There’s only one musician and/or artist who introduced himself to me in a Pittsburgh bathroom by pinching my ass while I was mid-stream. Yes, and although that encounter was nineteen years and six months ago, David Yow continues to be one-of-a-kind.
And sure, Mssr. Yow has been interviewed countless times about The Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid and Qui, but what you’re reading here is the very first time he’s talked exclusively about his art. "His art?" you say. "Yes! And he’s got an exhibit in LA next month," I say. David has diligently been painting, assembling and working on his first one man show since Jimmy Carter was in office. Remember Jimmy? Yes, we here in Georgia still are very fond of him.
Anyway, in an effort to help pique the interest of art collectors and fans of Mr. Yow alike, David was kind enough to answer a handful of questions that took him away from his studio for only a l’il while. Click here for a further glimpse into his work. And hey, who doesn’t like to see what kinda art that high falutin’ folk like Gavin Rossdale own?
So let’s start off with the obvious, why has it taken you so long to have your own art exhibit?
This is my second one-man show. The first was in 1979 at Southwest Texas State University where I was majoring in Fine Art. As I recall, a piece sold at that show for $250 and I felt like I was robbing the girl who bought it.
But to answer your question, I haven’t really devoted any energy to painting or drawing for quite some time. A year or so ago, Kevin Rutmanis introduced me to a fellow named Terrill Lewis who runs the DIY Gallery here in LA. Kevin was having a one-man show (his stuff is SO cool!) and Terrill asked if I’d like to exhibit some of my crap in the future. At the end of May, Terrill suggested a show of my own in August and I told him I only had four pieces that I could put up [all of which] were already hanging in his gallery. So, I’ve been treating this very much like a job [where I] get up early and paint or draw or whatever for 8 to 12 hours a day in order to have enough stuff to fill the DIY by August 14.
Your art (both hand- and computer-done) started in the mid-80’s. Did it spawn out of your early Toxic Shock posters or were you doing art well before then?
I was doing it before then. I drew a BUNCH as a kid, then focused on art classes in high school and aimed at a BFA in college.
When did you start doing art on a computer?
I learned Photoshop around ’92 and fucked with it during the Jesus Lizard days. After the band broke up in ’99, I started doing photo-retouching as a living and had developed a pretty good bag of tricks and a respectable level of skill.
Compared to your now considerable chops, do you look back at your early computer designs and cringe?
Ha, I don’t know if I’d cringe. We were all babies once, Henry.
Your art seems to grab liberally from a few movements (dada, modern primitive, some might even say "bowel"), but how would you describe your art?
Geesh, I dunno! In college I became very good friends with one of my art teachers, a guy named Mark Todd. Mark had (still does) an incredible sense for composition. He can manipulate the space in a rectangle as well as anybody in the “high art” world. My work still shows a pretty strong tip-o-the-hat to Mark.
There is a fair deal of humor in a lot of these pieces I’ve been doing, fairly juvenile humor. I suppose the same could be said of most of the songs I’ve written. I’m real funny.
With the amount of work I’ve been cranking out in the last two months, I have asked myself the same question that I’m trying to answer right now. The single most prevalent characteristic in the drawings, paintings and digital pieces is texture. Kinda seems like I’m trying to create compositions that somehow depict an environment or a spatial depth full of shapes and elements that may or may not have any relationship to each other outside of these particular boundaries. What?
You’re also doing computer designed art as well. Are they done in a manner similar to when you have paint and a brush? How are they different?
The methodologies for the actual paintings and the digital ones are very different. The digital pieces are compiled from a lot of photographic textures, either photos I took, or photos I swiped off Mr. Internet. Then, with Photoshop magic, I will completely change lighting and shadow and reflection and color and on and on. The digital thingamabobs also, almost always, have line drawings that I do on paper and then scan and import into the textural image.
The actual paintings nearly paint themselves. I have found that if I have a preconceived notion of what I want a painting to look like, it rarely, if ever, works out well. I’ll have a portion of a piece done and what ever is there quite often suggests what should come next. Or if I fuck something up, it will sometimes start a whole new direction for that piece. Most of these paintings have gone through several metamorphoses by the time they get a frame stuck on ‘em.
I didn’t realize that some of these pieces are actually taller than you. Why have you decided to go with such large formats? Also, what are the ranges in size of your pieces?
When Terrill and I first discussed this upcoming show, he said he’d like to have some large works in it. The biggest painting I had ever done up until that point was about 4’x3’. Now the largest is 4 times that big at 8’x6’. It’s not easy doing a picture that big when you have stumpy little arms like I do.
The smallest piece, as of this writing, is 6.5”x7”. I’m working on a digital one that will go into a large, elaborately sculpted, wooden oval frame that is approximately, 5’ high by 3.5’ wide.
Why do you use wood as a medium instead of more traditional mediums like paper or canvas?
I do occasionally work on paper, or have paper collaged onto these things. I don’t like the sort of bouncy-bouncy trampoline-ness of canvas. Don’t like the built-in texture of it either. Yeah.
After the exhibit at the DIY gallery, do you have any other exhibits planned?
There are a few tentative plans floating around now. Chicago is very likely, but nothing is confirmed yet. I hope to be doing this shit for a while, so I reckon New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, etc.
Creatively, how does doing art by yourself differ from being in a band?
Nice question. There is an analogy to be drawn here. I think the biggest difference is that I don’t have to compromise at all when doing this art type stuff. That is to say all the decision-making is mine, a total lack of collaboration. The similarities are the processes themselves, and the discernable evolution that songs go through and that these paintings go through.
And finally, David, any parting words?
Thank you Henry.
David Yow’s one-man gallery show at DIY Gallery (Los Angeles) opens on Saturday August 14 at 7:00pm