There is a creative tension in the current work of artist Damon Freed. In his first solo showing in Sedalia in a number of years, Freed explores his desire to move beyond the labels placed upon him and explore his very personal and liberating artistic journey.

Opening Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the Hayden Liberty Center Association for the Arts, “Piss and Vinegar” has been created with what Freed describes as “furious angst.”

“What you have to understand is that these paintings were made working out of my parents’ (Doug and Nina Freed) shadows,” Freed wrote in the introduction to the collection’s catalog.  

Following years of working in his parents’ studio, Freed said the work was inspired by his willingness to “move forward amongst the frictions in the studio.”

“My dad hated the work I was producing,” Freed said. “He couldn’t understand it! I would listen to him at times in which he was positive, but mostly he was negative and against what I was doing.

“Therefore, I made it my point to move on, to move forward with what I was doing amidst the tension,” he continued. “The work, at the time, in that way, was very self-motivating and motivated to get through to the end.”

Most of the work during this period beginning in 2014 was made in two or three shots, Freed explained. He describes the series as layered spaces, histories of mark-making, gestures, and different colors that are built up over time in the works.  

“Some marks negate other marks which is where I would say the angst lies,” Freed noted.  “Nevertheless, each painting was worked on consecutively, give or take, one at a time and produced in additive layering, in multiple sessions of subsequent times,” he continued. “So, all in all, each painting took time, time to feel before I knew how to go, which way to go, with them.”

Each painting took two or three weeks to make. 

Freed explained he knows when a piece is finished when he feels a sense of pleasure with the work.

“Essentially, I know when a painting is finished because I’m happy at that point,” Freed said. “But, you put the painting away at that point, and sometimes after a month or so, sometimes longer, you revisit the piece, look at it again, and realize what could be done to it.

“At that time you begin again working on the painting,” Freed offered. “At which time, it could take days. The painting gets very inclusive at this point in time, where every decision you make counts.”

A former art instructor at State Fair Community College, Freed explained one of the most difficult parts of teaching art is letting go.

“I want to tell the artists, and especially the young artists of my town; You have to make what you make to get to a better place of understanding,” Freed commented in the collection catalog. “You have to create. And to get through the pains of being a young artist, you work in a fury, at times.”

As an artist, Freed said it is important to be quiet about his personal work to allow his students to explore their individual thoughts. When asked how to inspire artists and especially young artists, Freed responded without hesitation, “without force.” 

“That’s my instinctual response,” he said. “Yet, with all things, will comes into play. Doing things that way is hard.

“The student leads and I follow,” he continued. “There has to come a time you let them go – I don’t know at what age that comes at …”

Freed’s former colleague Matt Clouse described the collection in the foreword of the catalog as “elegant yet still retaining a notion of the experimental.”

“It takes a moment to absorb these pieces visually and this is what makes this series truly engaging,” wrote Clouse, who is now the museum registrar at the California Museum of photography/UCR Arts. “I respond to paintings that glue my eyes to the canvas, or rather take control of my vision and force me to scan the surface, taking in all of the details, and these are quite successful in that regard.

“They straddle the line between ease and tension, effortless yet mindful,” he continued. “Visual puzzles that have no solution because there’s nothing to be solved, they just exist in the present moment, and what could be more intriguing?”     

Freed wrote once it was all out, he moved on to something else, which he has done on and off again since he first started the series. Calling the spirit of the work as “neither emotional nor intellectual,” Freed commented art should be something that is an experience for both the artist and the viewer.

“Art is about experience before it ever even comes close to being about understanding,” Freed reflected. “It’s how I live my life.”  

Damon Freed: “Piss and Vinegar” will open Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the Hayden Liberty Center Association for the Arts, Tuesday, 111 W. Fifth St. An artist’s reception will be hosted from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14.

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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