Artist’s lecture on fuzzy, furry, and fun career

Rachel Hoerman

In a lecture at Wriston Art Center entitled “Abstract, Organic, Furry, and Fun,” visiting artist David Kaiser opened the door to the creative processes and innovative materials that hallmark his work. A professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, Kaiser has displayed his work in cities like Houston, Chicago, and Milwaukee, and has installed pieces at the Art Institute as well.

His pieces, which are geologically inspired and themed works that place emphasis on the behavior of paint when exposed and mixed with different materials, are done on large canvases and integrate a range of materials—from faux fur or “fun fur,” depending on the color, to plastic worms, beach glass, and seed beads. Largely abstract, Kaiser’s work stresses his use of outlandish materials in creating art, and the behavior of paint when combined with those materials.

Kaiser describes his work as “macro simple and micro complex,” and sees his art as “very natural.” On the fact that each of his works fits into a series of pieces significantly phrased, Kaiser comments: “I use my ideas to make artwork that lets the language follow the work, not the work follow the language. In my art, there are some natural principles to be followed.”

In a chronological overview of his career, Kaiser stressed his humble beginnings, and the first few paintings that made him realize he was on to something new. By drawing his inspiration from a variety of organic architects and their techniques, which employ the use of residual materials to create structures and retain materials used on sight, Kaiser began experimenting with crumpled faux or fun fur, as well as wood fragments to create works that appeared heavy and smooth, but were light and furry in reality.

Becoming increasingly complex as time wore on, Kaiser’s work reached a turning point when he made the transition from manipulating the behavior of industrial materials, such as vinyl and fake fur, to manipulating the behavior of paint on a canvas.

Following his call for unexpected ingredients in his works, Kaiser actually incorporated an old acrylic painting, which had frozen and begun to crack from exposure in his garage, into a new work of his, creating a rough, peeling, and shadowy surface on a field of golden yellow. In another one of his works from this period, Kaiser combined caulking, silicon, crushed tube glass, and psychedelic and spaghetti-thin strings of colored acrylic from an eyedropper to create a patchwork piece of color and glitter.

Innovative in ingredients and technique, many of Kaiser’s works contain some interesting, and occasionally rather gross, secrets. In some of his works Kaiser drags a needle through different colors of paint to spread and manipulate the shapes he desires. Kaiser often paints wet into wet, and thus his work is very time sensitive, and while the paint is drying, he often drops in small glass beads, dots of color, and creates solidified bubbles out of acrylic paint. Once when he was sick, Kaiser even admits to dispersing his own mucus into his painting.

Interested in sculpture and photography as well, and an artist who goes through roughly three-hundred preliminary sketches before realizing his idea on canvas, and who takes anywhere from one sitting to gallons of paint to finish a piece, Kaiser sees his work continuing along the same vein it began.

“Though I sometimes have to throw some paintings away because they don’t follow my commands and have to be taken care of,” he adds with a smile, “I think I’ve really hit my stride and that right now, painting is the best vehicle for me to get my work out there.