the visual trademarks being a cartoonish approach to figures and landscapes; idealized, you might say, but heartfelt just the same. Thorpe’s figures, no matter what they speak to — poverty, trial and hardship, loneliness — have the same, hearty presence and hopeful visage, even when the head is bowed or the shoulders hunched. Thorpe’s bronzes are the more complex of his works; a sculpture of a child poised on a ledge next to a windowless house — “On the Edge” — could be interpreted as hopeful or not. The piece itself is beautifully rendered and makes the best of its medium.
The message conveyed in all his work may border on the simplistic and yet, somehow, it works to convey Thorpe’s genuine belief that humanity has the ability to persevere. If Thorpe hadn’t endured hardship himself, it might be hard for the more cynical among us to take his work seriously. But Thorpe has, against tremendous odds, persevered and succeeded, without forgetting how he arrived. Ultimately, he still reaches into the human soul for his material — and he does have an awareness of the murky darkness there, and perhaps simply appreciates having been lifted so high into the light. No doubt he has brought others there too.
Thorpe’s painting “Walking on Love” depicts a childlike figure with oversized, cartoon feet trudging confidently over — or being held up by — a hill of Hallmark-style hearts. Thorpe’s own experience led him to this place, and while so many fall before reaching such a nirvana of hope, Thorpe is testament to its ever-present possibility.
The work of Mackenzie Thorpe and local youth is on view through July 17 at Editions Limited Gallery of Fine Art, 838 E. 65th St., 842-1414. The exhibition will benefit VSA arts of Indiana and the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana.