Amazon Aid Foundation is happy to welcome David Silverstein- a New York-based multidisciplinary artist, designer and art director. David’s explorations are inspired by a profound love of nature and a bold sense of design.
How did you first become inspired by the Amazon?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been enamored with the idea of the rainforest. I grew up being fascinated with wildlife of all kinds, but my favorite animals always lived in the rainforest. For me, it always represented the most foreign, most quintessentially “wild” environment. I can remember specifically, in elementary school, my favorite book was “The Great Kapok Tree,” by Lynne Cherry. At that time, the greater message of conservation was likely lost on me. However, what impacted me profoundly at that time were the beautiful illustrations of plants and animals. It was clear to me that if I loved those animals, those plants, that protecting them from harm was very important. That message, accompanied by that imagery, likely has had a significant impact on me, as I find myself often drawn to these visual themes. That’s probably my first case of inspiration, associated with the Amazon.
Does the Amazon Rainforest and environmentalism manifest in your work? Living in NYC, how do you get connected to nature?
I think there was a long period of time, where my love for the rainforest and environmentalism hadn’t found its way into my professional work. It was always a part of my personal philosophy, but I hadn’t figured out how to bridge the gap between what I was doing with my work, and the themes that interested me in my personal life. It was until recently, over the past few years, where I’ve felt empowered to be more selective with my projects, in order to push my work into a direction that I feel better represents me. In addition, I’ve been able to produce more personal work that allows me to express ideas that I’m unable to with my commercial clients.
Living in New York City, I am often starved for nature. I try to escape the city on weekends, whenever possible. I’ll try to go to the beach or the mountains. But even still, it’s a lot less often than I’d like. I watch a lot of wildlife documentaries, and collect nature books and wildlife photo journals. In the warmer months, I’m more often just on my apartment balcony, sitting in our garden with my cat, trying to absorb the scarce bit of sunshine. I’ve made a point to travel abroad whenever the opportunity presents itself, usually in favor of more natural environments.
How is your approach to a mural different from a smaller canvas?
Scale is an extremely important consideration in my work. It’s something that took me a long time to appreciate, and I’m very much still learning. Understanding how viewers interact with the work in physical space, whether it’s a small framed drawing, a 3-D sculpture, or a large-scale mural, is always interesting to me. I try to think about impact and intimacy. Trying to consider the interaction that I want the viewer to have with the piece, in the context of the space. That intention usually influences a lot of the decisions I make regarding scale, level of detail, color, mark-making, etc.
You seem to have many styles- what inspires you? Do you go through different phases? When did you start working with textiles like tufted rugs? The textures are beautiful. They look like artistic topographic maps that meet Asian art styles.
Thank you! Working with unique mediums, like a tufted rug for instance, has been a hugely inspiring thing for me and it’s something I’m hoping to continue to push further in my work. Regarding styles, you’re correct. Similar to how I consider scale in my work, the medium I’m working in often influences my approach. I approach a painted canvas differently than I would a rug, or a mural, or ceramic piece, etc. Spatial context also plays a big role.
That being said, not everything is prescriptive and intentional. My work is often exploratory, and I tend to use every piece as a bit of an experiment, to explore different techniques or themes I’m interested in. Whether I find the piece to be totally successful or not, I usually learn something from the process that influences my next work. I’m constantly gathering inspiration and references. Whether that be from old books, photographs, films, textiles, nature, etc. I try to find commonality amongst these things that I’m drawn to and bring that into my work.
My hope is that I can create a body of work that feels unified, not necessarily by a singular art style, but more by a unique personal approach to making things. I try to make work that, while it may be varied in medium and style, has a cohesive perspective.
Do your art pieces reveal themselves as you go or do you have a specific concept before you start?
For me, it’s always a bit of both. As I mentioned, factors like scale, medium, spatial context, not to mention things like client or project needs, always influence my approach to making the work. That being said, it’s rare for me to go into a project, whether personal or commercial, with a completely rigid vision of the final product. I always leave room for experimentation. I find myself, for better or worse, constantly needing to explore and experiment in my process. Even in times when I feel I have a straightforward goal, I always encounter decisions in my process that force me to experiment. Those little choices, like forks in the road, often determine the outcome of the work. By navigating those decisions in the process, often the work is revealed to me in a way that I wasn’t expecting.
Do you have any planned pieces about Amazon?
Being accepted into the Artists the Amazon Initiative, is such a huge honor and inspiration for me. Being a part of this community is inspiring a lot of potential ideas. Without a doubt, the influence of the Amazon and this initiative will start to work their way into my upcoming work. Again, I’m so honored to be a part of this initiative, and really looking forward to what’s to come.
What is the artist’s role in creating change?
I’m not sure that this is specific to artist’s, or everyone these days. To me, an artist’s power is in their influence and ability to communicate. In a time where everyone has a platform, and everyone has the ability to influence others, no matter the scale, I feel that being intentional with that platform, and that influence, is extremely important. As artists, using your ability to communicate and inspire others, with conscious intention (or awareness at the very least) is the essential responsibility.
To see more of David’s work: