Paterson art walk 2018 spotlight - Dave Cubie: “Doc, that looks like a windy day in the kaleidoscope...” at the art factory

I was raised in rural Ohio, in the woods between a small town and a village along the Kokosing River, which in the native language means "Owl Creek." Aspects of childhood enter into artwork, but there is no singular piece I think that could be made that could encompass childhood any more than a whole life.  Take for instance Courbet’s “Allegory of My Life as an Artist.”  As grandiose as it is, it doesn’t speak to me of a life in its entirety. 


I always created art as a kid, and unlike most I never stopped.  I was always more interested in the abstract and surreal.  Art in rural Ohio when I grew up in the 70’s was generally defined as making something look like something, usually involving ducks flying over water.  I called myself a doodler to escape the control, and that rhetorical device may have been what allowed me to stay interested.


Many, many artists have influenced my work.  My tastes are very eclectic.  When I was a kid my parents subscribed to a Time/Life series of books on great civilizations.  My parents were not especially interested in visual art, so I didn’t get any strong opinions.  In my case this was a good thing.  Because of this, the art of Teotihuacan was as important as art from London, or the Hagia Sophia.  We also played the board game “Masterpiece.” The goal is to acquire the best art collection.  The cards had many pieces considered masterpieces.  Rembrandt and DaVinci is mixed up with Van Gogh and Chagall.  My attitude has always been that we cannot be free of influence, so it is impossible to be purely original through rarified tastes.  Rather, my approach is to consume broadly and see how my brain mixes it up when I am working. Nature, cities, people, birds, mammals, insects, fish, plants, science, history, philosophy, fiction, work, life, exercise that leads to endorphin release...these all influence my work as well.


I do what I want, but I don’t always know what I want.  I swing between abstract expressionist practice of mark making that develops from a mass, sometimes drawing representationally, usually in a meditative state of sorts…like automatic drawing out of surrealism.

(My art) is energy-driven.  Neither conceptual nor image-driven, although both play a role in varying degrees.  It’s what I feel; however, once committed to, a painting can take months or even years to get fully developed.


Art is how I process the world.  Childhood was at times traumatic, and this continued into adulthood.  I was a combat medic; I went to Somalia and Haiti.  I don’t know which came first, the need or the desire (to create art).  I have been able to handle high-stress jobs and life circumstances only through art.  I painted over fifty gouaches in Somalia.  My cousin told me I better take some art supplies because I would go crazy.  She was right; art helped me survive.  Or as Nietzsche said “art and nothing but art; we have art in order not to die of the truth.”


"Does your art influence your life, and vice versa?"

Yes. It’s a chicken and egg question.  I think that my paycheck job is the patron of Dave Cubie the artist and Art Dave supports worker Dave emotionally.


"The lonely artist..." 

That’s a choice that arises out of who I am.  I like time alone, so is that lonely?  I grew up in the woods. The woods are as noisy as the city, full of life. It’s just my companions and neighbors growing up weren’t human, and I didn’t control their lives.  I was a nosy neighbor as a child: what are you doing, Mr. centipede, Mr. Frog, hi there birdy, am I making any sense when I try to imitate you? I spent many hours trying to figure out how to purr like a cat.  I had no social life for years.  I would go to work, then I would come home to work.  I had to paint; I didn’t feel the same compulsion to socialize.  I’m not introverted, but there is only so much time in the day.  There were days where I wished I could just be as satisfied with the "go to work, come home and sit on the couch and watch TV, and eat snacks all night," but now, after painting for over 30 years, I am glad that isn’t who I am.  I like my life, but when I was younger I felt the pressure to conform more.


The process of creating has an interesting effect for me.  For instance, when my thoughts at work are bound up and I am struggling with a problem to solve, the automatic approach to painting and drawing seems to open up neural pathways that allow me to perceive and conceive of things differently in other areas of my life. 


I make art for myself but I want to share it with other people.  I think that it adds another layer of enjoyment.  I like to enjoy life.  Art sells products.  Art sells real estate.  Art inspires.  Art asks questions. Art confuses. Art elucidates.  When I was in Somalia, other than painting envelopes for a love interest back in the States, the first painting that I did was a Kandinsky, Pollack, Matisse cutout inspired gouache.  This corporal said, “Doc, that looks like a windy day in the kaleidoscope.”  I thought, wow, can’t come up with a better title than that.  This corporal was the most bitter person I knew over there.  For some reason he had reenlisted in the Infantry, which by definition exists for war, but somehow going to war was not what he expected.  He missed his wife and daughter tremendously.  He was always angry and pitchin’ a fit.  His wife sent him cassette tapes of blues and jazz.  Every day he would come over to my cot in our tent and ask to see this painting that he named.   He would put on his Walkman and look at my painting, get into the music and go “oh yeah” in a very satisfying way.  It was the only time I saw him happy.  That was the first time I got a sense of the value of art outside of my own personal satisfaction of doing it.

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