To local artist David Twamley, color is “just as important as eating and breathing” for a happy life.
His belief in the joyful power of color is evident in his “Painting Collages” exhibition now open at the Spirit Room, 111 Broadway N., until Oct. 5. Yellows, blues, greens, pinks and every hue in between radiate off the walls of the pieces that Twamley collaged from abstract painting scraps and photos of graffiti.
Although the artist grew up around the region, Twamley became fascinated in graffiti when living in Los Angeles for nearly 40 years.
“If you’ve been to LA, it’s full of graffiti and murals,” says Twamley, who moved to the city to attend Otis College of Art and Design before becoming an art instructor in the area. “It’s not just in back alleys. It’s right in front of you.”
He spent years photographing small sections of graffiti around Los Angeles, a lot of which is legal, commissioned work, he says.
“With some of the graffiti, if the artist saw the photo I took, they might not even recognize it because it’s a tiny little piece,” Twamley says. “Often there’s a section that’s the best, and that’s what you want.”
Twamley spent years collaging photos of graffiti together and exhibiting them in galleries around California, but when he moved to Fargo three years ago to be closer to family, he connected with abstract painter Marjorie Schlossman through a painting group that meets every Wednesday. She suggested he incorporate scraps of his own abstract paintings in his work or paint over the photos to create depth.
“That was all it took,” Twamley says.
His “Painting Collages” exhibit showcases his artistic journey with the mixed media in his work, which now includes photos of graffiti he finds around Fargo. To show the evolution of his work in only a few short years, the show also includes a collage of Los Angeles graffiti from his first exhibit at the Spirit Room in 2016.
Twamley says being back in North Dakota with “all of the land around” him has shifted his focus more to painting than collage. Painting is calm like the North Dakota landscape, while photos of graffiti carry more energy like Los Angeles, he explains.
“I think it’s the big, empty land,” the artist says. “My favorite thing is to drive the back roads of North Dakota, and it rubs off.”
But Twamley hasn’t always worked in abstract. He started as a photorealist illustrator, which is “the total opposite” of abstract, he says.
“And this is harder,” he adds. “It’s a mystery until the end.”
Over the years, Twamley has exhibited his artwork throughout California and North Dakota, including TAG Gallery, Eagle Rock Cultural Center, Jamestown Arts Center and Luckman Gallery.
At the free public reception at the Spirit Room for “Painting Collages” from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, Twamley will give an artist talk about his work. Because he is a huge jazz fan, the artist also invited local musicians David Ferreira and Frank Weibl to perform to “tie in the connection between abstract painting and jazz,” he says.
“I love to listen to jazz when I paint,” he adds. “It simply takes you to another level.”
Overall, Twamley hopes viewers keep an open mind and “just feel the work,” whether they’re fans of abstract or not.
“Whenever you see a great (piece of art), you walk out feeling happy,” he says. “I hope some of my pieces do that for people.”
What: Reception for David Twamley’s “Painting Collages” exhibit
When: 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22 (exhibit is up until Oct. 5)
Where: The Spirit Room, 111 Broadway N., Fargo
Info: Gallery hours are 1-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; free and open to the public
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and appeared in print on Monday August 19, 2019.