By Elizabeth Clausen
Among the many pieces of original artwork displayed at The Stockade, one of the most eye-catching is the brightly-colored and highly symbolic painting by David Horton. His work has been favorably reviewed in The International Herald Tribune of Paris, L’Oeil International art magazine of Paris and many other international publications.
In this exclusive interview, Horton talks about his current exhibition at Baton Rouge Gallery, his artistic influences, and how his artwork once saved a marriage!
How did you decide to study art and become an artist?
The truth is, it was just kind of a desperation move. I had already had a good career in design. But I hated advertising. It was stressful and very, very stifling, in terms of your own ability to express yourself. I just decided to go back to school [at LSU] and study fine art as kind of a leap of faith, and you’ll find that theme —’leap of faith’— in all of my work. And it worked out.
You’ve traveled all over the world and done research all around Europe. What was that like?
I spent more time in France. In the eighties, I had a studio in the south of France and I had a studio in Paris. My paintings were quite different back then. They were more serious; my theme at that time was confession. They were not as colorful either.
Spain in the nineties was an eye-opener. I had a studio on the southern coast, and the light and the whole atmosphere was so much different. Spanish are fun-loving people — I can’t say the same about the French … They are in a lot of ways very serious people.
And you’re not a serious person?
I am if I have to be [laughs]. That’s what my paintings were all about. But I found out I could enjoy making work that was more fun and less having to have a heavy philosophical meaning.
You’re having an exhibit at Baton Rouge Gallery this month. Tell me about the pieces that are going to be displayed.
I’m showing new work done in last three years. They’re along same themes that I’ve been exploring in the past. There are twelve pieces. The Baton Rouge Gallery is good for letting people you know see what you’re doing, and it provides an opportunity just to talk to other people about it when they come in.
Can you tell me about the painting that we have on display at The Stockade (pictured above)?
It’s called “Diversions.” If you look in the painting, you’ll see a lot of things that are diverting. She’s carrying a mask, which could also be considered a diversion. The fish represents freedom of choice.
How do you think living in the South has influenced your paintings?
There’s more of the South in there than I care to admit. I’m really from New York, but growing up in the South, you don’t realize how infected you become. It seeps in everywhere. It really would be hard to pick it out in my paintings. Occasionally I’ll be more specific, like including a watermelon in a painting. I spent a lot of time fishing as a child, so fishing comes into my paintings quite a lot.
What do you want people to know about your artwork?
That it’s accessible. People can enjoy it without feeling like they have to get some deep meaning out of it, even though they may have more fun with it if they read my symbols dictionary — then it’s a puzzle.
I had one guy in New Orleans who spotted me in a gallery, came up to me and said, ‘You saved my marriage.’ I said, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ His wife had bought him a painting for his birthday, and in his words, when he got that painting, he said, ‘I had no idea she knew me that well.’
Wow. Is that the weirdest thing anyone has told you about a painting of yours that they bought?
Well actually, the weirdest thing anybody ever told me about my work was a woman who wrote me and said, ‘Your work made me think of my father for the first time in twenty-five years. It made me very sad and happy at the same time.’
That’s not so weird. Why is that so weird?
Well I can’t imagine anything in any of my paintings that would make anyone think of their father.
I would say, you’re using all of these symbols and it’s all very Freudian and very dreamlike.
I suppose so.