Marc Roder doesn’t mind if people scratch their heads when they look at his work.
“If I can broaden someone who has only looked at landscapes and still-lifes and help them have a bit of a revelation, then I am expanding their definition of art and what they are able to see in art,” said Roder, who is based in Portland, Ore.
Roder’s paintings have the mesmeric allure of a Magic Eye stereogram. As the brain focuses, recognizable shapes emerge. House flies, binoculars, UFOs, icebergs, astronauts and disembodied heads litter the canvases.
“In the art jargon, they call it a lexicon of objects. I’ve gotten comfortable with this group of objects. They are almost like a vocabulary or a grammar I can work from. It’s like an improvisation with those notes. They are unconscious in my work,” he said.
Roder’s solo show fills the walls
of Lake George Arts Project’s Courthouse Gallery in Lake George through Oct. 19.
“Kids and teenagers get excited about the work,” Roder said. “It appeals to younger audiences who grew up more in the age of comic books and can appreciate work that is playful.”
Similar to a comic strip, a series of smaller paintings line together like a continuing story.
“They are almost like slides or snapshots. I can change the possible narrative by the order. It makes sense as a story, but it could go in another sequence,” Roder said.
The pieces contrast Roder’s much larger canvases.
The paintings almost serve as a foil to working on the large paintings. They are quicker, fresher — more immediate — studies. I feel like it gives me a chance to work out ideas and sketch. I can dig up elements that I will put into a larger painting,” he said.
Some of the larger paintings resemble rock formations scattered with debris.
“I think of them more as mountains. I do like for my work to have multiple associations and meanings and to tie it all together through structure — whether it be mountains or spaceships,” Roder said.
Upon closer inspection, layer upon layer of imagery becomes more apparent.
“The paintings are psychological studies more than anything else,” he said.
Roder could be an explorer charting an alien land. He enjoys raising questions about our tentative role in the universe.
“I was painting subjects that have this sense of being either completely unknown or uncertain. In the case of UFOs, who’s to say what a UFO really looks like? There is this layer of uncertainty,” he said.
Roder sees a shift in how people interact with the world around them.
“There’s a loss of innocence — a loss of the age where we go out and take snapshots. Now it’s more about inner exploration,” he said.
Roder’s canvases serve as a chronicle of his own journey — a mental road
trip with no predetermined destination.
“As an artist, I’m putting down marks and paint,” he said. “It has this physical, tangible presence, but it’s also so ephemeral and subject to interpretation.”