Like Vasco de Gama's overseas journey to India in search of the optimum spice trade route, painter Donald Fels journeyed to India to discover the riches of Indian signboard painting. The result is an exhibition that will show simultaneously at the MAC and at Saranac beginning May 2. The exhibit is the culmination of two Fulbright trips to India whereby Fels commissioned former billboard and sign painters to collaborate on signs he designed. 

Asking "What is a Trade?", Fels articulates the impact of globalization. First Sight, for example, shows the children's book illustration of da Gama as hero, yet the text expresses that "Discovering India, Vasco da Gama saw much that wasn't there/Most of what was there he didn't see." Our interpretation of history depends on context.

This is not just a show about the paintings themselves. Fels' reminds us that the journey is more about the process of discovery than it is the destination. From his website: "...artists have a role to play in the world – their contribution lies not only in producing works of art; they can create solutions for public issues, and innovate methods for thinking through complex problems." With folksy appeal, the paintings comment wryly on relevant issues as "progress," so-called free-trade, and how globalization impacts culture from the vantage point of both the explorer and the explored. 

This is an exhibit that could be easily underrated without the context provided in the accompanying literature, including a gorgeously illustrated exhibition catalog.  Before you set out on your journey, navigate to Fels' site at for a primer on this adventurer's unique approach to art.