Photographer David Lee Black has been featured in several Artscope Magazine profiles and also can be found performing behind and holding moveable drum sets in the Providence area. This Thursday, December 9, he’ll unveil his latest collections of work at “The Funky Black-tie and Bling Gala Art Opening” from 7-9 p.m. in the Capital Ballroom of the Graduate Providence Hotel, 11 Dorrance St., Providence, Rhode Island. In the middle of last minute preparations for the event, managing editor Brian Goslow exchanged questions about how he ended up based at the Graduate Providence, what it’s like to have a rotating window gallery space, having to leave the late David A. Lang’s studio in Natick, Massachusetts and his plans for 2022.
YOU’VE SPENT THE LAST PART OF 2021 RESETTLING INTO A NEW STUDIO SPACE AT THE GRADUATE PROVIDENCE HOTEL. HOW DID THAT COME ALONG AND WHAT UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES HAS IT PRESENTED YOU?
The Graduate Providence offered me a maker/studio gallery space through the Sweet Dreams Society Grant located on the ground floor of the historic 1922 hotel facing Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence. I had done multiple photo shoots in what was the old Biltmore and had a unique relationship with the hotel.
IT’S UNIQUE IN THAT YOU’RE ABLE TO CONSTANTLY RE-DO THE FRONT WINDOW GALLERY SPACE, CORRECT?
Truly a sweet dream, I am able to create whatever, whenever I want in the studio space. Often, I am there in the early morning hours and the Graduate offers me free accommodations, food at the Reiners, the hotel bar and morning coffee at Poindexter, the hotel coffee shop. Often, I feel like I am Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining,’ never leaving the historic and reportedly haunted hotel. The only expectation is that I have a capstone event which is the December 9, Funky Black-Tie and Bling Art Opening in the Capital Ballroom of the hotel.
WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN FROM PASSERBYERS?
There is considerable public interest of passerby who often take pictures of the rotating fine art photography and sculpture inside the two large street facing windows. I usually smile and wave them in as I appear like I am working in my own artful aquarium. There have been some wonderful conversations and sales!
THE DOWNSIDE OF THE MOVE WAS HAVING TO LEAVE THE SHOP IN NATICK, DAVID A. LANG’S LONGTIME WORKSPACE THAT STILL HELD MANY OF HIS UNIQUE KINETIC CREATIONS. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE — TO HAVE TO NOT ONLY MOVE YOUR OWN MATERIALS BUT THAT OF A GREATLY MISSED FRIEND?
When we were notified by the landlord that they were seeking to increase their profits and turn the space into commercial storage, I was in a state of mourning as I truly loved being in that space. We produced a LOT of art, a sense of community and positive energy there and it was a huge loss. I could only wish for another space to do the same. Be careful of what you wish for as I then learned that I was awarded my current space at the Graduate Providence.
The Graduate flew me down to their corporate headquarters in Nashville for an orientation to meet my art mentor, Paul Blair, otherwise known as DJ White Shadow who produced Lady Gaga’s Grammy award winning albums including ‘The Star Is Born.’ I remain in regular contact with Paul who has been instrumental in guiding me through this transition with his creative insight.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO DAVID’S WORK?
The family has secured David’s work in various places to await the next chapter. I have a couple of David’s kinetic sculpture pieces in my home and studio for continued inspiration.
YOU’VE GOT A HUGE EVENT THIS THURSDAY — THE FUNKY BLACK-TIE AND BLING GALA ART OPENING IN THE CAPITAL BALLROOM AT THE GRADUATE PROVIDENCE. WHAT’S GOING TO BE TAKING PLACE AND DOES IT FEEL TO BE ABLE TO PULL TOGETHER THE VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS — YOUR OWN ARTWORK AND MUSIC BY YOUR OWN SUPERCHIEF TRIO AND THE PROVIDENCE DRUM TROUPE WITH SPECIAL GUESTS, THE SPACE TRANSFORMATION STATION ROBOTS/ALIENS, “EMPEROR” ROOKFINGER OF THE RED FORK EMPIRE (JUSTIN STANLEY) AND MISS KITTY IMPERIAL TEA HOSTESS (KAT STANLEY) INTO ONE BIG NIGHT?
I was advised to crystalize my “story” into one thing in order to be more easily digested by the larger community. That journey has been an intense inner struggle for me as I truly have art, music, and theater as integral parts of my story and to leave one out would be like leaving out an important chapter. So, I concluded that I am not one sentence, I am a chapter book with multiple genuine parts all working together, much like the upcoming event on December 9.
The evening will be a visual feast with three 8 foot. tall sculptural photography pieces, over 20 fine art photographs, passed appetizers and a cash bar. The Superchief Trio will be performing funky blues and R&B complete with a dance floor. Special guests The Providence Drum Troupe (of which I am the founder), visual artists Space Transformation Station, Emperor Rookfinger and Miss Kitty will be intermingling with the guests. Although it sounds like a lot, the evening will be fun and relaxed sprinkled with moments of spontaneous joy.
YOU GO ALL IN ON A NUMBER OF PASSIONS — PHOTOGRAPHY, DRUMMING AND RIDING YOUR MOTORCYCLE. HOW DO YOU BALANCE THEM AND HOW DO THEY INFLUENCE EACH OTHER?
Each interest feeds the other, creating balance. Riding my motorcycle on long journeys offers open road time to think, really think. No distractions except for being in the wind. I often problem solve, create photographic concepts or simply Zen out on the experience and be in the moment. I love having a number of genuine passions. Life would be rather boring if one ate the same food at every meal.
WHAT CURRENT PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON AND DO YOU HAVE ANY UPCOMING SOLO EXHIBITIONS OR GROUP SHOWS THAT YOU’LL BE SHOWING IN OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS?
I have been putting together ‘The Graduate Series,’ a photographic journey into the cool cats of New England interacting with the 1922 historic Graduate Providence hotel. Ballerinas, musicians, educators, activists, etc. People that I am blessed to know that make a difference in the world in their own unique way.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR 2021?
My 2021 was heaven and hell. I lost a dear friend to Covid, was unable to see my new granddaughter as much as I wanted, watched as my country became divisive and lost the magic space at The Shop. On the bright side, I created the Providence Drum Troupe (“Born from the pandemic, The Providence Drum Troupe are an interactive group of dynamic musicians, a wide-range of acrobats, artists, puppetry and more from near and far who create funky beats with positive energy, demonstrating that living in harmony with one another is not an antiquated notion.”), was awarded my current studio space at The Graduate and have grand baby #2 on the way!
(The Funky Black-tie and Bling Gala Art Opening featuring the art of David Lee Black takes place on Thursday, December 9 from 7-9 p.m. in the Capital Ballroom of the Graduate Providence Hotel, 11 Dorrance St., Providence, Rhode Island. For more details on the event, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/318196573125846/. To learn more about David Lee Black, visit davidleeblack.com.)