Ellsworth Gallery opens Soul Maps: The Journey Evolves, an exhibition of acrylic paintings and pastel drawings by artist David Syre in his first solo show in the United States. The Santa Fe event is curated by Ana Palacio of Buenos Aires, who will open a partner exhibition in Argentina in late November. Both galleries feature a selection of some 25 paintings and drawings inspired by the artist’s travels and his connection to Tierra del Fuego. Syre’s Peace Trail in the Province is intended as a monumental land-art work that traces a path between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. A video and sculptural installation titled “The Ona Spirit,” dedicated to the indigenous people who were eradicated in the Tierra del Fuego Province, will be on view alongside Syre’s exhibition. Curator Palacio posits that “One Spirit” is “a free interpretation of one of the first human settlements in Tierra del Fuego. This chapter of history inspired David Syre to show humanity’s inner path towards illumination, as well as his own.”
After a successful business career, David Syre decided to follow his enduring love—art. Having drawn since he was a child, the man became a full-time artist. This move was as radically transformative as that proposed by Joseph Campbell and Dr. Carl Jung’s mythic path of the archetypal hero—from the comfortably familiar to the fantastical unknown, The Hero’s Journey is meant to strengthen the heart and soul of the authentic Self in service of humanity and the cosmos. As the artist himself states, “Gods give artists responsibilities to spread messages for transformation. I create for the values of hope, love, peace, forgiveness, and compassion.”
A parallel can certainly be drawn between Syre’s personal journey from successful businessman to artist, yoga devotee, and Burning Man enthusiast; and that of contemporary Western culture. The latter appears to be in the (very early) stages of change away from the worship of a patriarchal capitalism to a movement toward the feminine, the indigenous, and the spiritual—toward Nature Herself. Of course, like the Hero in his journey, tremendous obstacles continue to stand in humanity’s course toward a more actualized collective unconscious. Syre intends for his art, and particularly the Tierra del Fuego Peace Trail, to serve in that revolution.
While David Syre could hardly be considered an outsider, his art certainly reflects the genre. He is self-taught, in the tradition of the late visionary Reverend Howard Finster of Georgia, who collaborated visually with musical groups R.E.M. and the Talking Heads, and whose artwork was shown in a highly touted exhibition at the High Museum in Atlanta.
Like Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, and even the action painters of the mid-twentieth century, Syre’s work is all about color, line, and the rhythmic mark of the artist as an intuitive. Klee, the Swiss German painter, was influenced by the Expressionism of the late nineteenth century, and subsequently the Cubism and Surrealism of the early to mid-twentieth century, particularly in terms of color and line. There is also that surrealistic sense of getting a bird’s-eye view within Syre’s and Klee’s works, as if the viewer were in a dream state, floating above the image itself—as one would view the Nazca lines found in South America.
The Russian Modernist Chagall was deeply influenced by the mythology of his Belarusian and Jewish origins, and his compositions reflect the poetics of a dreamscape. But it was the French painter Jean Dubuffet and his art brut, or raw art, movement who recognized its power as the art of the outsider. Dubuffet defined art brut as works created “from pure and authentic creative impulses… more precious than the productions of professionals.” It was this impulse toward a pure creativity that led many of the Abstract Expressionists from Surrealism to their lyrical action painting, where the hand of the artist is primary.
While David Syre’s art serves as a signifier for the archetypal Hero’s Journey, there is clearly a sense of play in the Soul Maps paintings and drawings. Come, allow yourself to have fun, and find out which pair of glasses the artist settles on for his grand opening.