VISIONS: A masked artist lays out his agenda

The artist known as Delae C. Noctra schools First Friday patrons at Woodland Moth in Winston-Salem.

It was hard to miss the burly man dressed in all black and wearing a ninja mask and cat eyes in front of Woodland Moth on Trade Street as he gestured enthusiastically towards a painting in the gallery window for the benefit of a receptive, well dressed couple in their middle years.

The First Friday festivities, with Trade and West 6th streets blocked off in all four directions from their intersection and the sound of a drum circle echoing off the storefronts, suggested the possibility that anything could happen on this night that is a ritual monthly celebration of the arts in Winston-Salem.

Despite the shroud of mystery surrounding the artist who goes by the nom de guerre Delae C. Noctra, he had many enthusiastic agents salted into the room to promote his work. When a couple entered the gallery and stopped to inspect a piece called “Late for Work,” a young woman and her father helpfully suggested spinning the painting on its axis to get the full effect. The agents also pointed out images embedded in the paintings, praised the work and solicited feedback.  

“The artwork up until a year ago didn’t exist,” said Delae, a Winston-Salem resident who is approaching his 30th birthday. “I had a dream. It was 3 o’clock in the morning. I drew the image. When I painted it I could see the letters. I got started and I couldn’t stop. I ended up with 125 images.” 

The artist, whose name in reverse spells “art concealed,” paused and gestured toward his mask. 

“The reason why I conceal my identity is to take the focus off the artist,” he said. “I do street art, too, and I have to have this.” 

All of Delae’s paintings on display at Woodland Moth this month use an approach the artist characterizes as “hydroliptic,” a word that is a hybrid of “hydro” and “elliptic.” 

A mash-up of images, heavy lines and embedded letters, the paintings are designed to present a different visage each time you turn the frame. And, as the artist notes in an online manifesto, getting the full effect requires the viewer to manually rotate the painting – a practice generally frowned upon in galleries and museums. “Most fine art paintings are so realistic,” Delae writes, “I wanted to touch them and always got a hand slap for trying.” 

The piece de resistance is an homage to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City. From one perspective it shows 10 people standing inside one of the towers watching an airliner plow into the building with the other tower in the distance. From another, it shows a father with his arms around his two children watching the attacks on television. Turned to a third side the clouds in the first perspective become human figures pointing up to the towers from the building. 

The image is replete with numeric symbolism. For instance, there are 11 windows along the side of the airliner. And the fact that there are 10 people looking out the window suggests to the viewer that she is the 11th person. 

To add living poetry, the 9-11 piece was scheduled to be installed in Grand Rapids, Mich. for the ArtPrize contest on Sept. 11., on the 11th anniversary of the attacks and the first Sept. 11 since 2001 that the date has fallen on a Tuesday. 

Delae acknowledges in his manifesto that individual viewers are likely to see different images, but during his opening reception he was happy to explain his intentions. 

“The final thing which brings a lot of emotion to me is the people in the tower, and the last thing they saw is this,” he said. 

A collective “ah” came from the group assembled around him as they took stock of the plane approaching the window. 

“I hope you remember that,” Delae said.  

WANNA GO? Hydroliptic Alphabet, an exhibit of work by Delae C. Noctra, is on display at Woodland Moth, located at 619 N. Trade St. in Winston-Salem, through the month of September.

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