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Art & Life with David Dow

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Dow.

David, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
During my junior year in art school at USC in Los Angeles I created an installation piece called “a day in the life of a mining engineer, going to art school, who wants to be a fashion designer” – which precisely summed up the disjointed path I was veering on. I ended up leaving art school to join the family business (the mining part); it was a 5-year detour but eventually I escaped and began my career in fashion retail, wholesale and design/manufacturing. For more than 30+ years I dragged my ceramic tools from Los Angeles to Sonoma County and finally to Bloomington Normal IL where late last year they were unpacked, washed off and put back to work.

My “day job” is designing products, primarily leather goods, for a portfolio of global brands; but by early afternoon I’m able to shift over to my work bench and sink my hands into clay.

My life has been shaped by, and my work is infused with the greatest gift my parents could give me – travel. From exploring the souks of Tehran in 4th grade to the 30 years of wandering the globe with my partner Jim Neeley, travel has given me a sense of curiosity, appreciation, tolerance, empathy and awe.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I’m currently working in self-hardening clay and paper mache. The starting point is masks – do masks hide who we are or allow us to become something we’re not? Do they help us thrive or allow us to survive?

Normal Tribe—Series 1 has its roots in the deep love and impenetrable bonds formed with the families of choice we create—they sustain, nurture, inspire and protect when blood families let us down. In my lifelong fascination with tribal masks—at once decorative, magical, transporting and steeped in symbolism. In a cerebral query: are body painting, tattoo and scarification really less “civilized” than Botox and plastic surgery? In an obsession with travel that was born in the fourth grade and continues uninterrupted—the always eye-opening and sense-stimulating exposure to cultures vastly different from our own. And in the medium itself: self-hardening clay. Each mask is like a relationship as features, characteristics and souls take form through my eyes, imagination, hands and tools.

During our current 2-man show I had the privilege of meeting a visiting, artist, art historian and Fulbright scholar at ISU who is from Uganda. I was able to ask Dr. Kakande about a challenge that was raised to me about a white man co-opting tribal art references. His response is something I will never forget; you are not born in Africa but in whom Africa was born. In my clay family of choice, each soul is unique but together they thrive because of their diversity.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
Particularly given the current climate in our country and world, and the disintegrating civility within our governments, it’s critical for artist to be the glue in our communities – to use our work to open critical dialogues about so many important issues (race, immigration, global warming, access to healthcare, fair trade…).

Art and action need to go hand-in-hand as we work to preserve essential pillars in our democracy – a free and vibrant press, welcoming communities for all people… Recently, Wisecracker Studio used our Wisecracker 3.0 exhibit to host a meet-and-greet fundraiser for the Democratic, female, black candidate that we’re supporting for McLean County Clerk.

Artist and our work can be ambassadors around the world to help preserve cross border relationships that are being daily challenged by the current administration’s xenophobia and populism.

But of course, there is plenty of room for artists and their work to bring joy, awe, amazement, a smile, a wink – mental oxygen – along with the other weighty responsibilities and challenges.

Is this different than past generations of artists – or does it feel weightier because we’re doing the lifting?

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Wisecracker 3.0 is a two-man show at the Jan Brandt Gallery in Bloomington Normal IL, running through August 24, 2018.

Wisecracker Studio’s work was exhibited at the preeminent antique and design show in Brimfield MA in May 2018.

Wisecracker Studio’s work was featured in a pop-up gallery at Mixx at Montage in Millerton NY, June 2018.

Facebook @wisecrackerstudio

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Lucas Stiegman

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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