Galerie 102 Opening: A Conversation with Devin Oatway
By Demitri Corbin
Galerie 102 opens its doors Saturday, November 16 . Gallery owner Jolene Lloyd inaugurates the gallery with, We Are One/We Are Many, the works of Los Angeles-based artist Jon Rajkovich and Ojai artist Devin Oatway. I sat down for a chat with Devin in his studio at his East End home.
Demitri Corbin: You are one of the few other people I know who I had no idea was a gifted artist. When I met you, you told me you had just discovered you had schizophrenia-
Devin Oatway: I knew before then.
DC: Did we know each other in 2003?
DO: We met in 2005. I was diagnosed 2003.
DC: So, you informed me. That brings me to my next question, the degree in English literature and creative writing. How does that work with the visual art – does it inform or inspire your work; like with the J.D. Salinger stories?
DO: No, it’s just the opposite. It’s a rebellion against anything literary or musical, a rebellion against everything I had learned. In 2003 my mind changed and I no longer read. Before, I was reading thousands of pages a month. Those short stories are the first thing I’ve picked up and read in years. No, painting has always been my first impulse, ever since I was a child I would paint, draw. As an adult I saw the Julian Schnabel film, “Basquiat” with uh…what’s the actor…
DC: Jeffrey Wright.
DO: That movie profoundly affected me and I knew I wanted to be an artist.
DC: I’m glad you brought that up. I was going to say I see in your work the influence of both Basquiat and Beatrice Wood. Would you say that‘s accurate?
DO: Well, Beato will always be considered the Mama of DaDa in the early 20th Century. I grew up totally influence by her. My mom is a collector. Beato and Basquiat have greatly influenced me –
DC: But at the same time have given way for you to express your own expression.
DC: Tell me about the curator – who is she? Is she both owner and curator? How did she find you?
DO: Jolene Lloyd. She found me through OSA.
DC: Does she live here?
DO: Yes. She’s been wanting to start a gallery for some years now.
DC: I find it very interesting that hers is one of a few new galleries that are opening now that are also presenting emerging artists.
DO: Yes. I like Jolene’s style. It’s more international rather than local; more on a wave of the art scene as a whole. I like the gallery. It’s small, about 600 square feet, lots of wall space. It’s not cluttered with too much. It’s like walking into a museum. DC: Now tell me about your work. You have not been painting for very long and yet you have a nice resume of shows. When did you actually start painting
DO: Well, I really started painting in 2002. I do pieces and give them to my friends or I’d just give them away. Then in 2004 after my diagnosis, I started painting squiggly lines – you see this tattoo…
He shows me the tattoo on his left forearm.
DO: (con’t) I just started painting those. I started reading Perry Mason stories. I read them all, even though they were all the same, then I stopped reading altogether and I started painting. My first show was in Austin, Texas where I joined an arts collective, Shady Lane Studios. Then in Berkeley I started the Firehouse Art Collective. I sold a lot of paintings and now that I’m prolific, I’m not as attached as I used to be.
DC: How do you feel about all the acclaim?
DO: I don’t know if I’d call it ‘acclaim,’ acclaim would be the L.A. Times!
DC: Well, maybe acclaim is too strong a word, but certainly success. Now, you’re paired with L.A. based sculptor Jon Rajkovich. Have you met him?
DO: No, but I like his work.
DC: I think it’s perfect with your work.
DO: Yes, I think it’s going to interesting for Ojai. I’m curious to see what happens.
DC: Do you have any pieces here?
DO: No, the show’s already hung.
I take out my handout left over from the OSA tour.
DC: Here, tell me what pieces are going to be in the show so I can look for them.
DO: None. It’s all new work.
DC: All new work!!! That’s wonderful! I’m so excited, I can’t wait to see!
We end on that note and I head off to catch the encore screenings of Ojai Film Festival winners.
We Are One/We Are Many, the inaugural exhibit of Galerie 102 featuring the works of Jon Rajkovich and Devin Oatway. Opening reception with artists is Saturday, November 16 from 5 to 8 pm at Galerie 102, 102 West Matilija St., downtown Ojai. For more information visit galeri102.comor call 805-640-0151