Duck artist Fred Vallade prefers not to speak of his work or his self for he feels that what one does is who one is. In other words, the art is the man and the man is the art. He opened his latest exhibit, “Dare to be Different,” at the Dare County Arts Council in Manteo this month. A look at 50 plus works of art will reveal much about this mixed media artist.

Vallade’s collection of work, which combines ceramics, mixed media, and encaustic, illustrates a man with rich visions where shapes, colors, and textures interact to create fascinating imagery. Although technically considered abstract in the academic world, his art creates very real atmospheres alive with form, space, and motion.

Some works are freestanding such as a brightly colored clay totem, a ceramic platter or a collection of clay vases. He also creates 3-D clay wall works combined with mixed media with a spiritual feel, and flat, framed mixed media compositions. His visual imagery, which appears on both 2- and 3-dimensional work, employs specific shapes and energetic linear drawing. Elements such as layering – lending depth - and repetition - lending motion - bring to life colorful, oxygen infused worlds where this personal language interacts to beautifully balance the resulting calm and tension.

Vallade’s handling of color is remarkable as he blends hues that adhere to his substrate like skin. His use of solid and translucent contrasting color creates a push pull that causes his objects to fall back into space or achieve dominance. Think orange, red, yellow, gold, turquoise, purple, cobalt blue, sea green, black and white forming happenings filled with objects such as floating egg shapes, a series of dots within dots, spirals, interconnecting circles and rectangular chains.

Of note is the mixed media work “Vision Quest,” a cosmic whirlwind of curving colors, swirling lines and symphonic shapes. Its cobalt blues and sea greens pop against golden yellow, orange and black.

A look at Vallade’s art history helps reveal what influences his current work. He’s worked in oils, acrylics and graphics and spent 22 years creating etchings. Once he moved to the Outer Banks from Pennsylvania, he decided to explore clay and did so for 25 years. The works in this exhibition show these skills in play such as graphic marks, painterly brushwork, and gestural and geometric clay objects combining to form a life, a man in response to life and therefore his art. So, what can one say about the work that describes the man? Highly skilled, imaginative, bold, passionate, lush, and intuitive. Fred Vallade’s exhibit, exposes a lyrical dance that in words of Russian abstract expressionist Kandinsky works from a basic plane, which is “a living being, which the artist fertilizes and feels breathing.”

Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 20 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.

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