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Chuck Morey

My friend and mentor, Chuck Morey, died in January 2010. The following is an essay I wrote about his work, which accompanied a show at The Lantern, in Pittsfield, MA, several years before. More photos follow the essay.

Chuck Morey: Beasts (Bethlehem)

Beasts before the Village
(also known as Bethlehem)


With an average size of only 6” x 8”, Chuck Morey’s new paintings first appear as deeply-colored jewels studding the dark walls of the exhibit space. On closer view they richly extend this metaphor, conveying multi-faceted mysteries through a complex imagery condensed into a very small area.

“I play with my paint,” Morey says, “applying it almost randomly until an image suggests itself.” He then works carefully to release the image from “a netherworld of jumbled color” into an existence which hovers on the edge of the physical and the visible. In viewing the work, one often has to stare at the surface in relaxed concentration until the images appear, thus recapitulating Morey’s own process of creation and providing a personal experience of revelation.

This “almost existence” befits Morey’s images: shadowy figures and heads, night birds and other fantasy creatures, and shifting, animate landscapes. Their original home is in the space of dreams or in the places behind appearances that we can only sense.

These paintings come prolifically. (The 34 acrylics and oils in this show represent only one-third of Morey’s output so far this year.) But many of the images return again and again in subtly altered forms, giving the viewer another clue to the mystery each time. The images clearly have a life of their own; Morey says, “I am their emissary.” His is a process of receptivity. “Images need to be given substance in our material world, but we must respect their essentially hidden nature.”

The feel of Morey’s work is intensely mystical, but various. Sometimes it’s playful, sometimes dark; a few of his pieces are terrifying. Interestingly, his work also has an underlying wry humor that allows the viewer to step back from its intensity and then, paradoxically, step further in. Visually, Morey’s paintings are an intimate stage set (a pictorial device he often uses), a window or door through which we can view (or even join) the procession of saints, fools, wizards, and wild and shy creatures that populate the theater of the inner life.

Morey’s work invites comparison with Paul Klee, in spirit and approach, if not always visually. Indeed, Morey frequently quotes Klee’s famous remark, “Art does not render the visible but renders visible,”— a perfect description of Morey’s philosophy of artistic creation and the results he achieves.

It is due to Morey’s substantial power as a painter that the private world he reveals is not merely his own, but also ours.

Chuck Morey: Living Fossil

Living Fossil

Chuck Morey: Convocation 2

Convocation 2

Chuck Morey: portrait

Chuck Morey