Lisa Congdon: The Opposite of Sorrow

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Chefas Projects, Portland // January 13, 2023 – February 11, 2023

Chefas Projects is delighted to welcome back Portland-based artist Lisa Congdon with her latest exhibit, The Opposite of Sorrow. Entirely created in 2022, the work reflects Congdon’s striking visual language of radiant color, graphic pattern, and folk art influence. Symbols of growth, connectedness, flow, and adventure cultivate an insightful parallel to the artist’s own journey and her perennial interaction with these very same themes.

The Opposite of Sorrow also takes inspiration from a common misconception: that Congdon’s work is so consistently joyful that it must not be grounded in any kind of personal struggle. Yet anyone who knows this perseverant artist knows that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, she originally picked up drawing and painting as a remedy for her deep depression.

To this day, Congdon continues to use art as a way to transmute personal struggle into life-affirming beauty. The Opposite of Sorrow thereby offers a double meaning as it calls upon an undeniable truth: that one cannot know joy without knowing darkness first. May viewers likewise step in from the cold and feel the exaltation of color and form as only this legendary artist can present it.

“People often comment that my work is happy and joyful,” Lisa Congdon says. “For years, even when people seemed to signify this comment as a compliment, I feared that they also meant a corollary truth: that my work was, somehow, not serious or to be taken seriously – that only work that comes from struggle or sorrow is real art. Recently, I was speaking in the university art class of my friend, who is an accomplished artist, and whose work sits in several museums. She asked me during our interview in front of her class whether I ever drew or painted anything that was dark or existential, that all my work seemed so, well… joyful. I was sort of embarrassed at the question, and so for a second I thought I ought to come up with an answer that proved that somewhere in my work lay darkness. I responded that, sure, I draw many things no one ever sees (this is true) and some of those things are dark, but that, more importantly, one cannot know joy without also knowing darkness. I explained that I spent many years of my life in deep sadness and depression, and that drawing and painting were a way out of that existence. It was through art that I began to see and feel the beauty of life and to feel happy for the first time, and my art became the translation of all the things that I find interesting or beautiful into my own visual language. The Opposite of Sorrow is a body of work that reflects my visual language, one that is held together in color, graphic pattern, folk art reference, and the symbolism of seeing, growth, connectedness, flow and adventure. All of the work in this show was created in 2022.”

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