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  Interview w/ Painter Dave Pearson  
  By Chris Johnson and E.K. Buckley, published in citylink newspaper  
     
 

View the work of Dave PearsonDave Pearson is my upstairs neighbor in East Pilsen. He's a painter. I hear pounding and sawing and strange low pitch motor hums, muffled shrieks of wood on wood or metal on metal through the floor. And I asked myself, "What the hell's he building up there?" He's putting together an art exhibition for May 31st. I asked him if I could interview him for Citylink. We grilled burgers in the backyard, had a few beers, and talked about his recent work. The following is a conversation between Dave, myself, and another painter in the show, E.K. Buckley.

CJ: The new pieces…what are they going to be like?
DP: They're going to be more immediate. I'm trying to capture an initial mark; I feel that that's a more honest and felt expression. A more honest vehicle of expressing. I'm not going to edit mistakes or joints or seams, so everything will be more exposed, so it will be more telling of my emotions when I make the piece. The more refined things are the less I feel an emotional connection to them. Like cave painting or stick figures, immediate response is what I'm looking for.
CJ: More primitive?
DP: More direct.

[We grabbed more beers and adjourned to the kitchen.]

DP: Living for the honest mark. The most honest mark you can make. And that mark will be immediately known by the viewer as being something real.
CJ: How?
DP: It's the first mark you make. I'm learning to accept that mark.

CJ: What goes into it [the artwork]?
DP: First it's the walking, and the seeing, and then I have all this stuff bubbling in my head, and I feel it's right for it to come out. Then I just start working with wood, making figures, making shapes. Then I stretch the canvas and I start to paint. And then I start layering other pieces of wood and shapes and objects, sometimes found, sometimes I just made. Then I start building the structure of the shrine, or house, or environment, for the sacred thing it encases.

CJ: So, it sounds like you think of these structures as housing for these characters to live in.
DP: It's like a shrine or a church that these things live in or go to.

Many of Dave's pieces have no formal names. He refers to them as "the shrines." In the stark white space of his upstairs apartment these works simulate an intimate chapel to what this specific artist decides is sacred. The dark and visceral imagery juxtaposed with the casings traditionally associated with mainstream religious decoration has an immense effect.

CJ: Why do you use so much hand & eyeball imagery in your work?
DP: The eyeball is god's eye, most likely. The hand is from recurring dismemberment dreams of cutting off my hand.

After we all stopped laughing, we continued.

CJ: What's the new show [Informal Reclamation] about?
DP: It's about art as nature, nature overtaking institutional structures, civilizations, breaking them down, and returning to the base human. Whatever is coming out of the urban environment is part of us.

CJ: Why is the show so focused on the urban experience? Why is that so interesting to you?
DP: I grew up in a rural environment, came to the city and was shocked by the beauty of eroded bridges, graffiti bridges; just what nature has etched on existing structures. I think that people that live here in the city don't see it, but coming from outside you see it as a different environment.

EK: How would you describe East Pilsen?
DP: It's mostly semi-residential, semi-industrial, largely Latino. And there's a lot of old stuff going on, broken bridges, things being built and rebuilt, there's even an elevated prairie, up on the old train tracks that lead into kind of a makeshift woods. Just things you never imagine to be in the city, I've seen pheasants, bunnies, I've seen people living under bridges. But I think the elevated prairie is kind of a metaphor for the show, it's a railroad track overgrown with prairie and grass. You're walking over this prairie, this nature bridge. It's really beautiful. There are lots of weird little places in the neighborhood if you take the time to walk around and find them. Though, (laughter) unfortunately, there're all illegal.
EK: How long have you been doing this, seriously pursuing painting?
DP: 12 years.
EK: So what has it been like in that time?
DP: I found that perceptions of what an artist does and is, is vastly different from how the public eye views it.
EK: How?
DP: The public sees us as trying to get away with something, being dishonest, not really having a real job. It's work. Without much reward, as far as financial, or public support. Social acceptance. You find that you go through it because there's nothing else you can really do. You have to do it because you have to do it. Nothing else really satisfies you. You don't get paid for it. But you have to do it. You spend lots of hours on a piece and never get adequate pay for it.

EK: Why did you decide to do a show?
DP: Well, it's hard to say, exactly. Kelly [Brannon] came to me, and we have no venue to show. We're (gesturing to EK) all working on the same ideas. And we all have our houses, so we'll open up our houses. You guys, the Chicago Artist's Collective, also had some good ideas on how to promote the show. I want to make it a quarterly event. Who knows. Eventually, we'll get fire breathers to come in to get all the unbelievers.

Chicago Artists' Collective premieres Dave Pearson's recent works as part of Informal Reclamation, an exhibit featuring his paintings along with the paintings of Kelly Brannon, E.K. Buckley, and David Moskow. The show, a one night event on May 31st, 2002, will run from 6pm - 12am at 908 West 19th Street, garden and second floor artists' studios, in the heart of East Pilsen. Check out Dave's work on charcoll.com or contact the artist directly at (312) 545-4898.