There are 25 journeys to be taken through the paintings of Belfast-based artist David Estey at Studio 53 Fine Art through July 28. The works were created between 2015 and 2019. Many have never been shown before.
Right up front I’ve gotta say, I love David’s work. And he and his wife Karen are great people. When I wrote the feature on his 65-year retrospective at Studio 53 three years ago I felt like I really got to know this artist … the interview must’ve been a good two hours. I do tend to ask a lot of questions, the answers to which I don’t always use in a piece, but a writer never knows … just like an artist who creates with colors and texture rather than words and punctuation ...
David says he never knows what is going to come from his daily brush with the canvas … or Yupo paper – and he’s produced well over 10,000 pieces of art that way. I know. It’s crazy staggering to think about.
The largest and never before seen painting in his current show is “Hell, No!” – all 50” x 60” of it. One of my favorites in the show (with a definitive political bent) is of different sized blocks, each one a different color: red, black and green. Where the black space borders the others a figure drawn in white appears to be emerging from the shadows, his face angry, his mouth in the shape of an extended “o” in NOOOOO. So here’s my take on it: the figure’s anger (the red), feelings/thoughts finally being expressed (the green) yet still half in the shadows (black) feeling like what he has to say doesn’t matter. This piece is sure to have you in a conversation about it – with yourself and with others.
“I had to strap it on the roof of my car with rope and lots of bungee cords! … And I’ll probably have to bring it back the same way.”
Several of the paintings in this show have sold. One, in fact, before it was even hung and that would be “Picasso Meets Satchmo.” David was listening to early Louis Armstrong one day while he was painting …
“I really love that music … and I was thinking about Picasso and looking at his stuff again recently …”
So he found himself putting in a few Bangor Daily News clippings – just like Picasso had done - not using the BDN, obviously, just clippings ... Anyway, David’s wife Karen posted a pic of the painting on their Facebook page and a friend from Alabama said he wanted it.
“He’s got all these framed, big New Orleans Jazz Festival posters and he thought the painting would look good with them,” David said with a smile. “He was OK with my including it in the show – as long as I marked it sold!”
A few more on my faves include the acrylic “Night on the Water,” from 2018. Zig-zagging lines create a super optical illusion … the dark blue of the water … and what looks like a ship going aground … and then there’s that bright yellow light … in the sea … in the night ... very Outer Limits meets Twilight Zone. And another is “Operation.” Now I see the whirling blue around the human figure at the center as a pilot in some sort of aircraft traveling through time in his or her version of a Tardis! But, David says his friends in the medical profession see a surgeon in an operating room. Gotta love it.
Ever since he was a kid, David loved to draw. “It was more immediate. And fun,” he said.
Today – many, many drawings later – he’s about to fill his 97th sketchbook. David’s tried to create a painting of a sketch or two over the years, but it just doesn’t work for him. “It seemed too much like a chore.”
So what’s on the easel? Well, a few things (imagine!), including a 36” x 46” abstract pink nude or a black and white 36” x 46” on canvas.
His most recent piece, “051419” is also acrylic but with tape, on a 30” x 40” canvas. It’s all passages and boundaries in multiple dimensions for me …
David will be setting up a retrospective upon the request of the Bangor library right after this show closes on July 28. He says it’ll be a large show to run August through September, just not as large as his 65-year retrospective at Studio 53 three years ago.
Gallery owners Heidi Seidelhuber and Terry Seaman have been Estey fans for a long time. In a press release, they said the paintings, in addition to being a reflection of David’s “keen sense of color and design,” also reflect his “an off-beat sense of humor, and a free form creativity.”
“I make a painting for its own sake … it’s all composition and playing with shapes and colors,” David said, and borrowing a line from his daughter, added “I want to be as surprised and entertained as anyone else!”
In Maine, David Estey’s paintings are always in view at the Carver Hill Gallery in Camden, the Littlefield Gallery in Winter Harbor, and at Studio 53. Oh, BTW, every Monday he can be found at Studio 53 … maybe you should plan a journey for the first of the week ...
Go on. You know you want to.