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”.


“Cradle” Displayed in “Copley to Kentridge: What’s New in the Collection?”

spyker-cradle-kia-posterThe painting, Cradle, joins more than 100 other recently acquired works in “Copley to Kentridge: What’s New in the Collection?” at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

"Cradle" at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, David Jay Spyker

“Cradle” in Copley to Kentridge: What’s New in the Collection?

Completed in 2011, Cradle entered the permanent collection of the KIA in 2012. It will hang with works by notable artists such as George Tooker, John Singleton Copley, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jackson Pollock, Stephen Hansen and many others.

"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

In 2012, Cradle won 1st place at the Regional Fine Arts Competition at the Carnegie Center for the Arts in Three Rivers, Michigan. It also took the 2nd place award at the Michiana Annual Artist Competition (10th MAAC) at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, Michigan the same year.

"Cradle" at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, David Jay Spyker

To the right is a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph.

Whether it’s a river, one of the Great Lakes, the ocean… water, to me, is an expression of spirituality, healing, and the timeless power of nature. It might represent a journey, or reference change over the course of time. It’s the source of life for all living things, and at the same time can engender something primeval and elicit emotions of unease or even danger.

The title of a piece has always been very important to me. When I choose a title, it comes from my own personal understanding of the painting. The meaning may not be immediately apparent on an outward level, but the title should reference my own thoughts and feelings about the image. Very often, the title will point to several different meanings, and when it does I feel I’m really getting something right.

In Cradle, I’ve used the boat as a metaphor for both the individual and humanity as a whole. The old boat also has the shape of a cradle of sorts. It carries us on the water, which here represents all of life. The water becomes a cradle for the boat, and encompasses birth, life, and death.

Study for Cradle

Study for “Cradle”, 2010, graphite, watercolor, and acrylic on paper, 14 x 16.5 in., by David Jay Spyker

When Cradle was at the 2012 competition in St. Joseph, Michigan, a woman who was part of a creative writing group there came up to me and said they each had to choose a piece in the show and write a story based on it. She chose Cradle, and said she imagined there was a man lying in the boat, that he had been there a long time, and whether he was alive or dead was something of a mystery. I felt Cradle conveyed a sense of strange mystery as well, so hearing what she said was encouraging.

Thoughts and especially emotions are something I’m trying to conjure when someone looks at my art, so people’s interpretations of my paintings – learning what kind of thoughts and feelings they have when they engage with it – that’s always interesting.

Study for Cradle

Study for “Cradle”, 2010, graphite on paper, 14 x 16.5 in., by David Jay Spyker

“Copley to Kentridge: What’s New in the Collection?” is on display 9/14 – 12/1, 2013 at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 314 S. Park St., Kalamazoo, MI 49007.


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 Jan 12, 2:57am
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Three Paintings at Carnegie Center for the Arts

"Vessels", 2008, by David Jay Spyker, Acrylics on Canvas, 30" x 42"

It’s that time of year again, and each year I express my fondness for the Carnegie Center for the Arts and the annual regional art competition held there.

This year I am pleased to show three paintings at the competition, and I do hope you will visit the exhibition.

The opening reception is always well attended by the artists and by a very supportive regional community of art lovers.

"The Journey", 2009, by David Jay Spyker, Acrylics on Canvas, 24" x 36"

Both of my larger paintings, “Vessels” and “The Journey”, should be fairly easy to spot right away.

You can read more about “Vessels” in a previous article.

“The Journey” was also exhibited last Autumn at the Art Center of Battle Creek’s 28th Michigan Artist’s Competition.

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My third piece on display will be the small painting “Water Study”, which was done in 2008.

"Water Study", 2008, Painting by David Jay Spyker, Acrylics on Canvas, 7" x 5"

"Water Study", 2008, by David Jay Spyker, Acrylics on Canvas, 5" x 7"

The 2010 Regional Art Competition runs from January 17  through February 20; the opening reception and awards ceremony takes place on Sunday, January 17 from 2-4 pm. You’ll find the museum in Three Rivers, Michigan. Please visit their website for directions and additonal information.


2009 Oct 24, 9:22pm
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Again and Again

Again and Again

I am the Lake.
I am the River.
I am the Rain.

I am
Again,
And again…
And again.

~  David Jay Spyker


2009 Sep 30, 11:13pm
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28th Michigan Artists Competiton at the Art Center of Battle Creek

My recent painting, “The Journey” will be displayed at this year’s Michigan Artists Competition at the Art Center of Battle Creek.

Should you wish to attend, the group exhibition opens with a reception on October 4 from 2-4 p.m., and remains open to the public through October 24.

For directions and contact information, please visit the Art Center’s website here: www.artcenterofbattlecreek.org


 
 
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