Printmaker David Pingree now works almost exclusively on a computer, and the advantages are pretty straightforward. It’s faster and easier for him to make adjustments and achieve the right results.
The main disadvantage is a little more complicated. Some say digital images like his are not really art.
Pingree retaliates in bold, capital letters spelling out “THIS IS NOT ART,” then furiously crossing out the word “not.”
“I get fed up with critics,” he said.
He enjoys the freedom of digital art. He experiments with more color and detail than he could when screen-printing by hand. And he no longer spends months at a time on one drawing that may never sell for enough money to account for all those hours.
Time is more valuable than ever for the Dover artist. He’s living with cancer, and spends roughly one week out of every month recovering from chemotherapy treatments. Pingree is no longer able to work in advertising, but spends the other three weeks of the month making art.
Evidence that he is a prolific and versatile artist is now on view at Artstream in Dover. The new exhibit, titled “Mind’s Eye,” includes a large collection of Pingree’s digital art as well as mixed media paintings by Maine artist Maya Kuvaja.
A reception is planned for Friday, Jan. 30, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., as part of Dover’s new monthly Art Walk on Final Fridays. Adelle’s Coffeehouse, Kali Klass Boutique, Village Goldsmith, and The Flower Room are also participating.
Pingree admires both Pop Art pioneer Andy Warhol and street artist Banksy, near opposites in terms of public image, whose rule-breaking work expanded the definition of art.
So what is art?
“It’s whatever the viewer thinks it is,” Pingree says.
He thinks art is visual music. “Music really affects me and I want my visuals to do that to people — to really affect them,” he said.
And he likes images that encourage people to take some time to think about them, which is one reason why his work pairs so well with Kuvaja’s, even though their methods are very different.
Kuvaja is very hands-on, layering drawings with glazes and opaque oil paints, which either obscure or call attention to the foundation. The process is also a part of her message, exploring the multi-layered and convoluted nature of memory and reality.
She is interested in the combination of myth, science, nature, industry, and religion within our consciousness, and how all these sometimes contrasting things lead to our stories and sense of self.
Kuvaja draws from the long tradition of storytelling, but through the relatively modern literary movement of magical realism. It’s a way of seeing with such awareness that the inherent magic in the everyday becomes apparent. Common creatures in her work take on fantastical traits, but are still a part of this world. For instance, “The Weight of Matter” depicts a man with an owl’s head and imagery of early flying inventions, which could suggest both the wisdom and displaced goals of the inventor.
Her work also considers species loss, and the delicate balance with and conflict against the environment, but here again, she focuses on the mystical quality of life. A whale becomes a phantom in the shadow of a tall ship in one of her paintings.
Pingree said Kuvaja’s work is all about wonder and thought. And gallery owner Susan Schwake said the two artists complement each other because they both use unexpected, dreamlike imagery. Both certainly deserve a good, long look.
“Mind’s Eye” is up through Feb. 27 at Artstream, 10 Second St., Dover, 603-516-8500.