“Parking Lot Carnival” explores the nostalgic connections of our past through the contemporary imagery of Dovie Golden. Using his “fiends” as a signature to connote an emotional presence in the subjects, we see them take shape in familiar human forms. In the context of Parking Lot Carnivals, the works explore pivotal moments of youth that brought joy and optimism in a depressing time.
In our interview with Brian ‘Dovie’ Golden, he shares how he pushed himself this exhibition, the lessons he’s learned from his children, and the power of vulnerability.
What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?
Every summer a carnival would come to Chicago near my home on the Southside and I would count down the days until I could attend. The rides, games, lights, popcorn, cotton candy, shrieks of joy from carnival goers, balloon animals were part of a limited-time party rooted in freedom and chance. I wanted to pay homage to that touchstone memory and capture the feeling I got when I attended each year. While “Parking lot carnival” is inspired by a physical place, it is more about the unique and emotional insight stirred up by places we deem special. I invite the viewer to recall their own “parking lot carnival” moments and things that gave them joy, even when the world around them did not bring them joy.
Since your last exhibition, ‘Warning Signs’, how have you challenged yourself as an artist? Is there a specific piece in this body of work that really pushed you?
When I create a body of work, I try to keep in mind that I want the work and its interpretation to change as much as we do as people. Our perspective shifts as we evolve, so I try to keep that in mind. Since my last show, I have challenged myself to integrate a fuller scope of story in my pieces. In “Warning Signs” I demonstrated how the subject can get lost or found by external factors. In “Small Wins” I wanted to portray a theme around individual accomplishments. As part of this body of work, I explored placing the subjects in familiar yet unfamiliar settings so as to focus as much on the background as the subject. I challenged myself to strike a clearer balance between foreground and background as both shape perspective. The piece that I feel shows this equilibrium is “Lift off”.
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
My practice of doing rough sketches of ideas is constantly on the go. This series is from a collection of sketches I did a few years ago that I was finally able to connect and create a body of work around. I always carry a sketchbook with me. The only ritual I would say I have is that I pray before painting every piece. Well…that and a great playlist and a good cup of coffee…or bourbon. So maybe I do have more than one ritual.
What is your favorite carnival game?
I always enjoyed balloon darts, mainly because my success rate was high (lol).
What are a few lessons and/or teachings your children have given to you that has influenced your creative/artistic voice?
My sons regularly remind me that I have so much to learn and their love for me endures. We make space for love. These words get me every time. They teach me that patience, love, and understanding will solve any quarrel or misunderstanding, and to remember we’re all human. They can be seen throughout my work, whether I use their likeness or not. Because of them, I’m a better person.
If you were to write an ad campaign for Chicago on why it’s the best city for creative inspiration, what would be your pitch, and what symbols would you use to represent Chicago? What qualities and values must visitors have in order to visit?
Since we’re located a little east of center in the US, I would have to base the campaign idea around Chicago being the heart of the nation. That heartbeat is the source of so much creativity across our country and abroad. From Archibald Motley to Kerry James Marshall, this city has influenced and inspired every form of art and I’m grateful to have been born here. If I had to choose a symbol, I’d choose the #3 CTA bus since it runs through the corridors that most inspired me: Southside and Downtown.
How do you unwind when outside of the studio?
In order to recharge, I try to drain my mind of all creative thoughts and set my mind at rest. It’s not easy but I’m practicing.
If you could collaborate with any artists in any medium (i.e. movies, music, painting), who would you collaborate with, and what would you be making?
I have a ton of people I’d love to collaborate with. But top of mind, I’d love to collaborate with Ava Duvernay and Big K.R.I.T in some way. I admire people who create from their heart and soul, and to me it’s evident in what they do creatively.
What is your proudest accomplishment of 2021? Life thus far? (can be art-related or not)
The past few years have required introspection—whether we wanted it or not. We have had to take stock of what’s important, how are we affecting others, what boundaries are we setting for ourselves (good and bad). My journey thus far has been riddled with challenges, but I choose to remind myself of the wins and the opportunities I had to learn something new about myself. I learned the importance of celebrating yourself—particularly as a Black Man. I am most proud of how vulnerable and powerful I have become. I love that my work has opened more discussion around mental health and blackness. I am beyond grateful that despite dealing with bouts of depression and being taken to a very dark place by it, I’m glad to still be here.
What big projects do you have coming up in 2022 and 2023 that you’d like to share more about?
Following this show, I will participate in a few group shows this summer. After that, I plan to keep working. I have a bunch of sketches I want to complete, and I’m eager to see where that takes me.