Sculptor, painter and writer David Humphrey spoke about exploring himself through his art at a Tuesday lecture at the School of Art.
In front of roughly 20 members of the school’s community, Humphrey outlined a narrative tracing his evolution as an artist. The art critic, who also dabbles in music, described the changing nature of his work relating to the concepts of inter-subjectivity, collaboration and voice. During the lecture, Humphrey shared slides of his work and explained the creative process behind each piece — which his colleagues at the Art School said he did with honesty and openness uncharacteristic of many in the profession.
“All artmaking is acting in a way — you are articulating, you are making gestures, you are performing in a discourse,” Humphrey said. “I am just the gesture-making expressionist.”
Humphrey explained that he tries to include a variety of ideas and materials in his art, which culminates in “a sense of collaboration.” One of his pieces, titled “Sierra Love Team,” conflates two nude figures taken from separate pornographic magazines, mashing them together in an ensemble of physical proximity and emotional distance. Associate professor at the School of Art Anoka Faroquee, who attended the lecture, said that the palette of emotions visible in Humphrey’s work and his willingness to study himself through his art are highlighted by the fact that the image’s release coincided with a period of turbulence in Humphrey’s first marriage.
Stuart Horodner, Humphrey’s friend and colleague, said that the bringing together of disparate and often conflicting elements is a fundamental aspect of Humphrey’s work. One of his projects involved taking slides from George Romero’s film “The Dark Half” — shot in Humphrey’s childhood home — and incorporating elements from his past, such as his mother, by painting them onto the slides. Through this process, Humphrey said he was able to collaborate with Romero as well as with his own past.
The “Dark Half” project proved a crucial step in his attempt to emphasize the collaborative process in his art, Humphrey said, as he realized the significance of working not only with others, but also with himself.
Another one of Humphrey’s creations is an amalgam of an ashtray, a piggy bank and a weeping Chinese porcelain doll. By creating unique pieces out of mass-produced objects, Humphrey extended the collaborative process to include commercial products.
“[Humphrey] often tries to make things bump against each other, to possess a series of things that are in contention [in his work],” Horodner said, adding that the “playful and honest relationship” Humphrey has with his own work is both distinguishing and compelling.
Faroquee noted that the sincerity and the element of self-questioning evident in Humphrey’s art are some of its most refreshing and exciting aspects. She added that while some artists may be guarded when speaking about their work, Humphrey is not afraid to make himself “vulnerable.”
An anthology of David Humphrey’s work, entitled “Blind Handshake,” was published in 2010 by Periscope Publishing.