2015 Mar 17, 1:48pm
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The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review

A request by small poetry publication, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, to use one of my older paintings in their upcoming issue prompted me to re-shoot it. I happened to still have this one, and I emailed an image of Watchers to them today.

"Watchers", 2002, Acrylic on Panel, 5 7/8 x 14 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Watchers”, 2002, Acrylic on Panel, 5 7/8 x 14 in., by David Jay Spyker

It will appear as an inside, black-and-white image in the Winter 2015 issue.


“Double Take: Artists Respond to the Collection” at the KIA

When asked if I’d like to be part of Double Take at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, I was more than happy to participate. A show in which I get to pick a piece from the collection and create my own work in response, and then the two would hang side-by-side? Of course I wanted to do it!

Subsequently browsing the collection on the Institute’s website, then visiting the vault to see my possible selections in person was a treat. There is some really great art in the KIA’s collection. In the end, I chose a watercolor by Philip Jamison titled “Milkweed” as my companion piece.

Philip Jamison, American, b. 1925 Milkweed, ca. 1950-1960  Watercolor on Paper  Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald S. Gilmore  Copyright Philip Jamison, image used by permission of the artist

Philip Jamison, American, b. 1925
Milkweed, ca. 1950-1960
Watercolor on Paper
Collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald S. Gilmore
Copyright Philip Jamison, image used by permission of the artist

The quiet atmosphere and solitude in Milkweed immediately made me think of a special place just a few miles from home, though I planned to paint my scene in a different season that was more personal to me.

As part of the exhibition, we were asked to write a short text speaking to the relationship of our work to our chosen piece, which would display with the paired art.

To me, Milkweed has a certain sense of quiet isolation, a solitude, which I am often looking for in my own work. When I manage to catch that mood in a scene, I feel like I’ve done something special with the painting. I can only imagine Philip Jamison must have the same sense of satisfaction when he captures a deep feeling in one of his own works.

There is a prairie tallgrass field north of Kalamazoo, and in early Spring, gentle breezes tickle last year’s dead stalks to create a quiet, pervasive whisper. If you stand for a while – with nothing but that dry rustling and the occasional bird song all around – and feel the changing vernal light and the zephyrs on your skin, you begin to get a sense of magic; it’s as if the whole world is whispering something unknown, yet deeply important.

"Whisper", 2014, Acrylic on Alupanel, 18 x 30 in.

“Whisper”, 2014, Acrylic on Alupanel, 18 x 30 in., by David Jay Spyker

I wrote to Mr. Jamison to tell him about the exhibition, and to ask if it would be alright to use the image of his painting for this article. What a thrill it was to read Philip’s letter in response! At 89 years of age he writes that he has been “unusually busy” lately. I hope to one day reach that age and still be busy making art.

"Whisper", 2014, Acrylic on Alupanel, Detail

“Whisper”, 2014, Acrylic on Alupanel, Detail, by David Jay Spyker

He also writes “I have used milkweeds in many of my paintings simply because they are so prevalent in my part of Chester County…. I have vases of them in my studio…. and they have been there for over forty years”. That got me thinking of when I was a kid wandering the woods and empty fields near my house in Rochester, New York, and how each year the milkweed pods were such a source of fascination.

It was irresistible to pluck them and pry them open; I’d get the sticky milk all over my fingers, and explore how the seeds were packed inside with their silky threaded parachutes. Later in the year, when the pods would eventually split open on their own, I just had to blow handfuls of those seeds into the air.

Even today, on walks through fields, it makes me happy to see milkweed plants, and sometimes I still stop to play with the pods.

Study for Whisper, 2014, Acrylic on Gessoed Paper, 12 x 17 7/8 in., by David Jay Spyker

Study for Whisper, 2014, Acrylic on Gessoed Paper, 12 x 17 7/8 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Double Take: Artists Respond to the Collection at the KIA” is at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts from 8/16/2014 – 1/18/2015. The show features the works of thirty area artists displayed with their corresponding selections from the KIA’s permanent collection.

Jamison's Milkweed and Spyker's Whisper_KIA-1000px

Philip Jamison’s “Milkweed” with David Jay Spyker’s “Whisper”
hanging at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Photo courtesy of the KIA

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 314 S. Park St., Kalamazoo, MI 49007
www.kiarts.org


2014 Sep 10, 3:25pm
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Great Lakes Juried Show – 5th Annual – 2014

See the painting “Sudden Flight” at the South Haven Center for the Arts from September 12 – October 26, 2014. The annual, five-state art competition takes place in South Haven, Michigan with an opening reception on Friday, September 12, 2014 from 5:00-7:00pm. Awards will be presented at 6pm with the judge’s remarks.

LIVE music. Cash Bar. Awesome Art, FREE – All Welcome!

South Haven Center for the Arts
600 Phoenix St.
South Haven, MI 49090
269-637-1041

 


2014 Aug 13, 3:54am
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Gulls

Much like I’ve used boats and houses as metaphor for humanity, I’ve come to include seagulls as well. If you watch a large flock, you start to see how their society is arranged with its own hierarchies. You’ll notice the greedy squabbles, the games they play on a breezy summer day, and the clear – sometimes vicious – pecking order there is within the flock.

"Amputee", 2011, Acrylics on Canvas, 18 x 24 in., by David Jay Spyker

Amputee is a portrait of one particular gull I saw regularly at the north beach in South Haven. It had lost a foot to fishing line but in spite of the difficulty of landings and take-offs, it kept on going.

When I’d feed the flock there, this one was always at the front, and the others would give it a wide berth. It had a bit of a cantankerous spirit. People don’t always notice the missing foot right away, but when they read the title it clicks. There is a real expression of the tenacity of life here, and I’ve tried to capture that in the way the gull stares back with directness and defiance.

"Self-Portrait in the Morning as a Gull", 2012, Acrylic on Hardboard, 5 x 7 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Self-Portrait in the Morning as a Gull”

I’m a night owl, and to me the gull in this small piece (only 5 x 7 inches) looks like how I feel if I get up early in the morning, so I titled it “Self-Portrait in the Morning as a Gull”.

It’s amazing how quickly a hundred or more gulls will show up if you start tossing out bread or french fries. In “Compass” I wanted to record that experience. When you feed them, you’ll end up with two groups: one with the more timid gulls on the ground, the shyest standing farther away, and the second group flying in to catch thrown food mid-air.

"Compass", 2012, Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 36 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Compass”

The fliers have this regular routine where they form a sort of queue and work their way to within about a foot, then they hover there as long as possible. Occasionally the second gull in line will give the first an impatient peck in the back. They’ll look you right in the eye; it’s an intense, piercing sort of stare.

You can toss them food and the lead gull will catch it. If you hold up a fry, one will snatch it right from your fingers – their instinct to keep a safe distance gets put aside for their greed for food. Then it will veer off to eat mid-air while it circles around to the back of the line. They’ll just keep this up, cycling around and around, until you run out of food.

The title refers to the regular circling pattern, as well as the keen sense of direction that birds possess. I suppose it also speaks to the circular patterns of life.

"Baroque Self-Portrait as a Seagull", 2013, Acrylic on Hardboard, 6 x 8 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Baroque Self-Portrait as a Seagull”

To the right is another small one – 8 x 6 inches. I wanted to capture a particular quiet stare, and when it was finished I felt an odd personal connection, so it ended up getting the title “Baroque Self-Portrait as a Seagull”. The dark background and the lighting help reinforce the sense of a traditional baroque portrait.

"Startled Gull", 2011, Graphite on Paper, 23 x 29 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Startled Gull” (Study for “Sudden Flight”)

In “Startled Gull”, I wanted to capture a sense of movement along the wings while retaining a stillness around the head and body, so I used quick finger smudges along the back edge of the lower wing.

“Sudden Flight” depicts the same seagull startled by waves of water jetting up along a soaked pier in South Haven, Michigan. There is something fleeting and fragile about life with the chaotic frenzy of the water crashing up behind the gull. It seemed so small and at the mercy of the greater power of nature – so transitory.

"Sudden Flight", 2013, Acrylics on Canvas, 36 x 60 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Sudden Flight”, 2013, Acrylics on Canvas, 36 x 60 in., by David Jay Spyker

Click here to read a previous article about “Sudden Flight”.


2013 Jun 5, 2:36am
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“Winter Murder” Wins Award at Michigan Artists Competition

“Winter Murder” won the top Southwest Michigan Watercolor Society Award for water-based media at the Michigan Artist’s Competition in Battle Creek. The Watercolor Society sponsored three awards at this year’s show.

"Winter Murder", 2012, Acrylics on Canvas, 30 x 42 in., by David Jay Spyker

Also in the show is the piece, “Homeward”. See the exhibition at the Art Center of Battle Creek, 265 E. Emmett Street, Battle Creek, Michigan 49017 through June 29, 2013.

 


2013 May 11, 2:06am
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Sudden Flight

I was in South Haven, Michigan, out on the north pier watching jets of water shoot up in the recesses along the steel side as the waves rolled in. This gull had been standing there on the soaked concrete, looking at me instead of the water behind, when it was startled into flight.

I felt this was a great image, and revisited it on and off for months. It started out as a thought about how life is fragile, and tied in with how I’ve been seeing gulls as metaphors for people. Here was this bird with all the world crashing around, and it seemed so small and at the mercy of the greater power of nature – so transitory.

"Startled Gull", 2011, Graphite on Paper, 23 x 29 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Startled Gull” (Study for Sudden Flight), 2011
Graphite on Paper, 23 x 29 in., by David Jay Spyker~click to enlarge~

It took some time for the deeper personal connection to percolate up, and motivate me to actually get started on the painting:

When the phone rang the second time, I had a feeling something was wrong. Mom’s in the hospital; she had a massive stroke and might not live more than a day. That’s not something you want to hear.

I was on a plane bound for Florida early the next morning, a sudden flight filled with fears and barely restrained, intense sadness.

In spite of the reality of the situation – knowing that this wasn’t going to end with a miracle – hope would come and go throughout each day as I sat in the hospital room, traveled with family to a second hospital that had neurology specialists, and watched mom hooked up to tubes, machines, and monitors.

When you’re sitting there, and hope is not with you at the moment, a vacant numbness takes its place. These two things trade off, back and forth, and mix in with other powerful emotions to make a thick stew.

She never woke up. Her sudden flight had already happened about a week before she finally passed away.

Losing a parent changes something deep inside of you, way down in your core. The truth of your own mortality is never more clear. If you’re fortunate, you come away with the beginning of a more profound understanding of your own heart, and of the things that give meaning to your life.

The thing about life is we never know how much time we have. There is a glass-like fragility to life, to being out there in it all and experiencing the world through this gift we’ve been given.

Get out there and do something meaningful. Live with purpose. Try to be a better human being, be kinder, be more understanding, and especially be more open. That’s how I want to live.

"Sudden Flight" (Detail), 2013, Acrylics on Canvas, by David Jay Spyker

“Sudden Flight” (Detail), 2013, Acrylics on Canvas, by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

"Startled Gull", 2011, Watercolor and Acrylics on Paper (Lanaquarelle 140 lb. Cold Pressed), 10 5/8 x 11 1/2 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Startled Gull” (Study for Sudden Flight), 2011
Watercolor and Acrylics on Paper (Lanaquarelle 140 lb. Cold Pressed)
10 5/8 x 11 1/2 in., by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

Study for Sudden Flight, 2012, Graphite on Paper (Stonehenge 100% Cotton), 11 x 14 in., by David Jay Spyker

Study for Sudden Flight, 2012, Graphite on Paper (Stonehenge 100% Cotton)
11 x 14 in., by David Jay Spyker
~click to enlarge~

Sudden Flight is displayed in ArtPrize from September 18 – October 6, 2013 at St. Cecilia Music Center, 24 Ransom Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. If you’ll be visiting ArtPrize, please stop by St. Cecilia’s to see the painting.

ArtPrize 2013 Vote Code: 54406


2012 Jul 11, 1:25pm
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Cradle Wins 2nd Place at Box Factory for the Arts

The Box Factory for the Arts is an interesting facility housed in (you guessed it) a former box factory in St. Joseph, Michigan. The old brick and heavy timber building houses a number of artist’s studios, features classes, and shows stage events as well as visual art exhibits. The 10th Michiana Annual Artist Competition opened June 15, and David Jay Spyker’s painting in acrylics titled “Cradle” won the second place award. In addition to Cradle, the artist is showing two other pieces – Amputee and Inlet.

"Amputee", 2011, Acrylics on Canvas, 18 x 24 in., by David Jay Spyker

Cradle also recently won first place at this year’s annual competition at the Carnegie Center for the Arts in Three Rivers, Michigan.

"Cradle", 2011, Acrylics on Canvas, 13 x 49 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Cradle”, 2011, Acrylics on Canvas, 13 x 49 in., by David Jay Spyker

After the close of the exhibit at the Box Factory, Cradle will travel back to the Carnegie Center for the Arts to be included in a two month solo exhibition of David Jay Spyker’s work (opening august 19). Once that show closes, the painting will go to its new home at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts where it has been accepted into their permanent collection as a gift of the artist’s father, David John Spyker, in memory of the artist’s mother, Mary Spyker (1945-2011).

The MAAC closes July 27; if you wish to visit the show, the Box Factory for the Arts is located at 1101 Broad St, St Joseph, MI 49085. http://www.boxfactoryforthearts.org


2012 Feb 11, 7:12pm
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“Cradle” Awarded First Place at the Carnegie

At this year’s annual competition at the Carnegie Center for the Arts in Three Rivers, Michigan, the painting “Cradle” was awarded the first place prize. This installation of the exhibition was judged by artists Jim Markle and Dennis O’Mara.

Cradle, by David Jay Spyker, 2011, Acrylics on Canvas, 13 x 49 in.

Cradle was executed in 2011 using acrylics on canvas, and is painted with techniques that could be said to lie somewhere between those of oils and tempera with a bit more slant toward the latter.

CCA Competition, Three Rivers, MI - "Cradle" 2

Images of the opening reception:

CCA-2012-Competition-Opening1

CCA-2012-Competition-Opening 2

Also showing at the annual exhibition are the paintings “Inlet” and “Northbound”.

"Inlet", by David Jay Spyker, 2011, Acrylics on Canvas, 14 x 18 in.

"Inlet", by David Jay Spyker, 2011, Acrylics on Canvas, 14 x 18 in.

The show is open through February 22nd, 2012 at the Carnegie Center for the Arts in Three Rivers, Michigan.


2011 Jan 15, 5:45pm
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“Running” and “Rainstorm Off South Haven” at the Carnegie

Beginning Sunday, January 16, 2011, I will be showing “Running” and “Rain Storm Off South Haven” at the Carnegie Center for the Arts’ annual competition.

There is a reception from 2-4 p.m. with an awards ceremony at 3 o’clock on January 16 at the Carnegie Center for the Arts. The show closes on Saturday, February 19. I took a look at all the entries when I dropped off my pieces, and it should be a quality show; try to make the trip if you can.


2010 Dec 16, 12:10am
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Northbound

It was one of those strange coincidences – you know when you’ve been thinking about someone, and the phone rings, and you hear that someone on the other end? – something like that.

Only days before Ron Dumont called to ask if I would be interested in lending a painting to a show he would be curating, I had been eyeballing these areas with tall railroad beds not far from home. I thought from below they were like great walls interrupting the flow of the summer landscape, but then, they followed the terrain, and had long since become part of it too. Maybe there was a painting lurking in there somewhere.

Ron said the show would be railroad-themed. What a mysterious bit of providence. I told him I would think about it, and see if the inspiration was there.

After sketching out some unused ideas, and waiting for Autumn to set in deeply enough to strip the leaves from much of the trees and to color most of the rest, the perfect day happened. The cloud cover and lighting were just right, and when the sun got low enough, I found it – true inspiration.

For the past twenty years, we have always lived within distant earshot of the overnight trains that run between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids; “Northbound”, for me, conjures not only that familiar, comforting sound of the horns at night, but also many walks along the tracks with Trish.

"Northbound", 2010, Watercolor and Drybrush on Paper, 21 x 28 3/4 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Northbound”, 2010, Watercolor and Drybrush on Paper, 21 x 28 3/4 in., by David Jay Spyker

You can see “Northbound” along with paintings, photography, and sculpture by nearly thirty artists at “Railroad Days”. The show is on display at the Portage District Library in Portage, Michigan through January 27. Also included are poems inspired by trains, railroad memorabilia, and model trains.


 
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