A Walke on the Wild Side

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A sampling of Ted Walke’s work lines the walls.

By Christina Heintzelman

Well known throughout the city as the owner and operator of Gallery@Second, which operated for eight years in the early 2000s, Ted Walke didn’t go dark when the gallery did. Even though some, including himself, might describe his paintings as dark surrealism and his self-named website is called DarkTed, Walke continues to light up the local art scene with his work and has plans to reopen the gallery.

The gallery showcased the best artists in Central Pennsylvania and was a meeting place for the public during monthly Third in TheBurg events in the city. The two-story 1839 Federal-style house showcased a new exhibit every few months on the first floor and featured an ever-changing space upstairs for artists to hang pieces available for immediate purchase.

“My wife, Linda, and I still own the building and we were preparing for a new resurgence when COVID struck and the re-opening could not happen then,” Walke said. “In the future I hope to reopen Gallery@Second as my personal studio and gallery with an option to occasionally host other artists with the same genre of art/style as mine. I am committed to continuing to be a Harrisburg artist (with in-person interactions) as we all emerge from and live with the cloud of COVID.” 

Walke’s art is now available for public consumption in the tasting room at Zeroday in their new Third Street location. An upcoming show will be at the Art Association of Harrisburg when the Nothing Pretty Collective, of which he is a member, has a group exhibition scheduled for October 2021. The Nothing Pretty Art collective was co-founded in 2017 by Walke and Sean Arce to celebrate the appreciation of contemporary art style of pop surrealism or lowbrow art. Pop surrealism is a populist art movement with cultural roots in comics, tattoo art, graffiti, and cartoons.  Lowbrow art has a sense of humor that is sometimes gleeful and often contains sarcastic commentary.

Walke describes his style as a combination of both along with dark surrealism. “I am not a fan of categories and genres as I do not want to fall into a particular niche. I am growing and changing with every series and when I am finished one series I like to pick up with a new style and medium for the next.”

As a teenager, Walke worked in the paper mill to earn money to attend HACC. “I was a student back in the day when a full course load was only $335.00 per semester,” he said. “I focused on art in industry and later became a commercial artist working in commercial illustration for forty years, being the clients’ eyes and hands for their vision.” 

In that time-period, up until the late ’70s, this type of commercial art was hand applied. It was only in the early ’80s that computer graphics became a popular way of creating graphic design. His fine art now is the antithesis of the commercial conformity he had to apply during his working years. “I like leaving conformity behind to see what happens with a merging of planned and accidental in my personal art,” Walke said.

Walke entered local art shows in the late ’70s and early ’80s while he was starting his career in graphic design. A high point was a one man show at the Doshi in 1981. His exhibit was markedly different from his work now as the art was done in line work pen and ink and acrylic.  The exhibit was entitled “Servi” and was highly representational and heavy in content. Servi is a Latin word with the dual meaning of to serve in its verb tense and as a noun meaning servant.  He associated this word with animal rights using the Latin word as a double entendre linking it with the practice of animal vivisection thereby making the animal subservient to man. “My concept was making a statement first with no thought of salability.”

In 2009, Walke decided to produce a mixed-media piece of art for the Art Associations of Harrisburg’s annual membership show “Figuratively Speaking.” His piece was awarded first place, which spurred him to enter the 2010 and 2012 Art of the State prestigious yearly exhibition putting his work alongside that of artists from across Pennsylvania.

The “Servi” exhibit can be closely linked to another later exhibit, “You Are What You Eat,” which showed at 3rd Street Studio-Fine Arts Gallery in 2016. The trio of line work with saturated color painted on wood made a correlation between satisfying cravings for food and satisfying one’s desire for companionship and lust. This links to another series titled “Ethics Over Excess,” which represented the wastefulness of excessive use of animals and the moral conundrum of the carnivorous lifestyle promoted by the factory farm system. 

Walke’s words for young artists trying to make it in the time of social media is this, “Self confidence in being an artist has no better challenge than being told ‘you can’t do it.’ You can do it; you just need to clearly see your own vision.”

Walke does commission work in addition to selling prints of some of his original pieces. He can be reached through his Facebook page: @lowbrowbears, Instagram account: @munkybearhell, and his website: www.DarkTed.com.