Some artists get prickly when asked to explain their paintings.
Ask David John Rush, and you had better pull up a chair.
“I like storytelling. Most of my paintings have a story to them, either something about my life, or someone I know in the painting,” said the Byram artist, who is displaying 11 of his works in Morristown, at the Starlight Gallery of the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
Take his oil painting, The Pope Brothers.
It depicts a few seemingly unrelated objects, including the headlight from a long-gone Auburn car and a string ball, once used to secure packages.
Turns out David bought these items when the Pope Brothers closed their general store in Netcong years ago. It was a landmark of his youth, and this is his tribute.
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Another one, Olde Tom, is a real turkey. David was captivated by Benjamin Franklin’s campaign in the Farmer’s Almanac to replace the eagle with the wild turkey as our national bird.
“It’s a really colorful, interesting bird,” David attested.
His watercolors and oils have been exhibited at the Bayer AG Headquarters in Berlin, Germany; the New Jersey State Museum; the Philadelphia Museum and Waterloo Village in Stanhope. Several area shows are booked through early 2014. His works also appear on njskylands.com, jerseyarts.com and in the upcoming debut issue of newjerseyliving.com.
A graduate of the Famous Artists School in Westport, CT., and the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art, where he also taught, David Rush has additional teaching experience at Sussex County Community College, Montclair State University, the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Design in Dover and at William Paterson University.
OILS IN HIS BLOOD
Art resonated with David before he even knew what resonance was.
“It started when I was about 2 years old. I wouldn’t go anywhere without a pad and pencil. I spent all my time drawing and drawing. It was the best thing to do,” he recounted.
You could say oils are in his blood. His father painted portraits of FDR and Jean Harlow for the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Alas, he needed steadier work and became a switch man on the Lackawanna Railroad.
Somewhere down the line, David got a crazy notion about his own art.
“I always thought that paintings should have some sort of narrative, other than simple objects,” he said.
A complex narrative underlies his cryptically titled still life, Toshiko Takaezu, on display at the Starlight Gallery. It’s an homage to a painter in Frenchtown who died last year at the age of 100.
Toshiko was delicate, David said, like the fine china of a vase in the painting. And she was earthy, like a clay sculpture in the scene. The grapefruit? She was tiny, like a grapefruit.
“She was always kind of mysterious,” David said. “You never saw all of her, you only saw some of her. She was always emerging from the dark.”
You won’t see all of David John Rush at the Starlight Gallery, either. But enough will emerge from the shadows to make you curious for more of the story.
The Starlight Gallery is open by request during any performance or by appointment; call 973-539-8008. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is at 100 South Street; while you are there, check out the balcony gallery, where works by 25 students of Dannielle Mick also are on display.