There isn’t a single sign next to any of the paintings that hang in Chad Beroth’s exhibit at SECCA. No title, no list of materials; simply a small pin with a number written on the top beside each piece. The choice gives the gallery a familial atmosphere. It’s like walking through an unfurnished living room with small scenes of Beroth’s life illustrated through each painting. Each piece is a glimpse into a memory that’s clouded by time, nearsightedness and retrospection.
Winston-Salem-based artist Beroth’s work is on display at SECCA through their Southern Idiom program that promotes and sells the works of local artists. His exhibit, Home Sick, is up until May 19 and focuses on his personal life.
“Firggen Maybelle” portrays a growling pitbull that Beroth and his family learned to put up with while “A Monster in the Sheep Garden” deals with his divorce and child-custody case.
If one takes a closer look at the individual works of this exhibit, they’ll notice many objects that are painted over. These small anomalies are an important part of the artist’s work.
“I work in layers,” he said, commenting on his creative process. “Sometimes I’m not sure how much I’m going to cover up. Sometimes I’ll sketch something in with the intention of covering up the whole thing— just because I know it’s there. I layer in and purposefully place everything I put in my paintings. I put the whole thought down in layers. I like to play with the paint in that way.”
One piece, titled “1978,” hangs just above a fireplace mantel. The inspiration came from a photograph of Beroth when he was only 3 years old.
“I was in my house, looking through old pictures of my childhood and the ’70s decor freaked me out a bit. It also made me homesick, in a way.” he said over the phone. “I chose that photo due to the expression on my face. It was the only one where I wasn’t smiling and happy. It seemed more like real life to me.”
There’s a consistent juxtaposition of the real and the surreal throughout Home Sick. In many of the paintings, Beroth starts with one realistic depiction of a person or object and fills in the surrounding area with stylized features or an abstract background. One example of a realistic detail comes in the form of his own face in “1978.” Beroth looks to be caught off guard and holds a Cookie Monster doll while he stares blankly into the eyes of onlookers. Another detail shows up as a lawn chair in a piece called “If Ever I Go Looking for My Heart’s Desire Again, I Won’t Look Any Further Than My Own Backyard. Because If It Isn’t There… Then I Never Really Lost It to Begin With.” The lawn chair is old and it’s been damaged by the elements.
“I paint these objects realistically for a few reasons,” said Beroth. “I remember those chairs distinctly, but I can’t remember anything else. I’ll paint one thing that really stands out and I’ll do the rest from what I remember. The other reason is more practical; it’s just that sometimes certain things need to stand out and other things don’t. I’ll give something more detail and bring it to the front as the focal point to show you what the painting is about. The abstract details aren’t as important.”
Nostalgia plays a role in Home Sick. “Gleek and Gazoo on King Hippo” hangs just around the corner of the entrance to the gallery. The painting shows two cartoon characters from the ’60s and ’70s jumping on top of a boxer from Nintendo’s “Punch-Out!!.”
“A lot of people remember the main characters of ‘The Super Friends’ cartoon, but I’ve always preferred the more obscure ones.” said Beroth.
“Tea Party” depicts two young girls at a small table and is suspended on the wall to the right of “Gleek and Gazoo on King Hippo.” There’s a pink teapot, some cups and a lamp that illuminates the scene.
“I like the contrast between the things in my childhood and their tea parties.” he said. “Anybody can pick things from their childhood that anyone has seen before, but you need to have been where I’ve been to know certain things.”