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Local artist unveils ambitious project

Charles Pritchard
Staff writer
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Posted 6/16/22

On Monday, local artist Stephen Carpenter held a meeting at the Oneida Lakes Arts and Heritage Center and unveiled his latest project: Bolero de Cochereau.

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Local artist unveils ambitious project

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SYLVAN BEACH  — On Monday, local artist Stephen Carpenter held a meeting at the Oneida Lakes Arts and Heritage Center and unveiled his latest project: Bolero de Cochereau.

The North Bay artist is looking to render the musical piece of Pierre Cochereau into color, shape, and space as a cinematic expression. Cocherau performed an improvised piece of music in May 1973 at Notre Dame that has stuck with Carpenter over the years.

“I assigned myself this project in 2019,” Carpenter said. “[But] both sound and light have been a part of me for a long time.”

Carpenter recalled, as a young child, drawing where he wasn’t supposed to with his mother’s lipstick and pushing up on the family piano’s key action to make patterns of sound.

“I ask questions like ‘What’s the color of that sound’ or ‘What’s the sound of that color’ or ‘What shape is it,’” he said. 

Bolero de Cochereau will be done as a series of triptychs — or a series of three paintings.

The challenge is coming up with something that feels similar to different people. Carpenter said it’s alright if he decides D Minor is colored teal and someone disagrees with him, but he hopes to explore the music deeply and find connections that other people can agree on.

“You don’t have to agree with it, but I hope you’ll appreciate that I’ve attempted to do something from my sense experience,” he said. “And I’m not going to be so bold as to say that what I’ve seen and heard is universal.”

In a way, Carpenter is trying to evoke a sense of shared synesthesia with viewers.

“It’s considered either a disease, a psychological thing to be solved, or somehow inter-sensory,” he continued. “There are proponents of each of these positions everywhere. But I’m of the feeling that it’s inter-sensory.”

Both recent and long-past artists have done something similar. For one musician, it manifested as a way for him to honor a departed friend by writing a piano suite for the artist’s exhibition and interpreting the painting via music. 

“He tried to put into feeling what the art was,” Carpenter said.

And that’s exactly what Carpenter is hoping to do with his Bolero.

Carpenter has always had an interest in art, but an accident in 2017 robbed him of the use of his right eye. Depth perception is essential for artists, and without his eye, he had trouble determining where the brush was on the canvas.

He moved on to digital artwork on a computer. With a flat surface to work on, depth perception wasn’t needed, and Carpenter’s work shifted into capturing movement. And though he’s regained some of his sight, Carpenter’s work with the digital canvas has continued into Bolero.

“I’ve been making digital sketches and started making paintings of the first movement,” he said. “I’m looking to capture the sense of the organ [in Cochereau’s piece.] I noticed the organ itself was high in the church and attached to the back wall. So I put that in the center with the arch and the rose window above that to give a sense of the cathedral and the organ in it.”

To accomplish that feeling of space, Carpenter said he’d arranged these first triptychs vertically to give a sense of height.

To cover the whole piece, Carpenter is looking at 84 paintings across 28 sections of the music.

“So I have a whole lot of painting to do,” Carpenter said with a laugh.

When asked what his timeframe was, Carpenter said he’s committed to a one-person show in 2023 at Edgewood Gallery in Syracuse, where the inaugural show will be. 

For more information about Carpenter or his work, visit https://www.carpenterhillstudios.com/

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