Interview with David Molesky: life, dreams, afterlife

Interview by Filippo Brunamonti

David Molesky — Ardha Matanga, 2011 | oil on panel, 14 x 13 in

David Molesky is known for his landscapes and figurative works. He has a self-proclaimed preoccupation with the magic of painting; the way a gooey substance is transformed to an illusionary image that arouses states of contemplation and empathy.

David, how does your creative process occur?

– I always have too many ideas to go after all of them at once. So usually, I just approach the one that is the most persistent in my mind. Once the image is started its like a baby bird chirping for my attention and I feed it lovingly with paint until it becomes fully formed and leaves the nest.

What about your experience with the water element: mystical, artistic, aesthetic or dreamlike? Freudian?

– Like all living creatures, I’ve had a lot of experiences with water. Once when I was about 12 I had a dream that involved me wading down a river that grew as I did and at the last moment of life, I became the entire river and then dispersed into many fine droplets as water falling through space.

Why did you say some of them were near death experiences?

– I have nearly drowned many times, but it did not inspire panic. I’ve been tossed violently in big surf, including hurricane swell, got lost in an underwater cave holding my breath, and have been knocked unconscious underwater, sinking to the bottom of a pool. In surf, I think the sounds and the feeling of pressure coming from different angles is comforting and like being in the womb again. When I was lost in darkness in the underwater cave and could not hold my breath anymore, I had a moment where it seemed that I could decide whether to stay calm and live or freak out and die. This is a useful lesson for the rest of life, and sometimes is easier said than done.

What does death look like to you?

– To me death looks like a quiet moment that you slide into, and as the nerves fire their last impulses the experience of time warps and a second becomes an eternity.

What about your education? And family? 

– I went to UC Berkeley and studied painting and Neurobiology. After that I moved around and studied with a few different painters who were mentors to me. My parents met when they were very young and are still happily married, seems like such a rarity these days. My Dad works in mortgage finance and my Mother is the Executive Assistant to the Director of the North Carolina Museum of Art. I have an older brother who lives in Virginia and is in the same line of business as my Dad and a younger sister who works at the Museum with my mother. I’m the weird one who wandered far away from home…

What is your relationship with sex, now?

– Now that my hormones are somewhat under control, sex is something that I preferably share with a long time partner, so that it may develop into having a spiritual component.

And with the drugs? Which drugs did you try and what kind of experience did you have?

– Compared to most of my friends, I’ve been fairly conservative in my experimentation. I decided at one point that I would steer clear from synthetic drugs. I lived in a house in college that grew its own Marijuana. Being very strange to begin with, it doesn’t take much to push me into another realm.

Do you have recurring dreams?

– I used to have recurring dreams. Last recurring dream I had was in high school. It involved a bear that chased me into smaller and smaller spaces inside my house. It was not fun. One time, just when I was about to run from the bear and start the whole process, I stopped turned towards the bear and putting my hands up I roared at him, and he ran away. I never had that dream again.

Why the body, in your art, looks so primordial and innocent?

– I like the feeling that I have when I am in nature harmonizing with my surroundings. I enjoy this tranquility and it has lead to opportunities to interact with wild animals.

Is correct to say that some of your new paintings are political? Do you care about social and environment issues?

– Yeah, I’d say they have a political component. I tried to ignore politics completely for most of my life, but environmental issues like the gulf spill in 2010 and climate change have motivated me to allow current events to influence my work. Environmental issues are frustrating because it seems so difficult to influence significant change in these areas. This year, I became very inspired by the revolutionary riots in Kiev. Its very impressing that the Ukrainian people were able to overthrow a government that no longer represented them. I wish the world felt as strongly about our environment.

What made you suffer the most in life?

– I’d say people have made me suffer the most in life, but loving people is also the greatest joy. Romantic relationships are especially difficult because they often get layered with expectations that cannot be fulfilled.

How your art is perceived by the people you love?

– I find that everyone expresses critical viewpoints differently. Most of my closest friends tend to prefer my tumultuous paintings, there is a calm within them and I think most people close to me relate that duality to my character.

Where the idea of the Native Americans comes from?

– I’ve always been very comfortable being alone in nature. Always fascinated with the natural world. When I lived in Seattle, I dated a girl who sang in sweat lodge ceremonies. She was part of a tribe of non-Natives founded by the nephew of Black Elk. For a couple years, I attended a lot of ceremonies, including the sun dance ceremony that takes place on summer solstice. I experienced some things during this time that really rejuvenated my acceptance of mystery.

Will you go back to childhood?

– I don’t think I ever left… If you mean reincarnation, sure. I’d take another life on this planet if I got the chance, unless the next place is much better.


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