David Wilson

Goldies 2009: Providing autonomous-zone community gatherings and memories to draw on


You can stare blankly at a museum piece for three seconds, or you can view a drawing through one of David Wilson's events — through a swim in the Pacific Ocean, or through staring at a sky criss-crossed by an intricate lattice of branches. You can do the gallery troll stroll, or you can walk over hills and small mountains into caves and coves where, thanks to Wilson and friends, music and movies reside.

If you experienced Wilson's "Open Endless" and "Memorial Fort" this year, you've been to places you likely wouldn't have encountered otherwise, and have memories to draw from as you move on. Though these were autonomous-zone community gatherings, subtextually and privately, they were partly inspired by Wilson's father, who died the day after "Open Endless" traversed the Marin Headlands. "Everything I felt excited about [artistically] took on a different tone," he says, when asked about the initial cancer diagnosis. "I started a six-month drawing project up in the hills. It was personal meditation on what was happening, and also a chance to be removed from my life in a way that I could feel like I was sending thoughts out eastward. I was drawing eastward."

"Drawing is a tool that I carry with me," he continues, as we sit on a patch of grass in Dolores Park, where a dog tries to munch on our pastries. "It's a viewfinder to orient my wanders while trying to find places, and find myself in places."

For Wilson, this journey traces back to annual visits to Cape Cod during his youth. His drawings and paintings range from life-size shells to a 22-foot watercolor coastline rendered on the aged white paper of record sleeves. "I like seeing what's already invested in a piece of parchment," he says, agreeing about a kinship with Todd Bura, Ajit Chauhan, and Colter Jacobsen. "Age marked in that gentle way on paper is beautiful."

Wilson's drawings have metamorphosed into site-specific events in eucalyptus groves, military tunnels, and even islands. Last year, and he and some co-conspirators woke up on New Year's morning to reserve every campsite on Angel Island for one July weekend. With "Memorial Fort," Wilson's process has progressed to additions to the landscape, resulting in an unlikely oasis in the woods of Richmond. "Ideas in general are infectious," he observes. "If an idea is exciting, then things can fall into place."


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