Locals may recognize Andrew Bopes from his skills behind the bar, where he makes artful cocktails at Manna any given night of the week. But this Friday he’ll trade in his shakers and stirrers to be the guest of honor at Old Books on Front Street. Bopes will open his first art exhibit, Emergence, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The 29-year-old will showcase mixed-media, abstract-expressionistic drawings on paper that he made from old books given to him by the bookstore’s owner, Gwenyfar Rohler. Actually, Bopes credits Rohler for encouraging his return to fine art.
“Gwenyfar approached me last year and asked if I’d like to have a show there,” the artist tells. “She has always been a great motivator around town, getting people to step out of their shells and just do what they feel. She got me off my ass and back doing what I love.”
Bopes’ fascination for art actually began in high school in Iowa. Though he was often reprimanded for drawing instead of paying attention in class, his dedication to the craft paid off when he participated in his first high-school group show. He displayed an Escher-like drawing that emulated a never-ending staircase among celestial surroundings. A figure of himself at the bottom gazed up at a friend staring down at him. “[I] had a few people ask to buy it from me,” he remembers. “As it was created specifically for someone, I didn’t sell it, but it opened up my mind that this is something I could really get into.”
Bopes had plans to attend art school upon graduation, but, in his own words, became distracted “because of a girl—dumb high-school brain.” He spent a year and a half at a community college, yet wasn’t inspired by its teachings. Instead he taught himself Photoshop and Illustrator to fulfill his creative urges while working in the restaurant industry. He did logos for an employer and launched a freelance graphic design career. In 2006 he moved to Wilmington upon a friend’s suggestion.
“This is my first solo show—my first showing in NC,” he confirms. While his early renderings don’t quite represent his current works, his passion is still the same—if not more refined. Every element of Bopes’ current body of work—30 pieces—is thoughtfully hand-crafted. He built wooden frames from scraps, and his drawings of DNA-like strands appear on paper he made from books meant for the landfill.
“I think the hardest part was making the actual paper,” he says. “This was my first foray into paper-making. I burned out the motors to two blenders trying to pulp the paper. Once you have the consistency right, it’s hard to spread evenly on the screens, which I also made myself. The paper is extremely fragile before it’s dry, which takes a while so as not to have it curl and warp. The pulp gets everywhere; it’s quite a messy process especially while learning on-the-go.”
On paper Bopes layered shapes and allowed patterns to emerge organically. Spirals of lines curve and connect like colonies. “If it seemed like I should skip a couple to make a break in the design, then I let it happen,” he states. “Most of the pieces are designed like this with no real plan in mind; I just started the process and let the design reveal itself.”
His attention to detail is full, much like the inspiration for Emergence, based on Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. The theory asserts that every being is interconnected through unconscious imagery—something inherently within as influenced by pre-existent forms and universal archetypes. It’s not personally defined, rather wholly understood in a psychic context. Bopes illustrates the theory full circle by sourcing old materials of communication to create new materials of communication.
“Much like life, my design is open for personal interpretation,” Bopes tells. “You can step close and get lost in the detail or take a step back and see the larger patterns emerge. My hope is to take the idea to a larger scale and produce murals in public spaces in a collaborative, community-building effort illustrative that our past is the foundation to our future. The one thing Wilmington is lacking, public art, I plan on changing that soon. . . . I think with anything, you don’t know what you’re capable of until you do it. This is the time for me to start doing.”
Emergence will hang at Old Books on Front Street for a month.
Artwork by Andrew Bopes
Old Books on Front St. • 249 N. Front St.
Artist reception: Oct. 24, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.