Max's mazes

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Key points ° Painter Max Damore has been added to the stable of artists at TEI Modern Contemporary Gallery, in the Torian Plum Plaza. ° The gallery is open from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays. ° Call 879-2240

Max Damore paintings are like mazes that you follow with your eyes. The lines wind around each other and fold into the shapes of figures or scenery. They play across the canvas like musical notes leaving the bell of a horn. They creep across the canvas like a sloth along a branch. They capture the things that Damore sees and hears -- a shape, a song, a moment with his wife.

In the painting "Coming Together," it takes a moment to see the images of two people facing each other among crazy lines.

"I like my paintings to be complex and layered," he said.

Damore recently was added to the stable of artists at the TEI Modern Contemporary Gallery, joining the company of local artists Robert Dieckhoff, Ben Steiner, Nancy Jeffrey, Rob Williams, Pat Walsh, Susan Schiesser and Beth Banning. He will have his first one-person show in July.

Damore's neo-cubist style of images dissected and reassembled according to shape and color began to develop in college.

"I took art classes in high school because they were easy," he said. "I always drew, but there wasn't any real challenge in drawing things exactly as they were."

He went to school at Western Michigan University, majoring initially in graphic design. Among his prerequisites was a "dreaded painting class."

Instead of setting up a still life for her students to paint, Damore's professor gave him a 30-by-30 inch canvas and told him simply to make a painting.

"The canvas was blank," he said. "It was intimidating." He took the canvas home and started drawing.

"What I drew was just a doodle, but when I painted it and put color on it, it came to life," he said. "Right then, I was set free. I realized that maybe this was my voice.

"Everyone is talented somehow, they just have to find what it is."

Damore has been using the same principles of shape, color and movement in his paintings for 12 years since discovering their potential in that notebook doodle.

But he has learned to incorporate form and meaning into his shapes.

"I try to capture the essence of things. I'm inspired by so many things, like walking by my neighbor's house and seeing the TV flashing different colors in the window or seeing a shape along the dog path," he said. "I hear music and I try to capture the sound.

"I heard a song full of noisy music and strange horn sounds, like a carnival, and I tried to think about what kind of musicians would play that music."

The musicians he created are bulbous and round cheeked, playing in some kind of roiling Mos Eisley background.

"I think you should look at a painting, and it should be visually interesting," Damore said. "You shouldn't have to read three pages about it in order to enjoy it."

Art lovers will recognize Damore's work from the walls surrounding the entrance of the Mountain Film Festival held at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel in the falls of 2003 and 2004. TEI Modern Contemporary is the first gallery to represent Damore's work.

"I didn't want to bring out my work until I was ready," he said. When Damore decided he was ready to start selling his work, he made a trip to Manhattan to visit galleries. He didn't think there would be a place for him in his town.

Damore found his place at the gallery at the last Mountain Film Festival when TEI's artistic director Susan Schiesser saw his work.

"I like his work because of its vibrant palette," Schiesser said. "His work reminds me of the modernists from the '50s and revisiting that with his color palette makes it fresh in my mind."

To view more of Damore's work, visit www.maxdamore.com.

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