T. David Downs was born in 1976 in Bowie, Texas. He studied mechanical engineering in Aiken, South Carolina, but soon after began to study painting under artist Thaddeus Suits in Augusta, Georgia. In 2005 he moved to Manhattan, New York, and spent five years studying classical drawing, painting and sculpting at the Art Students League of New York. This education was supplemented with independent studies of classical craft at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through 2011.
In 2015 and 2016 Downs studied with renowned American realist painter Bo Bartlett in Columbus, Georgia as a part of the Bartlett Master Painting class.
Downs has exhibited in the US and abroad including shows at the Niagara Gallery in New York City as well as the US Embassy in Rome, Italy.
He currently uses his studio in Pittsburgh for his painting, photography and stone sculpting.
Y E S & N O (a statement regarding the work in relation to the artist)
"I bring you comforting news:
There is no salvation in the quality of a line.
I have set down these actions and accidents truly. Observe them seriously, with learning, if you be furnished that way, If not with reason and religion.
I have found no end to move towards, just the daily labor of wrestling with a ghost that insists it shouldn't be seen.
I don't think anymore, I disappear, for the narrative of my work resides where language cannot go. Even I can hardly access it.
My art is truly my circumstance, but it's not obvious whether it's in harmony or defiance of myself.
The work is a desperation, an attempt at maintaining a levity and a nostalgia that I've found and dispatched from the edge of a place I've never been.
There exists no direct description of what I do or why I do. There is only an explanation: a passion for mystery.
The great unknown is where I hide and thrive chasing some symbol of a conception of the infinite.
I am not making any social statements, historical reference or subversive commentary.
There is only the making, the craft and the objects that accumulate from it.
I await trembling and sighing some high manifestation of contemporary mystic art."
- T.D.D. 2017
What first got you interested in painting?
"I have been asserting myself as an artist from the earliest time I can remember. There’s no specific reason for this except I just really loved to draw. The home I was in and the public school I attended didn’t hold art in any high regard. I just came about it naturally, as naturally as one can within the spaces that the imagination is allowed to wander.
My mother had a bible illuminated with old master paintings, mostly Carravaggios. At around the age of five I was sitting in church and looking through these pictures and I asked “How did someone get photos of this stuff?” and she replied “Those aren’t photos, they’re paintings.” I remember clearly the jaw dropping moment when I realized “somebody made this.” It was probably the single most powerful art moment I’ve ever experienced. Not only did they look absolutely, convincingly real but they felt savage and imbued with emotion.
I said “I want to do that. I’m an artist.”
What inspires a painting?
"A combination of ancient esoteric mystical texts and my dreams. Though, admittedly, most days and nights I don't know if I'm awake or dreaming. Maybe I'm an artist in my dreams. I'm sure that I followed a white rabbit to my destiny.
But I'm certain, yes, it's the wandering that inspires."
Advice for an aspiring artist?
"SEE. Learn to see. See things for exactly what they are, what they aren't, where the meaning begins and where it fades. Let yourself be lost. And don't forget to make art, like your life depends on it, make make make... "