Computers provide the paint brush for Duken Delpe art; as they do in everyday life. He knows their workings well. So, Duken uses each piece in his work with insight. The deeper you look into his art, the more intricate and outstanding it becomes. His work provides an entry to the world in a computer. It also invites you into Delpe’s brilliant mind.
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That’s like Duken Delpe himself. The more I talked to him, the more fascinating he was. A teacher, a chemical engineer, a doting father of four, and a practicing nurse. He’s all these things. Still, Duken creates these meticulous pieces in his Boston studio. A master of mixed media, he uses such ingenuity, his work never ceases to surprise.
One such work lies in the video below The Thinker. It’s striking in person. Check it out at Leez Gallery if you’re in downtown Manhattan during 2020 before it’s sold. Duken Delpe combines wires, motherboards, and iPhones with paint and imagination.
Mass of Tears – Duken Delpe
Sometimes the meaning behind a work of art changes. For instance, Mass of Tears. Upon first viewing it appears like a shiny, metallic mandala of sorts. Colorful and bright, it feels like a flower. But when Duken Delpe explained this work to me, it blossomed into something else.
Duken’s a detail person. There’s tremendous proof of this illustrated by Mass of Tears. The detail in this work isn’t obvious. For instance, the silver balls throughout are aluminum soda can bottoms. Duken shaped them into these spheres one by one. He chose them with great care. In fact, each can has a serial number imprint. So, Duken picked them based on these numbers. He matched each silver ball to the number of people killed in an American mass shooting.
That’s why Duken Delpe entitled the work Mass of Tears. You’ll notice the colorful aspects of this piece right away. But there are also slashes of black paint. Details like this lie in the deeper look. In fact, lean in and look super close. You’ll also see that the numbers fade out from the center to the edges of the silver sunburst. Delpe wore them down in increments as they move away from the middle. That’s because he wants to raise awareness of our collective memory loss.
Of course, if you lost someone in a mass shooting, there’s none for you. We can’t ever forget the loss of our loved ones. But as a nation, we’re expert forgetters. Mass shootings set a perfect example of this sad fact. It takes little time for America to forget these horrific experiences. That may be because we are a numb nation. There’s also apathy, detachment, and distraction. Blame spreads over all our country’s commonalities. But no matter why we forget, it’s still our loss.
This poignant piece reminds us that no matter how, why, or when we choose to forget our loss – it remains. If Mass of Tears kept a tally for new mass shootings it would continue to grow. The artwork calls out for us to remember and stay mindful. It shines a clean and bright message. Each silver circle shares a reflection. It asks us to look at our mass shootings. These numbers are people we’ve lost. That’s why these numbers matter. This work means many things. It forces the viewer to think as well as look. Great art doesn’t do the work for us. Instead American artist, Delpe makes that challenge more intriguing.
Data Mining Machine
His work Data Mining Machine grins magnificent in the Leez Gallery window. This extraordinary skull served as my introduction to Duken Delpe. I live in lower Manhattan near Leez. So, more than once this Data Mining Machine has brought my brisk walk to a standstill. It entrances. Check out Duken’s instagram and see many of his other enthralling pieces there too.
The teeth are distinct, organic choppers. They’re not the usual too-perfect teeth we’re accustomed to in our culture. These bite like reality. Duken Delpe made them from special glossy plaster. In fact, he worked this entire skull out by hand in layers. But it’s hollow inside. Another startling aspect to Delpe sculptures lies in their practicality. They work as chargers for your phone or tablet.
Much like Duken Delpe’s other works, Data Mining Machine has many levels. It works as a device. The parts have specific purpose within a computer that translates into artistic meaning. There’s the inner world of the human being as well as the outer world of the tech. Many of us choose to focus our lives on that outer world. We live through the screens we watch. These interactions are digital and flat. But Duken Delpe reminds us that inner worlds remain crucial.
When I met with Duken to talk about his work, he told me wonderful stories. I was grateful to learn about his art and the meaning resonant within these profound pieces. He also suggested that I try a week without social media, “maybe even a month”. At the time I thought too much of my work lives and breathes online. How could I give it up? But thanks to Duken, I’m reminded that no matter how much that may be true, real life lies offline.