Death, Rebirth and Re-Creation In
Davyd Whaley's "Subconscious Tendencies"
All change and metamorphosis are a kind of death and rebirth, a re-creation of the new life as the old one must, in some sense, die. Contemporary artist Davyd Whaley's evolution as a painter has sprung from a very real "change and metamorphosis" in his actual life as he relates having experienced some years ago a life-changing "coma" and temporary "loss of consciousness" due to a grand mal seizure. When he reawakened from his "loss of consciousness", he realized he needed to become a deeper, more "subconscious" being and painter.
Out of his reawakening...over the course of several years now...has emerged a rich, and ever-growing fertile field of highly personal,
"site specific" archetypal imagery,
connections and emotional resonances which bring forth, for all who experience his "explosive" regenerative paintings...the Jungian "collective unconscious".
Especially in Davyd's more recent New Orleans paintings, we can share in his "archetypal" subconscious experiences which become all of our waking experiences as wounded,healing and healed human beings.
Davyd Whaley in his ArtEgg Studio in New Orleans (photo credit,Norman Buckley)
Davyd spent several months at the end of year 2013 painting in a studio at the ArtEgg Studios complex,a former produce warehouse, in the MidCity area of New Orleans. The unique blending of traditional Catholic imagery and symbolism found even in one of the most transgressive areas of New Orleans...the French Quarter...with the more arcane and profane "mysteries" of voodoo, Tarot and black juju...ignited a virtual "fire-storm" of creativity in Davyd.
Davyd Whaley walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans (photo credit, Norman Buckley)
Out of his sojourn through the French Quarter and the environs of New Orleans, Davyd's paintings became a "letting go" of old restrictive memories of his past as a child in a Tennessee Catholic school uniform, but, paradoxically, at the same time his paintings became an "embracing" of subconscious and dream images from his Catholic school training. These Jungian subliminal images expressed for him, ultimately, the transformative,protective and sustaining power of unconditional love and grace...both divine and human.Davyd is,above all else,a survivor who is securely anchored,as a human being and as an artist, in the deep, profound reservoir of the subconscious.
On February 22, 2014 Davyd Whaley's new solo painting exhibition, Subconscious Tendencies, opened at Galerie Michael on Via Rodeo in Beverly Hills. It is one of the richest, most spiritually exploratory and uplifting painting exhibits one could possibly experience...certainly as artistically "meditative" as anything "occurring" in a Mark Rothko chapel!
There are reoccurring archetypal images and themes throughout many of the paintings in this exhibit, especially in those Davyd created while in his New Orleans NewEgg studio(a prescient locus for his newest work).Even a dark-skinned variation on a "hanged man" archetype appears in one large gloriously ironic canvas, Color Is Your Only Weapon.This black-brown-white image suggests some rather horrifying resonances of Southern lynchings, and a much darker history paralleling, perhaps in some ways, that of the Catholic Inquisition.But Whaley's "hanged man" archetype, also brings forth a bright cacophony of colorful diversity,and the extending of his "hanged" black hand offering the rich promise of new life and rebirth in a myriad authentic multi-racial and multi-cultural identity which has emerged from horrendous individual sacrifice. New Orleans itself is certainly all of that...and more!
Davyd Whaley,Color Is Your Only Weapon, 2014, oil on canvas
An initial glimpse into the stages of Davyd's process of spiritual and artistic rejuvenation from the state perhaps of a "lapsed Catholic" to his re-creation of self in a state of equilibrium and grace...begins with the large self-portrait in this exhibition titled, Boy in Uniform (24x36 inches).
It is a darkly painted,almost bruised, rendering of a six year old boy whose face is predominantly blackened with a sense of supreme gloom and sadness.There is no gladness or joy expressed in his frozen eerie stare...he has a sore on his lower lip...and his right "cauliflower" ear is "deformed" as if metaphorically signifying that some kind of repetitive physical, psychological and/or spiritual "damaging" has taken place.The overall impression of this portrait is as if physical and "spiritual" rigor mortis has already begun in the body and soul of this strangely dark little boy.
The background of this portrait is blood red suggesting that this young boy is metaphorically enveloped in psychological and spiritual wounding and bleeding.In some sense, it is a rather scary portrait of a male child who is counter indicative of all the stereotypical platitudes about the innocence and carefree joys of childhood.This is a painting that elicits deep sadness and empathy in the viewer for this young boy.Clearly, this child is not a "poster boy" for the benefits of a Catholic school education and upbringing.
Davyd Whaley, Boy in Uniform,2013,
oil on linen,24x36 inches
Davyd's very dark portrait of a younger "wounded" little boy is physically "paired" on the gallery wall with a much larger (72x129 inches), bloody(actually and metaphorically) and visually explosive canvas titled, Sacred Heart. The very physically powerful impact of this phantasmagorically "red" painting is even heightened by the realization that actual "genus unspecified" blood was used on this painting. The descriptive information next to Sacred Heart doesn't explain exactly what kind of blood was used or exactly how it was used: mixed with painting medium (oil and enamel), as a unique medium in and of itself, or splashed or dripped on the Arches paper...but the surface of this painting, to be sure, bleeds!
Davyd Whaley, Sacred Heart, 2013, oil, enamel, mixed media and blood, painted on
Arches paper, 72x129 inches
Contemplating this painting's bloody explosion across the canvas, we come to an intuitive understanding of this painting's remarkable "break-through" fusion of the Catholic historical, theological and spiritual Hearts: the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Davyd's spiritual transformation in his Sacred Heart painting seems to radiate from the Virgin Mary's aura or radiant "nimbus" in the vintage print he has attached to the top of the very large sheet of paper. He tells us that he found this print from the 1800's "Sacred Heart" in an antique shop in the Garden District of New Orleans. One can certainly speculate that the Virgin Mary's sacred "aura" of light, her radiance, drew him to this print even before he manifested its presence in his Sacred Heart painting. Even if you are not a "practicing" Catholic, the spiritual and physical "protection" extended to each of us through Mary's radiant unconditional love for her son, Jesus, and through him for all mankind is palpable in Davyd's transfigurative painting.
It is the transformative power of divine light and grace and the spiritual protection of Mary's unconditional love for Davyd as a kind of archetypal "Everyman and Everywoman" that radiates from and through this painting's bloody splotches. Ultimately, the Sacred Heart painting conveys to each viewer a sense of potential "grace" suffusing every wounded and suffering soul, as well as suffusing the painter's wounded soul with grace and protection.
Davyd Whaley, Fertile Instinct, 2013, mixed media on canvas
In this complex, predominantly "red" composition, Davyd's primal altar is surmounted by several rather nightmarish creatures of the subliminal underworld.The one on the top left of the canvas is a totally "right-brained"(signifying pure subconscious creativity)head with a chunk of its left-brain(signifying conscious reasoning) totally gone.On the top right of the canvas is a somewhat skeletal,deathly satanic being wielding a raised spear ready to defend or attack.The canvas is intersected midway on the right side by an almost African-like "totem" piece with stylized human features laying sideways into the painting.
And as appropriate to an altar to instinctive munificence, there is a "predella" at the base of the painting depicting an animal "totem", an animalistic muse which could be a primitive wolf-like creature on a prehistoric cave.
Davyd's Fertile Instinct painting is the ultimate "storehouse" of the human mind's instinctive experiences which can be retrieved when needed to defend itself for survival. And it is the survival instinct that propel's Davyd Whaley throughout his re-creation of his inner and outer imagistic life through his bountiful paintings.
Davyd's Jungian transformation and rebirth as a "subconscious" human being and as an artist of the subconscious are like the metamorphosis of the butterfly in his gorgeous and joyous yellow mixed media painting,Butterfly .And like the Butterfly painting, his "subconscious" rebirth is replete with infinite color,beauty and emotional resonance.
Davyd Whaley, Butterfly, 2013, mixed media
For Davyd Whaley, as for the renowned anthropologist, Margaret Mead whose dream experience once revealed to her the meaning of life...Davyd's "Subconscious Tendencies" are his life...and that is wonder enough.
Artist Davyd Whaley and The Whistling Girl(Kathleen Fennessy) at the Subconscious Tendencies exhibition,Galerie Michael, Beverly Hills, 2/22/14
Davyd Whaley's solo exhibition...Subconscious Tendencies....opened February 22, 2014 at
Galerie Michael, 224 N. Rodeo Drive,
Beverly Hills, California