David deVillier 

David deVillier's paintings have a distinctly narrative quality. He introduces characters and places them in dramatic settings, inviting viewers to interact with his subjects in their space. His work Heroes from a Green Land, which graces the cover of this edition of the Idaho Arts Quarterly, sets the stage for two of his iconographic figures that combine characteristics of birds and human forms. The verse that deVillier has written to accompany the piece gives some insight into their meaning, if not the mind of the artist:

"Here stand / Exotic heroes from a green land, / Winged but patiently waiting / For Don Quixote's call."

"Sometimes I feel like a Don Quixote figure," says deVillier. "He had this noble heart and could make things believable in his own mind. To me, that is what art is about: making things believable with a language of its own."

The imagery of Miguel de Cervantes' memorable character resonates with deVillier's approach to his art.

"There are these windmills of originality, and you have to find your own place with dignity, honor and a certain lightheartedness," he says. "In that way, Don Quixote encapsulates a lot of what I think my life is like. I realize that if you want a unique vision, you have to go looking for it."

The written word and the interplay of words and images intrigue deVillier.

"I like turns of phrases that are unexpected and playful, that have a meaning beyond the simplicity of the phrasing," he says. Much of his work features an accompanying text, and he is eager to allow words to evoke further meaning.

"I like to think that the words can take you in a direction beyond where the painting alone might take you," he says. Toward that end, deVillier is at work on a book project that will combine text and images.

"All of his work is about storytelling," says Gail Severn, whose Gail Severn Gallery in Sun Valley has represented deVillier since 1994. "He is such a narrative painter. There is always a definite story and thought process that goes into his pieces. The phrases that he writes have a significant meaning to his work, but are open enough so that the viewer can bring their own interpretation to the process."

DeVillier lets the stories tell themselves and creates in an open, free way.

"What I do is put up a big canvas and start painting," he says. "Somewhere along the way, something emerges out of the line. I seize that and take it where I want it to go. From there, I am able to make things appear, and the painting builds into a series of images. With a lot of effort, the artworks merge together in a unified piece."

DeVillier works on up to 30 paintings at a time, and sets them up in his studio in a circle.

"I feel that you have to let pieces develop at their own pace. It really is like a battle; sometimes it wins, sometimes you collaborate. Eventually you ... achieve a sort of mutual respect. But it always takes some nurturing."

Born in Opelousas, La., in 1960, he earned a BFA from Louisiana State University in 1983 and an MFA from Yale University in 1987. He studied drawing, painting and graphic design, and worked as a graphic designer for many years, before teaching art at Washington State University. His love of painting always beckoned to him.

"I have always drawn and made objects," he says. "My parents were very supportive of my working creatively.

"I found out that sooner or later, you have to make choices," he says. "You have to ask yourself what you really love to do. For me, it is to make paintings and sculpture in a hands-on way. I love teaching, too ... but now I am able to stay in the studio a whole lot more. I still do seminars and teach small classes, but now I can make art full-time and teach on the side." He maintains a studio in Sun Valley where he works three weeks out of the month and one in LaGrande, Ore., where he raised his children.

"I am a road guy," he says of his inter-studio commute. "I grew up in the South, went to school back East, and chose to live in the West. I followed the path of family and developed that in parallel to being an artist." The settings for his pieces tend to be amalgamations of the environments that he encounters, which then form themselves into new landscapes.

"I don't portray a particular place," he says. "I invent non-specific locations to create a world that is more universal."

DeVillier is also represented by the Muse Gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyo. In addition to having his work featured at the Gail Severn Gallery in May and August, he will have a solo show, "Clouds that Rattle into Reason," at the Muse Gallery in June. For the opening, he has planned to have a seated audience who will watch him complete a painting from scratch.

"True art has to come from your heart," says deVillier. "It has to be meaningful and powerful to me. I also realize that if you want a unique vision, you have to go looking for it. If you're going to be waiting for Don Quixote to call, you've got to be ready to go do battle."


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