Today we’d like to introduce you to David Downs.
David, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I was born in St. Louis Missouri and first began drawing with a box of crayons and the neighbor boy who babysat my sister and I. When I started college, I majored in photography. I didn’t have the financial means to finish school. I began painting, teaching myself with a cheap box of oils, in my teen years. I was greatly influenced by the work of Anselm Kiefer, Chuck Close, and Gerhard Richter and moved between styles of photo realism and neo-expressionism. I live with a friend in New York for a bit who was painting nonobjective abstraction and was very fascinated by the way he could conjure up beautifully intriguing paintings through process and experimentation. I live with a friend in New York for a bit who was painting nonobjective abstraction and was very fascinated by the way he could conjure up beautifully intriguing paintings through process and experimentation. I began heavily studying the abstract expressionists from the 1940s and adopting some of their ideals while experimenting and nonobjective painting myself. Around the same time, I started a publishing company that has since put out seven bucks and one magazine about artists I have reached out to you from around the world. Around the same time, I started a publishing company that has since put out seven books, a magazine, and a video series about artists I have reached out to from around the world. Painting has always been a sort of exploration in art history for me and this became a way to connect more with what was happening currently. It wasn’t until recently that I realized art making for me did not have to exist in any kind of particular movement. Now, when I approach art making I am thinking of installations that can include many types of work from realism to abstraction, painting, sculpture, and sound. This approach can feel really freeing but even more challenging. I’m quite excited for the next year of working in my tiny studio in uptown trying to figure out how to make it all work.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I make work almost with the intention of creating a riddle for the viewer. I am hoping that the work is stimulating enough that it can attract attention immediately, but will retain the attention of an inquisitive mind. I have made a lot of different paintings in the past few years and it was hard to figure out how they all connected. It wasn’t until I had the space to start arranging the work that I realized you could alter the subject by its association with other works. Now when I am making art works, it is often with the intent of using them like ready-mades to arrange in an installation. The installation is what creates meaning for the work. I’ve begun moving into sculptural realm as well while referencing art history. A painting I am currently working on is actually a very large soft sculpture made from canvas partially stretched on a wood frame that is primed and painted in oil. It has all the makings of a painting by definition yet presents itself as a sculpture. As a double meaning, the work is a 1948 Oldsmobile convertible, the same one that Jackson Pollick crashed and died in. It has all the makings of a painting by definition yet presents itself as a sculpture. As a double meaning, the work is a 1948 Oldsmobile convertible, the same one that Jackson Pollick crashed and died in. I kind of feel like I’m giving away secret when I mention that, though.
Beyond that current project, I have a series of work I am creating based on reducing simple subject matter into process by repetition. This is where I take a single subject and paint it multiple times in various ways, experimenting with different processes. Another project expands the idea of the self-portrait towards different methods of representing the self.
Beyond all of that, I really have no idea what’s next. I am hoping that my work will become more and experiential for the viewer as well as question and stretch ideas about art making and subject matter.
Artists face many challenges, but what do you feel is the most pressing among them?
There are a lot of challenges new and old. The greatest challenge is always the challenge you face your self-creating art. The challenge of being relevant and interesting and true to yourself. After that is the challenge of getting your work seen. Chicago has a lot of calories. The number of calories have been diminishing rather quickly these days. There is a lack of government funding and private funding and a lot of independent locations where you can see the more innovative and less commercial side of art are closing their doors.
Another challenge is the cost of education. I for one could never afford to attend school. The artists I know who have finished school are deeply in debt. They are most likely never going to be able to pay off that debt as art generally does not produce the kind of income to pay the high cost of tuition. While many art critics and art writers would agree that a graduate degree in art is really unnecessary, it is understood that it gives you an immense advantage on the professional front.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
On November 2, 2018, a group of artists and I are planning a pop up art show in West Town. It stemmed from an idea I had for putting together an art show and a truck which I did last winter. We decided instead that we would try to rent a storefront. Other than that, I sometimes have work up at the gallery adjacent to my art studio in the Preston Bradley Center in uptown Chicago. We have a space there that artists working in the studios share to display their work regularly. My Instagram @davidpdowns has been better than my website, www.davidpauldowns.com for showing works in progress. To be honest, artwork really needs to be seen in person. The best way to support an artist is to come to any show that they are part of. Just having bodies in the space looking at the work and experiencing it firsthand is the best way to support an artist and help them get more shows. To be honest, artwork really needs to be seen in person. The best way to support an artist is to come to any show that they are part of. Just having bodies in the space looking at the work and experiencing it firsthand is the best way to support an artist and help them get more shows. There is nothing comparable to seeing art face to face and interacting with its dimensions and smells, colors or sounds… a picture can’t do it a fraction of justice.
If you would like to see a video of me working in my studio, you can do a YouTube search for David Downs and WERKS.
- Website: www.davidpauldowns.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @davidpdowns
Images by David Downs