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Gavin's Underground

February Gallery Stroll: Dave Malone

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2011-02-20 -

As I made my way around Gallery Stroll this month I had to big things on my mind. First, it was disturbingly warm for a February jaunt through the streets of downtown SLC. And second, on “Radio From Hell” a few weeks ago Gina Barberi declared, and I quote... “I want some art!!!” So it was suggested that she go out to the Gallery Stroll this month to peruse the selection. I'm very curious as to whether or not she actually went anywhere and bought “some art”. And before you say it, no, we're not TMZ, I'm not looking for a photo of her buying a tacky mountainside setting. Just curious if she was out and about looking for something to hang in her stately manor.

As for myself I made my way over to Phillips Gallery for a solo exhibition. It's actually been nearly a year and a half since we last checked in with Meri DeCaria and her fine crew, so a return visit was long overdue. For this Stroll in the main gallery they had a new array of mixed media pieces from Dave Malone. I got a chance to chat with the man himself about his career and works, plus his thoughts on the local art scene. All with pictures from Friday night for you to check out over here.

Dave Malone

http://www.davemalone.com/

Gavin: Hey Dave, first thing, tell us a bit about yourself.

Dave: Well, I really live in two worlds: a world of creative output and a world of outdoor adventure. The latter centers almost solely around being with the love of my life, Jade, and fly fishing. To be totally honest, I’ve never been happier with the balance that I’ve been able to strike between my work processes and my personal time. And it’s invigorating to have so many amazing people around me. Jade is truly my muse, and she has inspired me to forge new paths in my work. When we’re not both busy with work, we travel and fly fish together. We find being on the river, experiencing nature all around us as we breathe clean air and take in the unrepeatable moments of life keeps us filled with perspective and a respect for the world in which we live. I’m also grateful to my friends who know me, stand by me, forgive me, challenge me, and make every day worth pursuing to the limit. As for my background, I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1964, quickly moved to Reno, Nevada, then to Orem, Utah, and then to Roy, Utah…this was all before I was four years old. My father is a landscape architect. Back then, he worked for the National Forest Service, so he was transferred often those first few years of my life. In 1969, we finally settled down in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I grew up. I graduated from Wood River High in 1982 and migrated back to Utah in 1984. I eventually attended the University of Utah and have been here ever since. From 1985-2002 my primary focus was on graphic design, illustration and the business of visual communications, the latter ten years of which, I was co-founder and creative director of Huddleston Malone Design (HMD), a design firm specializing in brand strategy, which was established in 1991 with my business partner, Barry Huddleston. Sometime between 1997 and 1999, I started becoming more connected to the process of making art when design projects I was working on called for a fine art component as part of the concept. This reminder of how liberating and pure art could be, combined with my growing need to get away from the grind of the design business, caused me to question why I was not making art. The freedom of the creative process, the openness to create and build without the confines of a marketing strategy or a business objective, the pureness and autonomy associated with marking art completely took hold of me. It quickly became a fixation, and it was very hard for me to see anything in the future but making art.

Gavin: What first got you interested in painting, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Dave: My first experience with painting was when I decided at the age of three to put a fresh coat of paint on the house without parental supervision. This is actually one of only two very early childhood memories that stand out in my mind and I love that it is one of them. Some of my earliest experiences were sitting on my dad’s lap while coloring landscape plans. Okay, I was probably scribbling on a sheet of paper off to the side while he was doing his work, but he made me feel like I was part of the process and I think that must have been very formative. My mother has always been into arts and crafts as well, and for the past thirty years she has owned an art supply store in Ketchum—that never hurt the cause. Apart from that, it’s really impossible to pinpoint at what juncture in my life I discovered that I was internally connected to the creative process; I’ve never known anything else. And for me, it’s certainly not just about painting. It’s about creative development on every level, and with every medium imaginable.

Gavin: For college you started at Boise State, but then transferred to the U for your degree. What made you choose both programs, and how did it work out for you earning your degree in that fashion?

Dave: There isn’t anything particularly compelling about those choices. Truthfully, attending Boise State University was more about getting out of Hailey, Idaho than it was about going to school. Don’t get me wrong, anyone would be lucky to live in Hailey, or the Wood River Valley, but growing up there had its challenges. Once I was at BSU with all my friends, it quickly turned into a less than productive experience. Coming to Utah was simply another escape route, but this time it was about getting out of Boise. Again, like Hailey, Boise was not the issue, it was really about staying clear of some potentially damaging influences. Once I was in Utah, enrolling at the U was a no-brainer. And it ultimately put me on a successful path as I worked my way through school and gained terrific experience in the design arena.

Gavin: What made you start up a design firm, and what was that like for you building your own company?

Dave: HMD was an amazing chapter in my life. I learned more life lessons during that decade than at any other period of time. I had only been out of school for four years when I met Barry, my soon-to-be business partner, fellow designer and all-around amazingly talented guy. We were both working for another local firm at the time, and it was not in the healthiest financial position. Our jobs were ultimately at risk due to the lack of ongoing business and dwindling accounts receivables. We were both rapidly facing the decision of “what’s next” in our careers. This is when the concept of opening our own firm began to take shape. We learned a lot in those first few years. It was definitely an “on the street” and “in the trenches” type of education. The key for us was always doing good work. And what we didn’t know about running a business, well, we learned quickly. Barry was a huge force in shaping who I am today and I hope he learned a few things from me as well. HMD was and always will be a great turning point in my creative existence.

Gavin: Why did you eventually change from having a company with several employees to doing a solo business? And how have things worked out for you since the change?

Dave: HMD had a great deal of success. We had a healthy client base, good revenue and we eventually employed 35 people including designers, copywriters, account service providers and administrative people. But the more successful we became, the farther I got from the work I loved. I didn’t want to deal with HR issues and internal wrangling—that was never what I was meant to be doing. In 2001, the economy took a huge hit. The technology markets fell hard and our core client base started to dry up. This turned out to be just the right impetus for me to start a new chapter in my life. I decided to pursue fine art. So from 2002-2005, that was my sole focus. It was all exploration at that time—I sculpted, sketched, worked in my garage and showed in small places (coffee shops and cafes). But at that time, the point wasn’t to sell art, it was to immerse myself in that world and discover who I was as an artist. Eventually, when it became a financial imperative, I started dabbling with freelance again. But when I returned to brand development and graphic design, it was with a new and refreshed perspective, and I discovered that I really do love that world too: the way carefully constructed visuals can communicate a very specific message. Still, as I said before, it is essential for me to keep a balance. Some days it’s tough to keep all the plates spinning, but it’s well worth the effort.

Gavin: Around 2005 you went back to the U to study sculpture. What influenced that decision, and what motivated you to start exhibiting your work in our art scene?

Dave: Even when I was with the design firm, I was drawn to the idea of going back to school. Doing so in ’05 was a natural extension of the explorations I was doing at the time. There is so much appeal to me in being in the kind of critical environment that academia offers, one that thrusts you into a community that is vibrant, fresh and diverse—you’re immediately forced from working in a vacuum and are challenged to really understand and be able to defend your concepts and processes. Going back to school wasn’t about working toward exhibiting my work, it was solely about immersing myself in a community of artists, learning with and from them. Sculpture is my passion. Drawing and painting have become part of my creative development and will likely always be included in my body of work, but I prefer to construct, build, and assemble objects. On some level I look at my painting the same way—they’re also constructions. Ironically, I started showing painting (in a formal gallery setting) before sculpture. And that happened almost by accident. But I do enjoy sharing my work.

Gavin: Considering the fact that you do two completely different forms of art, how is it for you transitioning between the two while creating?

Dave: Well, I’m actually working within three different forms: painting, sculpture and visual communications, which is still an artistic medium despite having to answer to a set of particular business objectives and marketing strategies. On the most basic level, shifting between these forms is like turning off one faucet and turning on another. When I’m painting, I’m focused on painting. I generally don’t go back and forth between painting and sculpting in a given time period—though my visual communications work may have me working on a branding style guide morning and afternoon and then painting in the late afternoon and evening. Having distinct physical space for these three activities helps me to better compartmentalize them. When I leave my office and go into the studio, my whole being shifts. It’s like leaving the city and going to the mountains—you’re not just in a physically different environment, your whole awareness and mindset changes. But wherever you are, it’s critical to be connected to that moment and the work immediately in front of you. That’s not to say that the three mediums don’t inform each other in interesting ways. You can’t help but bring the experience of one medium to another, and that’s all part of the process.

Gavin: What's the process like for you when creating a new piece, from initial concept to final product?

Dave: Product? I like product…interesting to think of it that way. I consider the process more like a conversation between myself and the work, an ongoing conversation that can end in a moment’s notice. Some conversations are short and to the point, others are more drawn out and can even become argumentative. With painting, I start with a few random marks or washes, and these influence what takes shape. As I make a mark, new possibilities for the piece are awakened. The conversation takes on meaning, and I interject “adjectives” and “punctuation.” The surface continues to take on new meaning with every subsequent stroke and I respond to each and every one. The effort is fluid and random, and though I necessarily become more deliberate as the piece goes on, I’m careful not to “protect” it so it will not lose its spontaneous qualities. Sculpture is different. Unlike with painting, your choices can be dismantled or reshaped as you go along. As far as “final product” is concerned, I’m not sure anything I do is ever final. I may put a frame on something, or call it complete, but the ideas continue to evolve in other works. This is especially true since I work on 30-40 pieces at a time. So even in this respect my process is fluid and ideas and new directions continually flow across my entire body of work.

Gavin: Whether painting or sculpture, do you have an idea of how you'd like things to look when you start, or do you usually mess with the design along the way?

Dave: Well, as I stated before it’s a process that allows for spontaneity and organic development to be an integral aspect of my work, but in the end (and along the way) my formal sensibilities come into play. To some degree, every piece is a guided metamorphosis as the work evolves.

Gavin: Tell us about the new works you have on display for this Stroll.

Dave: My new work is a continuation of my last two shows, which were, respectively, mixed media (water color, gouache, graphite, prisma color and India ink) on paper and mixed media (acrylic, latex, graphite and oil stick) on unprimed canvas. This current body of work is a combination of both processes. My intent was to capture a similar result with regard to how the medium responds to the application—not always a successful venture but there are signs of potential. Earlier I related my process to having a “conversation” with my work and how there is the potential to end the conversation abruptly or have a long drawn out dialogue. This is something I’m exploring more and more with my work: when to stop the conversation. In this show I have works that are very sparse, as well those that are heavily touched and built up. The work is abstract in many ways, yet contains visual cues that many people will recognize as nature, or at times the figure (although I don’t paint the figure). Ether way the work takes on the sensation of a micro-environment. In addition I’ve been exploring several other aspects within my work. Specifically, I’ve been attempting to tame, or control, my color palette (with limited success), to deconstruct or peel back the layers of my work, and to focus on the pure simplicity of the form itself, interconnecting objects to create a subjective planar experience.

Gavin: How is it for you being displayed at Phillips Gallery as the main artist for this month?

Dave: It’s great. Hanging a show is always a ton of work. This is my third solo show at the Phillips Gallery, and only my second in the main gallery. It’s really rewarding to see my work on the gallery walls, but it’s also very humbling and it has caused me to reflect on the process. For me, I try to focus on the work and let the gallery do the gallery stuff…you know, show and sell work. I just want to make art. Still, with a visual communications background, sometimes it’s hard to get out of the way.

Gavin: Going local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Dave: Honestly, It’s hard for me to give you an objective answer. I am not really embedded in the scene to the degree I should be. Partially due to my graphic design practice, and partially due to my working in a bit of a vacuum. I have a limited amount of insight on the subject. I will say that I’m inspired by what I see and read. I know many amazing, talented, committed artists and I’m sure there are hundreds who I don’t know (but would love to get to know). I do wish we had more art critics, more media coverage… more of what you’re doing with your blog. But even the CityWeekly.net does not have an “Art” link. You have “Movies,” you have “Bars,” you have “Food”… you even have a link for “Promos.” But no Art. Hmmm. I would expect that the addition and growing use of social media as a new communications and networking tool is having a major impact on the local art scene. But I also think that to a certain degree social media is making the word “local” a little less relevant in that our interactions are much less bound by geography. Artists are posting their work on Facebook, tweeting about shows, exhibitions and events, and processes are being taped and posted to YouTube for all off us to absorb and be informed by. This is great, yet at times it can quickly become visual noise. I’m enthusiastic about the local scene (as I know it). I’m inspired by the mission of Art Access. The UMFA and the Salt Lake Art Center are world class. BYU Museum of Art regularly brings in amazing exhibitions. There are many workshops, working artists, artist-in-residence programs, established galleries and new fresh start-up galleries. So my feeling is that as the city continues to become more culturally diverse, the greater the arts following will become, which, in turn, feeds the cause.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Dave: Like with any community, it takes involvement on so many levels. Sure, it can always improve. I read a blog post back in 09’ on the SFMOMA site that had an inset graphic titled “Prescription for a Healthy Art Scene”. There aren’t any real revelations in it, but I’ll leave it up others to determine what, if anything, we’re missing here, or to what degree.

Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how it’s doing today?

Dave: Gallery Stroll is vital to the cause. It’s a great opportunity to get out and see art, but, more important, to talk about art. It’s loose, it’s fun. Everyone should get out at least a few times year to stroll around the third Friday of the month. With that said, I’m not really sure how it’s going, attendance wise. I do know that like any other entertainment venue, the Gallery Stroll has to compete for the publics’ attention and time. I’m sure there is a very committed group that frequents the stroll every month, but it’s getting new folks out is always the challenge.

Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?

Dave: Well, I’m very much looking forward to delving back into my sculptural work. I have new tools that will be delivered any day now, so I’m getting excited about the potential that lies before me. I have yet to exhibit my sculpture, so my aim is to focus on a particular body of work. I have several directions that I’ve really been wanting explore. I’ll have to make some decisions because they are quite different from each other and don’t really have much crossover. I will also keep painting since I discovered some inspiring new directions as I prepared for my current show. Finally, I have some thoughts about more deliberately connecting my drawing and painting to my sculpture. We’ll have to see how that goes.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Dave: Well, my show runs through March 11th, please drop by and enjoy. But I’d also encourage everyone to get out and experience all the great galleries and art venues our city has to offer.


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