“Make it Inescapable”
Written by Doug Geyer
Most artists, like many who express themselves creatively, desire to share their work. To engage, inspire, and provoke others outside of themselves. To have a captive audience.
Darrin Gathers is no different.
Yet for this junior from Madisonville, he is driven by something deeper than the personal satisfaction of knowing his art is seen and appreciated, perhaps even purchased. DJ has something to say. But venting via Facebook, though common for his social media saturated generation, is not the medium he chooses. His anger will not be quelled, his vision not realized, by a posting here or a tweet there. As a young, biracial man growing up and into a world filled and fuming with social injustice, he has a singular goal for proclaiming that black lives matter through his art.
“Even though I’m a part of the first generation to grow up with social media, I don’t want to just talk about it on Facebook. With everything that’s been happening around the country, through my art, I want to make the message of Black Lives Matter inescapable.”
His dedication to offer his voice to those who are often unheard coupled with countless hours in his studio bears witness to why he was one of two students chosen for the New York Studio Residency Program. As a charter member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, the AAC participates in the consortium’s annual program to give art students from around the country an opportunity to taste the Big Apple for themselves. To listen to and learn from other artists while discovering how they will make art that makes a difference.
But DJ’s passion wasn’t always so clearly professed or understood. With only two months left in his senior year of high school, he was preparing for a life of fighting fires and saving lives. It took a nudge from his mother to visit the AAC to help him realize there was no fire burning in his heart to be a professional firefighter. Once he saw the studios, envisioned having one of his own, a spark found ready tinder and he decided to change course.
“I didn’t want to just do something to earn a steady paycheck. I’d rather care about what I do.”
Like Ryan Khosla, a friend and fellow Residency recipient, DJ was drawn to the world of art while skateboarding and tagging in high school. Though at the time he didn’t envision himself moving beyond listening to hip hop, spray painting and simply enjoying the work of artists like Shepard Fairey, he was beginning to explore a world where he would ultimately become a contributor, an agent of change.
His time in New York this fall has fueled this ongoing exploration via the vast physical urbanscape itself and the inner world where his love for screen printing and collage has expanded exponentially.
DJ has also felt empowered by his mentor Oasa DuVerney. Oasa is a Brooklyn-based artist who often uses graphite and ink on paper as well as video to address social inequalities in the context of race, gender, and class.
“I’m impressed with DJ’s interest in creating work that has relevance outside of this very small art world, in spite of a less than supportive society that typically is not interested in art that is critical of the oppressive, white patriarchy that it upholds. It’s my hope that he continues to explore his voice and experience through art making because it is important and should be heard.”
To create a collage, an artist brings together various elements from different sources to give birth to a new, unified piece. Visuals that don’t typically reside in the same space somehow working as one to bring forth something of value because essentially they are different yet together. Screen printing relies on pressure applied by a hand guiding a fill blade or squeegee to push ink through a screen, persuading it through spaces it needs help to navigate.
Perhaps in the heart and hands of DJ, there are answers not only artistically but socially. Answers which are capable of bringing together people which aren’t typically residing in the same space. Birthing solutions both new and essential, applying the right kind of pressure to leave a memorable and lasting impression. Saving lives by starting constructive fires in the hearts of others eager to see equality for all.
Providing a way out through art that is inescapable.