Behind the Scenes at the DAM

Waddell Paintings May Remind You of an Inkblot Test

Have you ever taken an inkblot test? It’s a psychological test where a person is shown an image of an ink blot pressed between two sides of a piece of paper to create mirror images of a blot, then asked what they see.  Although there are no correct answers, the most common images people see are butterflies and people’s faces. But have you ever seen cows in an ink blot test? A new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum might just remind you of an ink blot test and prompt you to question, “Where’s the beef?”

The artist Theodore Waddell in Theodore Waddell’s Abstract Angus successfully couples fundamentals of the abstract expressionist movement with real subjects and playfully blurs the line between abstraction and realism. His thick, impastoed and subtly colored surfaces are dynamic compositions that only suggest the presence of cattle. So when does a cow in Waddell’s paintings turn from a stroke of paint to something identifiable as a cow?

Image credit: Theodore Waddell. Angus Drawing #107. 1984. Oil paint on paper. Collection of the artist, TL-30997.

Nicole A. Parks is the curatorial assistant in the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum. Nicole has been at the DAM since 2005. She recommends that visitors don’t miss the Roath Collection exhibited throughout the western American art galleries.