Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Artist of the Week

Dave Demske

The artistic drive as demons pushing their way through the hand of the artist is a great way to explain the process. It makes the process seem nearly uncontrolled, and unpredictable. Yes, many artists are well trained and educated and spend years exploring and developing these demons. However, demons would explain a lot. There are just too many incredibly beautiful pieces of art in the world. They can't all be created from a simple set of skills.

This is how award winning multi-media artist Dave Demske describes his process. His work ranges from straight forward acrylic based paintings to junkyard assemblages that draw the eye in several directions at once. In September, he was presented with the William and Jeanne Batten Merit Award for Sculpture for his piece entitled, “The Nature of Love”. We have been working on this interview for the last month and in that time he won this award and created a website to display his work.

Recently, Dave was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Dave Demske (DD): My current works are cathartic, another form of therapy, an attempt either to cast out demons that have plagued me most of my life, or else to explore topics or thoughts I find significant.

To me, good art is a form of communication which interacts with the viewers and rewards them with something to ponder-sometimes challenging their illusory comfort zones.

OA: I really enjoy your various mixed media pieces. Where do you find all your spare parts?
DD: Parts are scavenged for my assemblages from junkyards, flea markets, garage sales, attics, dumpsters... the search for odd or unusual pieces which speak to me takes me into some dark, cobweb-filled places, which flavors the end result.

One certain found object might be the catalyst for a creation, but it often takes years of accumulating junk before the right combination is gathered to form a concise thought.

OA: You utilize a lot of images from childhood, clowns, babies, etc. but then twist them into a darker place. How did you get into using these types of images?
DD: Let's just say nothing is created in a vacuum. While using various substances to keep the demons at bay, I painted lots of pretty pictures, watercolors of snow scenes, barns, flowers- Hallmark crap.

After enough treatment centers, therapy sessions, and years without anesthetics, I got a little more honest with presenting my personal reality. Using unwanted, thrown-out junk, I try to create something valuable or worthwhile. Like I said, nothing is created in a vacuum. Each time I produce a significant piece of work feels like going through a horribly painful childbirth.

OA: You recently were presented with the Wiliam and Jeanne Batten Merit Award for Sculpture. What was that experience like?
DD: Out of the six times entering the Midwest Museum of American Art Annual Regional Artists Exhibit, I've won two Best Mixed Media Awards and now this Merit Award for Sculpture. The jurors for this show were Richard Hunt, Chicago sculptor, and Richard Roth, a Baltimore painter. Each time it was like going through that painful childbirth and having someone say, "Hey! Your kid's not so ugly after all!" Being short on self-esteem, the recognition from professional artists helps to reinforce the feeling that my creations do possess merit.

It motivates me to return to the junkyard and get impregnated again.

OA: You work in several different mediums, in which do you feel the most comfortable? Do you feel one is more artistic or valid than another?
DD: Construction of found objects may not be the most comfortable, but on a personal level the assemblages feel the most rewarding, and the medium is one where the voices in my head don't have power to nag me with "That's not the way you were taught to make art in school." Those interruptive, invasive thoughts are circumvented as I rely more on instinct, or the subconscious, which produces a more truthful end result. It's like writing with your left hand when you are right-handed- the internal judges are muted, because you know from the start that perfection is unattainable. The piece becomes perfect in its imperfection.

Assemblages fulfill a primal hunter-gatherer urge. The first obstacle to overcome is actually finding the stuff. The challenge to create is heightened when I'm forced to produce a meaningful, significant statement from discarded debris. The pay-off though, the satisfaction of accomplishment is magnified when my socially disdained medium (other people's trash) is re-evaluated and accepted as profound or valuable.

Any medium, any form of expression- poetry, music, clay, paint, refuse... has artistic validity to me if it bears truth and comes from the artist's core. These are the pieces that survive the judgement of time, as they possess a certain communal message on a universal level.

OA: You have been at this for awhile, what, if anything, do you feel has changed in the last 10 to 15 years?
DD: Good junk is getting harder to find, with so much crap being made of plastic now. It doesn't rust or develop character with age like old wood. People discard things so quickly the items don't have time to develop their own personality or soul. Everything is mass-produced- nothing has its own energy.

Also, my eyesight is getting weaker, which really frustrates me. I swear a lot when working. I mean A LOT.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup?
DD: Oh Hell Yeah. As an addict, as opposed to an elite coffee connoisseur, anywhere I can get the first cup of the day, bottomless, cheapest, served with the least amount of conversation, is the best cup. Also getting harder to find.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
DD: Like the mediums I use to create, my musical tastes run the gamut- from Vivaldi to DMX to the Russian Red Army Choir. No one can beat my son's lyrics. Nick Demske puts poetry to music and creates from the core. Special props also to Santana for doing the same, for understanding soul sacrifice, and also to Neil Young who knows rust never sleeps. And to Jimi, who still makes me cry.

For more information on Dave Demske please visit his newly created website.

1 comment:

Bonk said...

Dave Demske is a beefy bologna dream. One day he will lead us all into eternal sunrise...