I'd heard about Dave Tree's work from other artists for ages, and eventually had the pleasure of meeting the man in person about two years ago at an art opening in the east village. He's a friendly yet rambutious character, seemingly always ready for a good old fashion art debate. He has an unwavering loyality to traditon with a flexibility to approach and process. This juxtapozition of old and new has always fancinated me especially seeing how that translates in an artist as versed as Tree. Aside from painting, he enjoys a myriad of other artistic pursuits from singing to silk screening. That night, he bestowed upon me a beautiful necklace with one of his images screened onto it. There are two images outlined scenes that appropriately display some past moment lost in time. I thought I'd start off this interview with that in mind:
DE - Your work often references a medieval era? Where does that come from?
DT - I always loved wood cuts from the dark ages and their ideas on what Hell would look like. I've been huge fan of Hieronymous Bosch since I was a kid so its always been an influence. I also grew up a hardcore Irish Catholic in Boston, so I had the iron clad boot of the church pressed against my neck.
DE - There seems to be an underlying narrative... What are your clad horsemen and demon soul thinking about?
DT - The Horseman and Demon think only on devouring your soul.
DE - Do you have a mentor?
DT - I had not been making art on a regular basis and had concentrated on my band TREE, but when it finally broke I needed to make art again. Its a great way to lift one's spirits. Cynthia Von Bueller had me in a show in NYC where I hooked up with my old SMFA buddies Travis Lindquinst and David Hochbaum. I don't know if I'd call them mentors but they whipped me into shape, trained me in process, made me stand on my own art literally, and really helped me think like an artist again so I owe a lot to them.
DE - You also sing in a band? How does that, if at all, affect your artwork?
DT - Singing in a band helps with my art to a great extent, I make pieces about my songs, I make songs about my pieces, it all works together really well. Singing/screaming in a band is also a great therapeutic outlet, art can be frustrating at times so I get to scream my blues away and start with a new slate the next day.
DE - Tell us a little about the process of art making for you...
DT - Sometimes I just see the image in my head and go for it, once in a while the final product looks like the image in my end or completely different, either way I got new art. Sometimes I make one piece and see a series in it so out comes a series. Why make one piece when I can make 10 that all correspond. Mistakes are my friends.
DE - Many of your paintings are on wood panels instead of canvas, why?
DT - I really like wood as a material, it doesn't "Bounce" like canvas, it is unyielding and has historic significance, the very texture of the wood and its grain can add to the work.I do a ton of trash pick dumpster diving and I raise recycling to an artform, so more wood get thrown away that canvases but I do find plenty of canvas too and started working more with it.
DE - What do you think about the contemporary art world now in relation to the economy and the advancements in social networking, etc?
DT - Online networking really helps get the word out, I still flyer shows but I feel archaic, but I'm a creature of habit and I still believe the person to person contact works best for me. The economy hasn't hurt me at all, but then again I operate underground and I champion the barter system like a motherfucker. I can make something from nothing and get something for it. Contemporary artists need to exploit social networks, get their art up on line and make their prices affordable. I make art in 3 different price tiers so that my art is available for all the people not just the ones that have a big bank accounts.
DE - You live in Boston now, but often show in New York. What's that like? Have you ever thought of relocating?
DT - I love NYC and Boston, I've made a conscious effort to get to NYC as much as possible because the art scene is by far superior to Boston's scene but in Boston I have space to work that in NYC would cost a fortune. In an ideal world I will build a reputation as an artist from Boston and move to NYC or Brooklyn when I could afford to live their. I think it would really help to be in NYC for the art.
DE - Tell us a little about your silk screening parties, and how they started...?
DT - I have been silkscreening for 20 years, I to a GoldmineShithouse party at David Hochbaum's house/studio and I helped print and saw how they had it going on so I stole their idea. I brought it to Boston and would do parties in my studio.I then got a solo show at McCaig Welles and I had a silkscreen closing party to help get some eyes on my art and maybe some sales. It worked so well the gallery asked me to do one for all their shows, so I got to have a print party in Brooklyn every month for a year. I really enjoy printing for people live and have to thank the GoldmineShithouse guys for the idea.
DE - What do you procrastinate most with?
DT - writing down the unwritten word
DE - I agree, sometimes it's hard to get into the habit of doing something. Regardless, how much you enjoy it. On that note, what's your motto?
DT - The more you get done. The more you get done. The people and the land are one, and the people and land will not be divided.
If you're in New York, visit Dave at Fountain between March 4-7th. He's teamed up with artists Joe Heap Nelson (joeheaps.com), Vic Cox (coxeyed.com), Sergio Coyote (http://vomitstyle.com/), Subtexture ( ), and the LeoKesting Gallery to produce what is known as the Murder Lounge. It may sound a bit unnerving, but he's reassured me that they're all about promoting and collabrating with other artists. Apparently, their "Team Murders" are very ... um, interactive.Immediately proceeding this show, a series of his paintings will be on display at the White Rabbit opening on March 12th, 2010 in his solo show, The Good Things in Life Never Die. Check out their site here: artanagnorisis.com or davetree.com for more details.