Three Years and Seven Artists: The Davyd Whaley Foundation
Castelli Art Space, Los Angeles
Written by Genie Davis
Beautifully curated, Three Years: The Davyd Whaley Foundation, exhibited at Castelli Art Space in June, offered a look at the works of seven artists supported by the foundation over the past three years.
The collection of diverse, exciting art included a wide range of lustrous works; a mix of sculpture, paintings, and photography.
According to show curator and foundation director Nick Brown “The exhibition was a way for us to offer continued support for our artists and raise visibility for them and the foundation.”
The show included Andrea Bersaglieri, Susanna Battin, Margaret Griffith, Laura Krifka, Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, Phung Huynh and Ryan Jeffrey.
Brown describes the curation as “an interesting experience. Typically, the curator would create a concept for the show, and then select artists that they felt reflected that concept and work from each artist that fleshes it all out. In this case, I was beginning with the artists, because the general concept was to promote our awardees through an exhibition. So, the task became finding conceptual and aesthetic commonality in the diverse range of work.”
The task was astutely accomplished. Among the works exhibited were a stunning sculptural piece by Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia, “Vida, passion y muerte,” created with acrylic, glass beads, and metallic floss on muslin; and sculptural work as dazzling as it is delicate in works by Margaret Griffith such as her “Versailles,” created from hand cut Tyvek paper and acrylic. The delicate and precise floral oil images of Andrea Bersaglieri paired perfectly with Susan Battin’s acrylic and graphite landscapes and their vivid, buttery yellow backgrounds. A completely different sort of landscape was on view with Ryan Jeffrey’s classically composed, painterly digital depiction of urban streets. The figurative portraiture of Laura Krifka and Phung Huynh couldn’t be more different in style and approach, but are equally involving and intimate. Also exhibited was foundation namesake Davyd Whaley’s mixed media on wood “Surrender,” a lush and layered, highly-textured abstract.
Brown correctly asserts that “the strength of the exhibition was both inherent in the works themselves and the diverse forms that they took. This enabled me to curate the show in a dynamic way revealing these properties. Laura Krifka is an extraordinary realist painter whose work could be intermixed with Susanna Battin’s conceptual paintings that are dual sided and suspended at an angle revealing both sides of the work. This creates a transition from wall-bound work to painting occupying a semi-sculptural position to the sculptures of Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia which are rooted in the medium of fiber art. Lorenzo’s work then built towards Margaret Griffith’s large paper-based installation pieces. Phung Huynh’s political, stylized realist paintings hang nearby, along with Andrea Bersaglieri’s masterful small scale paintings of weeds which share space with Ryan Jeffrey’s digitally manipulated prints of Google Maps street view screen grabs.”
Brown stresses that the diversity of both artists and their work was in full view. A commitment to diversity is a continued goal for the foundation. Brown notes “As the director of the foundation, I am always an artist first. Our programming moving forward will continue with artist teacher grants, emerging artist grants and various other opportunities not filled by other entities serving artists in the Los Angeles area.”
According to Brown, “Each grant cycle we have three independent jurors that decide who the foundation will issue grants and other opportunities to. We invite one of our previous artist awardees and two arts professionals working at the highest levels to make these determinations. This means we have a very diverse range of awardees, because of the rotating nature of the jury. The foundation itself has no overarching aesthetic principle. This should encourage all artists to apply for our opportunities and not be dissuaded if they are not awarded in their initial attempt. Also, our free application process provides artists visibility, getting their work seen by influential people in the community who serve as our jurors.”
Foundation founder Norman Buckley established The Davyd Whaley Foundation in 2016 in honor of his late husband Davyd Whaley. “It was a way to proactively process my grief—to find meaning in the loss– by promoting Davyd’s artistic legacy, and also the values that were important to him. Davyd had much success at the end of his life, but he also had a great heart for service – he was the most open-hearted person I’ve ever met. He felt it was important to give back when one had the opportunity. In my life now I continue to take my inspiration from him.”
According to Buckley, Whaley’s goals “were always evident: Make art. Buy the art of others. Help people whenever possible. Grow in consciousness. The mission of the Foundation was designed around these tenets.”
In the first year of the Foundation two grants were awarded — a mid-career artist and an artist-teacher grant. The following year, a third grant was given to another mid-career artist. And this year, four grants were given: emerging artist, artist-teacher, and two residencies. Buckley says that to date more than $42,000 has been donated to local artists chosen from hundreds of applications from the Southern California area by an independent jury.
“The jury changes each year, but has always been comprised of members from the local art community,” Buckley explains. “I am not personally involved with the selection of grantees, nor is anyone from the Foundation staff, nor was I involved with decisions about the exhibition.”
The Foundation is managed by Whaley’s friend and associate Anitra Kyees, who Buckley notes has been instrumental in its startup. Other key members are Brown, whom Whaley met while taking a class from him at UCLA Extension; Ellie Blankfort, the Foundation’s original director; and her husband, Peter Clothier, who wrote the essay “A Hero’s Journey” about Davyd, which is in the monograph of Davyd’s work, DAVYD WHALEY. The monograph is available on Amazon, with all proceeds going to the Foundation.
Buckley wants people to know that the foundation was established to support artists in an unrestricted way. “Many grants in the art world are designed around certain criteria, but I wanted to do something that would allow artists to figure out for themselves how to use the money. I am encouraged by those we have awarded so far.”
He describes them as each being “unique in their approach to their craft and thoughtful about the philosophy behind their work. My hope is that the Foundation will be a way to bring more attention to their work.” Buckley adds “I feel that Davyd would be very happy with those who have received this honor in his name. In his life, he wanted to support other artists in whatever way he could and encourage others to do the same. I am grateful that, through the Foundation, I am able to carry on his legacy of generosity and service.”