AMHERST — In an effort to enliven the local art scene as it emerges from the pandemic, the Amherst Public Art Commission hosted its first exhibit in the City Hall Gallery since the pandemic ended events like this.
Artist Chris Bordenca, a painter from Belchertown, was selected as the first person to show his exhibit in this setting since pre-pandemic and he has set up his exhibit for early December. Bordenca’s show titled “Always Playing” features different drawings and paintings strewn across the walls of City Hall showcasing a wide variety of artistic takes on classic toys from his childhood.
“I’m a 46-year-old, now an adult, but I still play with all my toys,” Bordenca said. “Essentially, when I paint, I have to arrange everything and put them in different configurations. Often I try to recreate the old ads they displayed in the Sears catalog.
Bordenca worked as a mural painter for about 10 years before taking an entire decade off. He explained how he fell in and out of his passion because it became a job. That was until he reassessed the things important to him in his life – painting being one of the most important.
“Drawing and painting is a form of play, but as I got older it became a job. Painting murals for other people meant I was creating things that interested them and I wasn’t,” Bordenca said. “It took out most of the discovery, curiosity, experimentation and fun aspects. All of those things put together equal play. Fortunately, being a father has given me countless opportunities to play with our boys.
Bordenca explained that he would sometimes ask his 11-year-old son to stand in for his job and a portrayal of himself at that age to capture what he wants in this show. The independence of her youngest child helped Bordenca return to this idea of painting the toys of her youth. Connecting through something as simple as childhood and toys inspired Bordenca to reconnect with her own forms of play through her art.
After not painting for a decade, Bordenca said it was important to reconnect to that part of himself without the limitations and expectations of others. As he got back into a groove, he took on the challenge of deciding what his show was about.
“There were countless options that others would generally like and approve of, but that wasn’t what it was about. What did I want to paint? It just kind of clicked on why not paint the things that I care about and love and mean a lot to me,” Bordenca said. “By painting what matters to me, the reaction I’m going to get from people is directly related to that thing that matters to me. It’s a much more satisfying experience to have people like what I do now because I do it for myself. People who see what I do enjoy it for the same reason I do.
Thus leading to his idea of ”Still Playing”.
“Toys are all something we can get,” he added.
Public Art Commission Chairman Bill Kaizen praised Bordenca’s work and felt it was a great starting point for Commissions to return to in-person events to present exhibits.
“Chris’ work is particularly suited to the holiday season. With its tables of retro toys, it reminds a lot of our childhoods. I remember owning a number of the toys that he represents,” Kaizen said.
It’s been a long time coming since the commission had to stop presenting projects like this due to the pandemic. Kaizen said that while bringing visual arts to Amherst has been difficult, they were able to get state support to open the Portal Gallery on Boltwood Plaza, a new outdoor gallery space as a temporary solution.
“Because the city hall was closed for so long, we couldn’t hold exhibitions there,” Kaizen said. “Now that City Hall is open to the public, Chris’ show is a wonderful way to come back for a while. I know they miss having art to enjoy on the walls. The exhibition is aimed as much at them as at visitors to the town hall.
Bordenca also expressed his excitement for the return of a showcase like this.
“We installed it two weeks ago and just the people who work at the town hall alone, the reactions I got from them were just fantastic. They sat and worked in this office in this building for almost two years with nothing on the walls and so person after person kept coming and saying how happy they were to be able to see anything on those walls . ” Bordenca mentioned. “Especially with what I have, it’s pretty lighthearted and fun to watch, so it just added to the excitement they had when they got to see it all and have that thing in their back again. life.”
The project as a whole was rooted in connectivity, bringing the community together at in-person art events and eventually connecting anyone able to see Bordenca’s work with their inner child, as he did through his work.
“Now any appreciation for these paintings is the icing on the cake of the result of doing something that I really love,” Bordenca said. “The importance of play should not be underestimated in our lives. In the short time that we are here, we will always be children who need to play.
To see more of Bordenca’s paintings, you can visit bordenca.com or his Instagram page at @chris_bordenca_art. Some of his work is also featured in The Quarters in Hadley and The Small Works Show at Hope and Feathers a few blocks away from December 1 to January 11.
Prints of Bordenca’s work can be purchased from his online store at bordenca.com. To purchase an original painting, you can email him at [email protected] or send him a direct message via Instagram.