David Carter paint portraits of artists, writers, poets, and musicians. Some are famous, others are outsiders. Some are notoriously gay; some not. He is a master at envisioning the scope and angle, the temperament and scale. He is proficient in color, tone, and pastiche. In most of his portraits, there is an aspect that feels unfinished, evocative, a shadow across a face, or vacancy in one eye. Often the subject is relatively expressionless, as if captured on canvas in spite of oneself. There is also mysticism apparent, and a spiritual quality to his work. This series is often referred to by the artist as “incomplete.” As a photographer might attempt to capture a passing storm, so does Carter evoke a bygone era, or a mysterious lover in his work.

— Robert Vaughan

At what age did you start painting, or realize you wanted to be an artist?

Actually I don’t think it was a choice. It is always something I did. Since I can remember I have been immersed in Music, Theatre, Film and the Visual Arts. My earliest memory is hearing Marianne Faithfull’s “As Tears Go By.” I was hooked on music and “image” since then. Mom brought me to classes at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC and the Brooklyn Museum since pre-k. I was surrounded by artists and musicians. At the age of 5, I was enrolled in a Juilliard School of Music preparatory program. I think I made my first “accomplished” painting at age 13. I had a lot of practice before that!

Who are some artists you look to for inspiration?

I am an Art Historian so I always draw deeply from the well of history. I’ve been very fortunate to have had some amazing teachers and inspirations. At age 4, I met Wilhelm and Elaine de Kooning. Elaine in particular was so valuable in her encouragement. As was her brother, Conrad Fried. In elementary school Miss Moller taught us with very strict classical education. We were taught to draw by copying classical statues. In particular I can recall “Winged Victory.” We had class trips to the Metropolitan Museum NYC where I drew from the ancient Greek and Roman statues. Later we were shown the Egyptian wing and American painting. At 12, I studied with Lester Packer, who again stressed the value of studying the history of Art. Ferdinand Obrinski was my 3D sculpture and ceramics mentor. I was the youngest student to ever study with him and he spent three years trying to pass on as much information as he could. Before his retirement he gave me his tools. He had been quite crippled by arthritis at the time. Such an honor.

I was 18, and a Junior in college when I decided to dedicate myself full time to the visual arts. I studied textiles with Libby Kowalski.

I had two instructors who had worked with Leger at Yale. Jim Thorpe and Arnold Siminoff couldn’t have been more supportive. Arnold assigned/asked me teach a graphic design class when I was in graduate school. I was tasked with teaching undergrads, who I felt were much more talented than myself, to be able to represent fabrics and textures. As usual, I turned to the illustrations done for the store Lord and Taylor.

For over 40 years, the best drawings were done by Bob Hermann. Later on, I became friends with his daughter and got to have one-on-one with Bob and Berthe Hermann. I still think I’m dreaming that I had that blessing in my life.

Mierle Ukeles, the visionary installation conceptual artist, tagged me to be her project designer for the world’s largest performance/installation piece “Touch Sanitation,” which led me to work for a minute on Andy Warhol prints. Andy Warhol had always been a presence in my life. Frankly, I was a petrified mess while he was around, but each day I saw something he touched. I worked with Robert Rauchenberg and Larry Rivers. I adored Larry; he was so much fun and a delightful guy. He always had nice things to say about my work. Robert Dash was also very good to me. I met conceptual artist Ray Johnson in 1984 and remained close to him until his death. I’m still confused by him, but I know he taught me how to look at things from an entirely new perspective. Again I feel I can only hope to begin to have a glimpse of his particular genius. I have several more, but lastly I would be remiss not to mention writer, art historian, curator, and sweet guy Henry Geldzahler. I will always think of our Sunday mornings on a bench in Southhampton with the NY Times. Also, thanks Mom for so much, but forcing me to introduce myself to Allen Ginsberg and Quentin Crisp.

What are other areas of your work that you look to for your painting?

I get most of my images now from dreams and visions. Sudden inspiration strikes and I feel compelled to get it down.

You work in multimedia, too. Any influences from one genre to the next, and if so, how?

I have worked extensively in multimedia. I never thought I would focus so long on painting. I have synesthesia, so music was tough for me since I always thought of it in visual terms. Later, as a pre-teen, I discovered Brian Eno and his work, and that of Laurie Anderson, which validated the approach of initially visual folks to find other avenues of expression.

Mid career, I entered the world of beauty and spa. I don’t see it as separation from music or visuals arts. I have been realizing a vision of what I have termed “theatre of spa.” I see spillover from all expressions. I consider myself a spiritual being having a physical experience. The arts tap into my spirit. Art brings me closer to God.

In December, (b)OINK editor Robert Vaughan asked you to contribute to this art page. How did you select your images? Are you working on any particular project now?

I am working on pattern paintings, but still will continue in my series of portraits. I selected a portrait of Robert himself, and a 19th c. young man. I choose the portrait of Robert first, which I thought was clever; I felt the other piece was a good compliment. I let the images tell me.

Where can others interested in your work find you? Do you take commissions?

I encourage people to send a message through Facebook, which includes my Interfaith Center of the Arts, which was founded last year for the promotion of the arts.

I welcome commissions. I am doing a few right now. I love to work with my clients to see what we can do. I never know how it’s going to end up, but so far no unhappy clients.

What are the short and long term plans for your art?

Currently I’m exhibiting in NY’s capital district. Albany Center Gallery reopens at its new location Friday, January 6th, with my work. In the long term, I will continue if it still feels good. I hope I can paint more small, intimate works at my lake house this summer.

David Carter

David Carter

David Carter is an Arts and Wellness professional, a professor of Art and Art History, and an international exhibiting artist and lecturer. He has won the Smithsonian Institution’s Award of Merit and numerous grants and awards in museums and galleries. He is an ordained minister and founder of the Interfaith Center of the Arts in Waterford, Saratoga County, New York.
David Carter

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