Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Personal Symbolisms

by Nichole Lance

On my final day as an Intern at Art Saint Louis, Artistic Director Robin Hirsch asked me take a look through the current exhibit, “Art St. Louis XXVIII,” and select an artwork that I thought had direct art historical references in the piece and to then interview the artist. I chose David M. Yates’ work, Wild Goose Chase

David M. Yates. Wild Goose Chase. 2012. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”.

This artwork has many references to several Surrealist artists. Yates included Giorgio De Chirico's girl with hoop, an apple references Rene Magritte, and in all of Yates’ works, the main subjects are birds, paying homage to several Surrealist artists including Max Ernst, whose alter ego was a bird named Loplop (he used this character in many works) and Salvador Dali, who was also obsessed with birds. Birds have many strong metaphorical symbolisms referencing life, birth and death. David and I corresponded with one another through email and the following is a result of our conversation.

David M. Yates. A Homing Pigeon’s Home. 2011. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”.

Nichole: What meanings do your birds have for you?

David: “My interest in art began with people and nature. The bird theme evolved in college. The large-scale paintings started as portraits but matured over time. I added human elements to the birds and soon they became self-portraits or effigies. This idea is nothing new. Creatures such as centaurs have both man and animal traits. In the Egyptian culture, Horus, often portrayed as a human with the head of a falcon, played a significant role in their religious beliefs.”

David M. Yates. Cardinal Virtues. 2011. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”.

Nichole: How do these symbolisms relate to you personally or as an artist?

David: “You made reference to the particular piece currently on exhibit at Art Saint Louis. This particular painting is a self-portrait with the message of never giving up on your dreams. Many objects in the artwork symbolize different ideas.”

Much of the symbolism I use in my work pertains to me personally; however occasionally, I will use objects more commonly recognized. In this specific work, the coonskin cap represents growing up in the 1950s. The hat being a fad attributed to Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone’s renewed popularity. The apple on the desk has a dual purpose; firstly, it symbolizes the “Teacher’s Pet” concept, where a student is prized for excellence (not necessarily for bribery.)  The secondary purpose of the apple pertains to the Christian tradition of associating the fruit with temptation. The message being that throughout life there will be distractions to thwart personal goals; however, as the quote on the blackboard suggests, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” (From Shakespeare’s Hamlet), results can be achieved through perseverance. The use of the DeChirico image means childhood innocence, but also connects an art education element to the work.

David M. Yates. Quote the Raven. 2012. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”.

Nichole: What is it about the Surrealist artists that influence you and your work?

David: “I’ve never really associated myself with any one artistic movement, and the art history that I use in my paintings varies greatly. Technically, I rarely use any complex perspective, so in this regard, it may suggest a cubistic approach. Compositionally, I typically use traditional Renaissance spacing. The subject matter has surrealistic aspects especially regarding imagination and creating images not seen in the natural world. This approach allows creative freedom without restrictions.”

David M. Yates. Chickens**t. 2012. Oil on Canvas, 49.5”x37.5”. This work was selected for Art Saint Louis' next juried exhibition, "Misperception," presented January 14-February 21, 2013. Opening reception: January 19, 6-8 p.m.

Nichole: Is there a specific Surrealist who influences your work the most?

David: “I don’t know if there is any one artist that has had a main influence over me. I have incorporated numerous paintings in to my works over the years. I like to dissect the works of others to study their compositional traits and choice of color palettes. Every piece from art history that I’ve included in my own work has a specific message or symbolism that relates to that particular painting. All the artists that you mentioned, Dali, Ernst, Magritte, and DeChirico have been a source of inspiration. That being said, I also admire a variety of painters associated with different movements such as: Miro, Klee, Picasso, Ingres, Matisse, and Vermeer, just to name a few.”

"Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" is presented at Art Saint Louis through December 27, 2012. Gallery is free and open to the public Mondays and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays and holidays, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org

Nichole Lance recently served as a Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. A senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, she will soon graduate with a BFA in Studio/Drawing. A solo exhibit of her thesis artwork, "Celestial Horizons," is currently on view through December 28, 2012 at the Edwardsville Arts Center, 6165 Center Grove Road, Edwardsville, IL 618/655-0337. http://edwardsvilleartscenter.com 

If you know of an undergrad or grad level college student interested in serving as a Winter 2013 intern at Art Saint Louis, have that person visit the ASL website and download our Internship Application and we can set up an interview and hopefully schedule an internship!

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