It has been a year since teacher and artist David King was to exhibit his “Time Travel” exhibition in the Sullivan Family Gallery at the Bay Arts
complex. Due to COVID-19, like most galleries, Bay Arts had to shutter its doors, but now with the COVID-19 vaccinations getting into arms and restrictions loosening up, finally we are able to see this long-awaited show.
“While cleaning up my Mom’s house, we found a wooden box of old movies from the 1940s and 1950s,” says King. “I had them transferred to DVD and the first thing to appear was my Uncle Cookie. I don’t know what happened but I started crying when he began waving at the camera. I felt as though he was waving at me from beyond and there was still this connection. I felt as though I had been transported back in time and I was on vacation with everybody. It made me think about the time we spend with family.”
The works depict familial memories and archival images with a loose yet masterful brush stroke and composition. Never are the pieces void of intention in his application of pigment, and they brilliantly showcase his distinctive, impressionistic style. “Time Travel” is an appropriate title as the artist used old family photographs and unearthed archival pictures as reference to create these sprightly paintings with a pallet ranging from pastel to florescent, the shadows even rich with varying tonal symphonies.
“Yeah, the colors are a little bright,” exclaims King. “I didn’t want to just repaint a photograph, I wanted to interpret the image. I’m not a photorealist. I appreciate people that can do it but that’s not me. I like to see the hand of the artist in their work.”
King injects joy and elements of surrealism into these otherwise domestic scenes to tickle to viewer’s sense of wonderment, which is a welcomed approach mixing equal parts nostalgia and exuberant expression. The piece “Bunny Slippers” pulls at all of the sentimental heart strings while exuding a certain flamboyancy and resonating with a Rockwellian timbre.
“Bunny Slippers” features his wife’s aunt Jane with a vintage hair dryer bonnet on a couch, smoking and pensively staring out of frame, a half-cocked smirk barely peeking out from her face as the pastel wallpaper shrouds her unknown contemplations. The colors are vivid, portions applied in a ‘wash,’ drips from the brush strokes filling the space in a way that exhibits controlled abandon and the viewer trusts King’s charted navigation through these frames like an optic tour-guide through the past.
In some works King toys with the viewer, adding absurdist elements like a fireman standing on top of a car smoking a cigarette whilst smoke and flames billow out of a house window in the background, or a nymph-like boy leaping between rooftops like some shadowy Peter Pan carrying a young woman who has a balloon tied to her foot as the sun falls under the suburban neighborhood, steaks of coruscating color highlighting certain elements to esoteric effect.
The Stow native earned his bachelors in Art Education, an M.A. and an MFA in painting from Kent State University. He taught middle school art in the Crestwood School District for seven years and spent 23 years in Chagrin Falls teaching grades 9-12. He now teaches drawing and painting at Case Western Reserve University. Additionally, he has worked with gifted high school juniors in a summer program on the Colorado College campus called The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation for 20 years and has also been involved with the Advanced Placement Studio Art program for 18 years.
King paints from his home-studio in Cleveland Heights, where he resides with his wife, fellow artist and ‘in-house critic’ Sarah Curry and their newly acquired puppy Winnie.
King being a teacher, I asked what advice he might give aspiring artists.
“Listen. Observe,” he responds. “Ask questions. Try new things and be willing to fail…A good teacher is a good student. Go to as many museums and art shows as possible. Travel the world and see what the rest of the world is doing. If a piece of art moves you, ask yourself why.”
This is the first of an impressive four solo show streak for King in Ohio. The other exhibitions being Solo Show #2 at Vital Arts Gallery in Canton with an opening May 6th and a First Friday event the next day on May 7th. Solo Show #3 is at The Erie Art Museum. That show will be in mid-August and run for six months. Solo Show #4 is at the HEDGE Gallery in November.
In addition to King’s exhibition at Bay Arts’ the Sullivan Family Gallery, there is a three-woman show at their DIY Gallery, which is the former Huntington Playhouse, called “Uncovered Stories,” featuring the outstanding and contemplative work of Gail Crum, Jill Milenski, and Gayle Pritchard, who have all been close friends for years.
The exhibition features a collection of paintings, collage work, mixed-media constructions and a special five-book collaboration of collage and assemblage. The books were created during the pandemic where each artist would create a page then leave it on the others’ doorstep for them to fill a page before passing the torch to the next. It was a way for them to stay connected, working and engaged from a distance. The end result being pleasantly cohesive, collaborative journals between these life-long artist friends.
“Even though there are some sad pieces in the show, there is also a quiet exuberance and a looking forward," says Gayle Pritchard. “I hope that people who have or are grieving, who had teenager problems during the shutdown, who were happy or sad to be alone and isolated, who are overworked women; I hope that our audience can resonate with the work and find deep meaning for their lives.”