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Artist David Willburn

Born in Fort Stockton, Texas in 1970, David Willburn lives and works in Fort Worth, Texas. He earned a BA and MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts (Montpelier, VT) after completing his art foundations studies at Eastfield College (Dallas, TX).

His work has been shown nationally and internationally at venues including Dallas Contemporary (Dallas, Texas), San Diego Art Institute (San Diego, CA), University of Art and Design (Helsinki, Finland) Museum of Arts and Design (New York, NY), Union Gallery at University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI), Museum of Contemporary Craft (Portland, Oregon), Galleri Urbane (Dallas, Texas) and FLXST Contemporary (Chicago, IL).

"I find comfort in pattern and creating layered surfaces. My canvases, panels, and works on paper hold small collections of images, colors, materials, and objects, and there is serenity in that. These paintings are like the tiny pockets in my childhood elastic-waisted pants, full of meaningless things that have been imbued with a kind of preciousness simply by being collected. I use daily rituals—walking my dogs, commuting by train, meditation, reading, tv and movies—to process the images and materials of my work. There are elements in each painting that are about these rituals, and there are elements that speak to a history of my personal experiences: physical and social landscapes of my youth, stories from things that interest and frighten me, and parts that are more about the interest I have in the material itself. My paintings begin modestly and intuitively, as pages in my daily sketchbook practice, and evolving into larger, more exuberant and complex compositions."

Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.

I have lived in Texas my entire life, so I feel a deep connection to the landscape and culture--good and not-so-good. The history of where I am from, combined with my identity as a gay man, has long-informed how I think and make work.

I first started studying art seriously when I was a student at Eastfield College in the early 90s. Something about the materials, the culture of the studio classrooms, and the experiences of the faculty really inspired me. From there I transferred to Vermont College of Fine Arts and their wonderful and somewhat revolutionary brief-residency program. I think the network I built while in that program helped me find and create connections with other artists long after school.

What kind of work are you currently making?

I'm currently working on a series of what I loosely refer to as sketchbook paintings. I began a daily practice of making intuitive, abstract studies in my sketchbook during the covid pandemic, both as a way of staying focussed on my work and keeping myself creatively occupied. I now have well over 500 pages in over a dozen books that I can pull from for these expanded versions. I'm having a lot of fun with it; it's really slowing me down, forcing me to think about how to use materials and formal considerations to make these grown up works.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

The first thing I do in my studio is sit for a moment, often listening to ambient music, sometimes meditating for five or so minutes. I want to just observe for a moment before I do anything, looking at what I've started the day before and thinking about where to go next with the work. I often end a session with something to surprise myself with the next morning--pooling wet paint onto a watery surface, for example. Seeing how a painting has worked on itself overnight--paint collecting and moving as it dries--is always a thrill to me. I think of materials and surface as active participants in my work.

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

I just finished reading The Creative Act: A Way of Being, by Rick Rubin, an amazing book on preparing the mind for creative work. I also just finished watching Hugh van Cuylenberg: GEM on Prime, a recording of his lecture on cultivating Gratitude, Empathy, and Mindfulness.

I'm also binge-watching Suits on Netflix with my husband. I am an unapologetic fan of gay-themed novels: romance, coming-of-age, etc., and horror movies/books. Good stuff and pulp stuff, I love most of it.

Where can we find more of your work? (ex. website/insta/gallery/upcoming shows)

Website: and you can find me on Artsy with FLXST Contemporary

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