Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Change is Good by Jeff Haynes

Lots of people change majors in college.

But rarely is the change of the magnitude lived by Somerville artist Scott Cahaly. When he started out as a biology major, Scott was in a dark place. Caught in the grip of depression, he managed to find some relief from an unexpected source: an art course taken to satisfy curriculum requirements.

What started as a form of therapy evolved into an entirely new direction for Scott. He described the experience as “opening a valve” that taps straight into his creativity. And now “it’s my job to let it well up from inside,” he said.

The change was so profound that metamorphosis remains a common theme in his work. One of his favorite quotes is, “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly,” by Richard Bach.

By the time he left the University of Vermont, he had already had his first one-man show. Some of those pieces decorate the halls outside the studio where he has been for the past several years. The colors in his paintings are bold and vibrant, with a style that emulates stained glass windows or a form of mosaic. As both a sculptor and a painter, Scott said he conceptualizes all of his projects as three dimensional. As a result, the subjects in his paintings -- however abstract -- have crisp and well defined edges.

Scott draws inspiration from historical greats, such as Pablo Picasso and Michelangelo, as well as whatever is going on in his own life, he said. That includes everything from travels to relationships to adventures on his brand new bike.

And he is not one to meticulously map out every inch of the canvas before he begins.

“Each piece has its own spirit and destination,” Scott said. “It always just takes me. I never know what I’m getting into.”

Preparing himself for work typically means first allowing for a period of quiet meditation. That helps Scott avoid “over thinking” the work, so he can “go with how it feels” instead, he said.

“It’s a process of getting out of the way,” Scott said. “It’s so easy to get away from a creative path.”


Scott was only 9 years old, and had been watching his older brother make paper airplanes. He learned a particularly successful design, and proceeded to make over a dozen of them.

“It was the first time I could feel my hands going to work,” he said. Scott took the finished planes to school to share with his friends -- a move that provided nearly instant and positive feedback on his work.


During his high school years, Scott had a sketch pad he used to illustrate comic book characters. The fun of the experience led him to consider taking a class to explore art further.

One of his friends, however, squashed that idea. After Scott showed his drawings to the friend, the friend replied, “Those aren’t good. You won’t be happy in art class.”

-story and photo by Jeff Haynes http://web.mac.com/jeffhaynes