Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Sense of Place: The Work of David Peterson

David Peterson’s work occupies an esthetic space where one may freely contemplate a sense of place, or, more specifically, how one feels about a particular place. His working process includes direct contact with the places he realizes in paint. The resulting images manage to induce a nostalgia that may not derive specifically to the scene depicted, but rather applies by association to how we feel about the places we love. This universalizing quality to the work trumps the simple sentimentality that can close down a regional work from a broader relevance.

It took me some time to sort out why I like Peterson’s work so much, until I could identify the terms of the regionalist approach he has adopted and the means by which it moves into a larger relevance.

David met me to discuss his work at a cafĂ© called Papayas, a lunch spot where he has been afforded the space for an ongoing and rotating exhibit. The work varies all the time according to David’s own wishes and made a great place to meet to discuss his work.

Peterson carried a notebook with him that I found fascinating—beyond the individual framed works on the walls.

In this book you can flip through the whole history of an engaged painter’s life—studies for larger paintings to be completed later; small sketches, more realized works, notes on process, form or some event he took in along the way. The notebook included lists of places he had been, dates, tickets from events he had seen—a fine collection of ephemera from a quotidian life that is centered on taking in the details of people and places. It strikes one as an artist’s take on the form and discipline of investigative journalism.

Over the years David has compiled several such pictorial journals; a painter’s study and, by extension, perhaps also the record of a man’s life. I immediately felt the urge to follow his lead, to keep a journal the old and more satisfying way—one written by hand. As we looked over his notebook together we discussed the books as artifacts themselves, and the difficulty in making them available for display. They simply cannot be exhibited easily, and so remain behind the scenes; studies that sometimes lead to larger, framed works.

Peterson has refined his craft and works in the water-color medium, with the ease and detachment of someone who has spent years refining his skills and approaches. He speaks about his work as if addressing some old friend he hasn’t seen for a while. And you get the impression that he can connect the dots of his entire adult life together through the paintings he has realized over his career.

Currently among the Blue Moon Gallery artists in Sacramento, Peterson has amassed a long list of shows and over 40 awards recognizing his work. He taught art at a private school until recently. David is deeply connected to others who enjoy the water color medium and always open to teaching others or recognizing the quality found in other artists’ work. It is refreshingly rare to meet an artist as curious about others’ work as he is in realizing or considering his own.

The earthy manner pervades in the character of the artwork and the character of the man. Consider this snippet from David’s web site:

“David Peterson, Sacramento artist, is in a hurry. Recently renewing himself with the passion to paint that he had as a 19-year-old, and in spite of a job, and volunteering for Sacramento Valley School and various art organizations, he finds time to paint hundreds of paintings a year, outdoors. Inspired by Henry Fukuhara, mentored by Woody Hansen, encouraged by family and friends, David's painting is maturing and he is making his artistic statement. The artist has paintings in private collections locally, in Southern California and the east coast. Since 2003, the artist has been accepted into dozens of state-wide juried shows and has won over three dozen awards. He is a past President of WASH, Inc., Sacramento’s only watercolor club. David’s work can be seen at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center, The Blue Moon Gallery and Papayas Cafe.”

David’s work occupies an aesthetic territory between a fully realized representation of a place and a minimalist approach whereby one employs the least possible details that may still convey a fully realized sense of place. The colors and minimally sketched figures may entice your eye in, but it is the composition keeps you engaged with the work. Much like a song in which you find yourself whistling a melody long after hearing it, Peterson’s works stick with you—and may even inspire you to reconsider the ordinary charms of where you live and work.
You might find David outside painting, either on location where a place inspires him, at an art store or teaching a workshop to others. See his web site for details on forthcoming events.

No comments:

Post a Comment