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On the Cover: Pangea Ultima 

click to enlarge Ken Vallario, acrylic on canvas, 2007
  • Ken Vallario, acrylic on canvas, 2007

At a time when the world seems so divided and everyone at odds, one artist dares to dream of a unity so grand it shakes the very core of the planet. It’s an optimism new to Ken Vallario’s work, but one he’s ready to embrace.

“As I get older I am consciously trying to make art to uplift people,” said Vallario.

Pangea Ultima, the title painting in his upcoming show at Qbix Art Gallery in Philadelphia, refers to the theoretical land mass scheduled to coalesce in 250 million years when the planet’s plates collide. The earth’s crust smashing together to form one supercontinent may sound apocalyptic to some, but for Vallario, the metaphor for the world coming together is a pregnant woman symbolizing planetary rebirth.

The painting is rich in symbols. The figure’s legs bisect the letters “W” and “E” that represent the west and east and together spell the word we. Three maps of the planet depict the supercontinent cycle. At the base of the painting in dark colors is the current divided state of the world. On her round stomach, like an ancient globe, is the former continent of Pangea. Above her head, like a halo, glows the future united world. Despite the positive message the figure sheds a giant tear.

“Most of my work has a deep spiritual pain,” said Vallario. “My work reflects a very specific emotion, an existential love of life but at the same time the mystery and pain of being in the world.”

The bittersweet imagery is a signature of the work of Vallario, who constructs his shows like musicians compose their albums. “Every album has a great rock song they put on the radio,” said Vallario. “I wanted Pangea Ultima to be that title piece. The other works refer to other ideas I am working on. In every piece I’ll cover a variety of new feelings.” He creates a catalog of emotion. “I normally have something that is purely beautiful, something that is a little provocative, and something that covers an obscure idea I’m into,” said Vallario. Whatever the combination he tries to make each painting stand on its own so that viewers do not think they are seeing the same work over and over again.

With impending fatherhood and his upcoming one-man show at Qbix in Philadelphia, this New Paltz artist has plenty of reason to continue mining this optimistic vein.

Ken Vallario’s exhibition “Pangea Ultima” will open at the Qbix Art Gallery in Philadelphia, on October 5 and run through the end of the month.
(215) 625-2521; www.qbixart.com.

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