“I’ve always painted with a lot of texture, but I didn’t start splatter painting until I moved here. This is my first studio that wasn’t also a kitchen or a bedroom,” Dan Dickey says. We’re at the Tivoli, standing in his studio, where every wall is shielded with color-ribboned canvases. His grandfather’s mower hulks in the center of the room, swizzled with yellow, orange, purple, white and pale-blue.
“I brought it down from Virginia, but when it wouldn’t start, I decided to cover it in paint.” With a round, fox-colored beard and his way of rooting himself where he stands, Dickey has the distilled presence of a disciplined man.
He shows me how he dips the blunt end of a brush into a paint can and uses it to make a controlled drip over the canvas.
“Sometimes I put a dab of paint here and here, you know, and then I roll the middle of the brush through it.” He indicated a wandering swath and then, looking at the long, paint-mottled brush in his hand, Dickey said, “I like this one. I think I might put it up on a long, narrow canvas, just all by itself. It has a pop.”
“Yeah, it does.” It’s warm, breezeless in the room, and I pluck at my shirt, absorbed in his paintings.
He smiled. “A lot of sweat goes into these. Pretty soon it’ll get too hot to work in here at all, but I usually paint a month on, a month off. So it’s all right.”
“What’s it like in the winter?”
“Well, it’s cold.” He shrugged, indifferent. “I like to work at night. This canvas, here? I got up to the crow’s nest up there, all whiskey drunk, and threw the paint down from there.” The result was thick, ridged tributaries like dried sediment.
I looked around at the other studios. White drapes swaying from rafters. Ladders to nowhere, propped up against the walls. Large, industrial furniture slouched in the corners, rusting comfortably; the warehouse was full of coves where artists could work deeply, losing themselves in process.
“Yeah,” I said, “and in places like this, alone in it at night? You’re aware of space in a way you can’t be when there’s people in it.”
“Yeah, yeah, absolutely,” he said. “This canvas is one of Andrew Smock’s. Underneath all this,” he indicated the layers of paint, “is the Angel Oak, but I painted over it. A lot of these canvases, actually, have stuff buried beneath them.” On a wall outside his studio was an enormous piece created from a checkerboard of records and record sleeves, stitched by paint into an interpretation of the American flag.
He likes to bury physical objects as he paints; masks, tubs, tin lids; letting skeins of color veil the ordinary shapes, creating new, shifting ones.
Dickey’s studio feels deliciously like the pages of a Magic Eye book. You can visit it at 656 King Street.