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It’s never too late

July 2, 2013

At 87 years old David Byrd gets his first showing. He studied under Cubist Amédée Ozenfant, grew up in terrible foster homes, worked at the VA hospital in the psych ward as an orderly and was discovered completely by accident. Very real events inform his work which is nothing short of time capsule depicting nearly 100 years and draw from multiple experiences.

For example:

His visions of the VA hospital contain a vast empathy under the visual austerity. His patients—he retired in 1988, but his mind and art clearly still live there—are rendered simply, outlined and shaded neatly, and their bent and rounded bodies communicate as much as their lined faces (in a style reminiscent of Jacob Lawrence’s individual-but-members-of-a-group figuration). They hurt. Their limbs sometimes shoot straight up in the air even while they sleep. One man compulsively lathers himself into a sudsy monster in the group showers, a cartoon containing a grain of horror and a grain of affection. The only symmetrical painting shows a lobotomized woman, a hollowed-out angel in a green gown who has been reduced to a tidy assembly of shapes. Byrd renders another lost soul as a frantic blur of Francis Bacon proportions.


Still other paintings are brilliant period pieces, cleverly composed narratives: a billboard seen through a tunnel like a Gatsby-era revelation; a salesman’s miniature sample casket being auctioned; a pregnant woman making up a bed where, in a heap of cumulonimbus sheets and pillows beneath a kitschy painting of Jesus in moonlight, a revolver rests ominously.

And on the pain of his childhood:

By contrast, paintings based in Byrd’s childhood experience in bad foster homes are nightmares. He depicts floating figures, sometimes appearing to be naked from the waist down, in varying, disorienting sizes.

Read more on his life and work here.

Although this article isn’t quite as informative as the first link. It does include more information as well as a slideshow well worth viewing.


From → Art

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