Dave Lasker with one of his totem sculptures.
Dave Lasker with one of his totem sculptures.

I am an artist and I’ve been thinking…

Art world language can be confusing and obdurate. Sometimes it’s difficult just to describe the virtue and values of an abstract painting without attracting comments like “but… is it finished?” like a giant conversational magnet.

When it does happen, it’s my cue to take a really deep invisible breath and smile even though my head feels like a lit fuse. But then one stumbles onto these gems: “Houseable” (artwork that fits in a normal size living room), “contradictory” (objects in a museum on a permanent loan), “bon-a-tier proof” (final working proof), “cold case bronze” (resin sculpture), and it just gets worse.

As Daniel Grant stated in the Wall Street Journal on April 14 (“Do You Speak Art?”), the art world vocabulary is a sort of ‘word soup – one that should be consumed with a dash of skepticism.’ That use of language tells me that we art professionals need to make a choice: continue to have our own language (just as attorneys love using impenetrable Latinisms), or we can learn to translate into public-speak that actually explains what the hell we’re talking about to potential customers. Rather than requiring patrons to learn art-speak as a second language, we can offer verbal images, nearly universally digestible like a really smooth mac ‘n cheese. I’ll take a dash of that over skepticism any day.

I’m going to try hard to take my own advice by using simple words while interviewing and describing the work of sculptor Dave Lasker of Decatur.   Of course it is nearly impossible to use “regular” language when describing artwork that is categorically fresh and in a rare medium, but I’ll try hard not to slip into pretentious gibberish or give you a headache. I got acquainted with Dave and his organic shapes at the Callanwolde Arts Festival in January and have followed his progress since. It’s much easier to reveal his intent using his own words, thus the interview below.

People are always curious about an artist’s source of inspiration. Will you share a bit about your family or background and how those things may have influenced you as an artist?
Nature has always been my primary source of inspiration. My grandfathers were both blue collar workers and I acquired most of their tools and machines. I still have and use them today. I believe crafting and tooling compliment the creative process, although sculpting takes more time and to produce.

Please describe your art in terms of creating a piece from start to finish.
My forms usually start in sketch format. Sometimes I might make a scaled clay model in order to see the shape in 3 dimensions. Other times I work loosely letting the material describe or indicate the form.

Is there a recurring theme to your work or do you create a series when you have a particularly resonant creation?
Since creating non-function sculpted forms has been a relatively new process for me, I’m still excited about the possibilities the process has to offer. I prefer to work with organic shapes inspired by nature, however I recently started segmenting the forms in order to interrupt the visual flow, so your eye has a place to stop along the way while discovering the overall shape.

You are known for an exquisite presentation of fine edges and detail. Since you work with 3D materials, do you feel this is necessary to compete with framed works of art on canvas or is it just your skills showing?
Just my skills showing (smile). I don’t feel the need to compete with other artists. I’m happy for anyone who is recognized and successful.

Do you have a legacy goal for your art? Ever think in terms of notoriety?
When I make furniture the answer is yes because the client views the piece as a useful investment to share with others. But with sculpture, it’s different in that it is beyond function and speaks to one of time and space whether provocative, representational or abstract.

Your work has been described as “polished,” “modern,” austere,” “imposing,” and “arresting.” How do you feel about the response to your work and how it affects the viewer?
I always enjoy the responses from viewers, and they’re all different. The last thing I’d want is no reaction at all. I do know that children are drawn to my work.

What artists influence you?
Brancusi, Noguchi, Matisse, Arp, Moore, O’Keefe, Bourgeois, Nevelson and tribal African, Indian and Aborigine art.

Any final comments, explanations or impressions to share?
I’m grateful that you founded the Decatur Gallery and AFFPS. It not only benefits artists like myself, but the entire community. Atlanta is still fairly traditional, and I’d like to see an increased appreciation for contemporary art. Exposing and educating people to all varieties and styles of art is important!

Patrick Dennis is an artist, gallery owner and President of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. Email him at Patrick@affps.com

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

2 replies on “The Thinking Artist: The Language of Dave Lasker”

  1. David, is my son, and I am so impressed with all that he does. He really puts his heart and his soul into whatever he does. I believe he is very gifted, and love to see him recognized.

    So nice that you did this article about him.

  2. David, is my son, and I am so impressed with all that he does. He really puts his heart and his soul into whatever he does. I believe he is very gifted, and love to see him recognized.

    So nice that you did this article about him.

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