New York’s Shelter Island. The only way to access it is by ferry. The community is akin to Cheers, a place where everybody knows your name. And when I mention the name David Rankin around here fond smiles and twinkling eyes emerge. Here, David is talented friendly local first and international artist second. Although it is close in proximity to the well-known area of the Hamptons, its locals and idyllic setting offer none of the Manhattan luxuries its neighboring towns are accustomed.
The town exudes a way of life that has become too uncommon. This is where someone might ask about how those tomato plants you decided to plant months ago are doing or if your friend ever found his cat that ran away.
It’s a pleasant slow paced way of life making it the perfect environment for reflection and contemplation. Ideal for when one needs to prepare for a retrospective show.
Before I’m even through the doors of the studio I can hear the muffling of today’s selection of music lightly vibrating through the walls. Usually, Bob Dylan is on but on any given day it could be Nirvana, the Rolling Stones, or David Bowie.
I open the door and greet everyone with a good morning, which is always followed by a beaming “HELLO.” David strides over from his desk and greets me with a kiss on both cheeks. Kenny McGuinness, the studio manager, welcomes me with an energetic wave and a good morning from the back of the studio.
The three of us always start off the day having a detailed discussion of what work needs to be accomplished. Today, we’re pleasantly finding our list is not as long as it has been these last three months. The other week, we shipped off the paintings for the upcoming Mossgreen Gallery and the Charles Nodrum Gallery shows to be held in Melbourne, Australia starting August 16. This works out to be perfect timing as David’s family has come to visit this week. Grandkids periodically peek through the studio door waiting impatiently for their grandfather to take them to the beach. Kenny and I shoo him out as we can see he is anxious to spend time with them too. The weeks leading up to their visit, there was an enthusiastic flurry of photos of grandkids at various school events complete with adorable poses, coupled with his proud commentary of their accomplishments.
Today, lunch will find us without our third member, as he is out with the family, but most days all three of us are in the “casita,” an attached room in the studio where we often have lunch. Normally our conversation starts with Shelter Island news, but often we end up sharing our own personal experiences. David in particular has shared stories ranging from his time teaching in outback Bourke to speaking about what it was like running his own printing press. Every lunch there is something new to discover about each other.
In addition to David, there are other artists who also reside on this picturesque island. One of them, Harald Marinius Olson, is a common frequenter for lunch in the studio. David has a saying that he tells people when they ask if they can stop by, “If the lights are on, come on in.”
Harald usually stops by in the afternoon with one or two pieces of his art, which he places in view of the table and then we’ll sit and eat lunch and talk about the new works.
Our conversations inevitably veer off-topic but we always make our way back to a discussion about art.
After lunch, we clean up and resume work. If Harald is there, then this is where we say goodbye. I continue on with the organization of the paintings being stored in the studio. Once, after pulling out some of his seventies works, I asked David how it feels to revisit his older pieces after so long.
Having worked on this new series for eighteen months, he says he’s been looking back at the themes he used in those initial works and kept asking are they still valid and viable? And the answer he says he came to is yes. However, he continues, although the themes are the same his art has grown with him through his experiences.
He adds, if his works from the seventies is about innocent excitement then his new series is about contemplation and a sense of vitality.
As of present, I have handled and photographed most of David’s art. I’m going to be honest, when you have a job of organizing and archiving and have to do it efficiently, there is not much opportunity to appreciate and contemplate every work.
That being said, my opinion of his art has changed in these last few months. My time at the studio, which has been filled with conversations and stories and interesting people, has brought a personal narrative and viewpoint to each of his pieces. I now see them as an extension of David’s storytelling, offering additional illumination into his perspective and experience.
My hope is that the people who visit the shows will experience David’s artistry through new eyes and a new appreciation for his storytelling abilities.
Allison Weibye, Guest Author, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
16 August – 02 September, 2017
17 August – 02 September, 2017
All photographs by Allison Weibye