Intense, choreographed dances of reflecting, pop-colored forms and patterns, Carl Lopes’s paintings don’t match any of the traditional art categories. A Lopes painting is a celebration—a visual feast. Like a piece of music, it is masterfully balanced with moments of rest as significant as the busier fast-moving shapes. His paintings, which combine woodworking, painting, drawing, and collage, are distinctly modern. Large, curved forms skip from one side
to the other. Every edge of a form is trimmed with tiny, repeated patterns that pull the eye from one element to the next.
Lopes takes his most direct cues from early African art. “I’ve always liked ancient art especially from Africa,” Lopes says. “I collect masks. I always liked the fact that the faces had character and personality even though the forms were abstracted. To take simple forms and put them together to represent a face and have that face represent a feeling—I thought that was pretty powerful.” Lopes uses the masks—of which he has many examples—as his own starting point, translating it through what he calls a “geometric style,” that he developed over many years.
“My ethnic background is Cape Verdean,” he says. “I feel I need to use content representing African nations that is regal in a sense.” Time spent living on Cape Cod has also influenced Lopes. “I am an avid fisherman. I noticed one day that when you pull a fish up on to the deck of a boat, you see all these iridescent colors in the scales,” he says. The changes in scale and the glossiness of the surfaces make Lopes’s paintings engrossing. From a distance, the large forms grab you; up close, the smaller patterns are mazes. “I try to represent what I do in a positive fashion,” he says. “People look at my paintings and they smile.”
Lopes is Art Director at Barnstable High School, where he has been teaching since 1978. With classes ranging from fashion design to cartooning and film/video, the arts program at Barnstable is one of the most vibrant on the Cape. Lopes worked for five years to create a gallery at the school, which finally became a reality in 2009. He runs it and shows a combination of both student and professional work. Lopes often comes home after a full day of teaching to spend hours in his studio. “I’m a better artist because of being an arts educator,” he says.
Lopes has used his experience as a teacher to become one of the Cape’s best advocates for arts outreach. He was the first Arts Educator of the Year, chosen in 2007 by the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. Through it all, he is committed to education. “I say to myself, ‘What good do I want to bring out?’ That’s why I’m a teacher,” he says. “I try to teach my students that the art world is not full of artists that are starving and miserable. There is a whole other side.”