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.
more beers and adjourned to the kitchen.]
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.
DP: It's the first mark you make. I'm learning to accept that mark.
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.
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.
all stopped laughing, we continued.
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
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.
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.
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