Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick, or The Whale, tells of Captain Ahab’s self-destructive obsession with the pursuit of a phantom creature. Since 2004, American artist T. L. Solien has been at work on a new series of mixed media work that extends the reach of Melville’s classic, transferring its themes into a meditation on American restlessness and on the major American historical narrative of the settling of the American West. Organized and circulated by Plains Art Museum, Fargo, North Dakota, and accompanied by a major catalogue, this is the first full exhibition of Solien’s work developed over the past 10 years.
Solien, who is currently based in the upper Midwest, is inventive in his approach to composition, color, and texture. He creates scenes and images with a spatial flatness that alludes to comics, popular illustration, or even Matisse’s paper cutouts. He pulls from diverse sources, including Winslow Homer, Jean Dubuffet, and Pablo Picasso, children’s coloring books, and historic snapshots.