A Studio Visit with Dave Eassa: Interview by Kevin Michael Runyon
Dave Eassa’s artwork is capable of casually crossing between the worlds of figurative sculpture and the cake icing-thick impastos of oil painting. Eassa’s work also acrobatically straddles awkward humor and a range of authentic human emotive experiences. The artist describes the interplay of these elements as a unified experience stating, “The figures and objects reflect the awkwardness that many of us feel in our own bodies and minds daily.”
When presented with Eassa’s paintings and sculpture, the viewer can’t help but feel the tug-of-war between the sensations of absurdity and truth, and much of his work becomes a reflection of the viewer’s own interpretations of the human experience.
Eassa graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2013 and has been consistently been creating and showing since. His labor and drive hasn’t gone unnoticed, and just a year after graduating, he is being featured in the newest edition of New American Paintings. His most recent project, entitled Dreamhouse, is an exploration into the materialistic desires of his youth, and how he envisioned success at such at a young age. The series acknowledges Eassa’s belief that “as young children, many of us already have an incredibly materialistic view of the world and ourselves.”
The show opens June 20th at Lil’ Gallery, situated within the Copycat Building. I stopped by his new studio in Station North to talk about life after art school and how his new perspective has affected his studio practice and work.
Kevin Michael Runyon: How has your practice changed since graduating last year from the Maryland Institute College of Art?
David Eassa: My practice has changed a lot. It was really hard at first to figure out how to make everything work and have time to make work. I went through a lot of weird times where I just got overly critical about everything I wanted to make. I would get so many ideas that I was really excited about and then I would find a million reasons why they were bad ideas and I shouldn’t waste my time. It became a weird cycle of just not doing anything. I had to relearn how to have a studio practice and make things that weren’t necessarily going to work out but would lead to more successful pieces.
KMR: After graduation, you initially had a studio at Ash Street Studios in Hampden, but you recently relocated to a new set of studios on 22nd Street in Station North. What were some of the other highlights of this last year?
DE: Ash Street was great, it was all my friends who had just graduated and we all felt like we were all in the same boat, trying to figure out how to be an artist after art school. But then an opportunity came up for a larger space in K-town Studios, Mina Cheon and Gabe Kroiz’s new building, so I switched there. It has been a really great space with some great artists moving in and working. I would say some highlights of the past year would be (e)merge Art Fair in Washington, D.C., “The End” at Sophiajacob, and the Baltimore selections of “Select 2014” being shown at Marianne Boesky Gallery in NYC which were all really fun shows with a lot of talented friends.
KMR: During your senior year at MICA you created work on an ambitious scale, in particular, The Sum of All Parts. The work was a massive installation of messy humanoids constructed of foam and thick, oozing paint. What led you to this interplay of rough, figurative sculpture and the thick application of strands of bright paint? What were you hoping to emote both through the expressions of the figures and the processes taken in their creation?
DE: My sculpture has always been deeply rooted in painting. I feel like, when I am sculpting, I am still just making a painting. Before that installation, I was working on a lot of paintings, utilizing different materials and pushing my paint, not only working with brushes and palette knifes, but using syringes and other non-traditional tools to achieve something new. There is something so attractive to me about thick luscious oil, and during the process of painting it is almost like a comfort zone to me, it just feels right to be painting that way. The process of creating the sculptural forms allows me to create a piece that exists in a way that I would draw or paint that form two dimensionally. All the objects refer to things that we know in real life, they all are familiar, but do not actually exist as we know them.
KMR: You made a return to painting after graduation, what was the drive to return to canvas and how did this inform the creation of “Dreamhouse”?
DE: For the last year and half, I’ve been going back and forth between making a body of work sculpturally and then moving back to a series of paintings. I know after “Dreamhouse” I have a lot of paintings I want to make. I get really excited about painting for a bit, and then I get excited about making sculptures. I had been feeling stagnant in my painting and had all these ideas for sculptures so that is kind of where “Dreamhouse” came about. Keeping things fresh in the studio helps.
KMR: What brought you to the concept behind this new body of work, and how did you finally decide on what pieces specifically would be created and included in the show?
DE: It had been almost a year since I had been out of school, and it was a really, really weird feeling. I was working all the time, and experiencing a ton of post graduation anxiety. I was stressing, and started recalling memories of what I thought my life was going to be like as an adult when I was around 8 years old. I remember being positive that the second I was 18 I was going to buy my own house and never have to listen to my parents again. I wanted my own pool, Jacuzzi, a Coca-Cola water fountain… normal 8-year-old dreams. I idolized Michael Jordan solely because of Space Jam and was pretty sure I would be a professional basketball player. I decided to create work off of the memories I had of where I thought I would be at this point in my life; the ideas that became the pieces were some of the ones that stayed engrained in my mind all these years.
“Dreamhouse” opens this Friday, June 20th with an opening reception from 7 to 10pm. The show runs from June 20th – 27th and can be viewed by appointment. Contact email@example.com. For more info about the artist, go to www.daveeassa.com. New American Paintings #112 is currently out on bookstore shelves.
* Author Kevin Michael Runyon is a 2014 MICA Graduate and a Baltimore-based artist.