Thursday, December 10, 2009

Proper Noun of the Week #21: Dana Depew of Asterisk Gallery

I'll admit it, a number of the folks in this Proper Noun Cleveland interview series have been people I'm happy to call my friends. That's not to say every interview has been with someone I already knew - just as many have been cold call email conversations. Today's selection, though, is someone I've known for quite a while. Iin fact, I'd venture to say he's the first friend I made when I moved to Cleveland.

I first met Dana Depew at an Asterisk Gallery opening in 2007 celebrating a new Mark Mothersbaugh exhibit. We chatted a bit then and a bit more a couple days later when I popped in to buy one of the pieces and ended up watching half of the Browns game on the big and ancient TV that used to be in the front of the gallery. Over the next several months, monthly openings at Asterisk became anchors in my calendar and as time went on I became more and more impressed with Depew's curatorial skills. By the time he hosted openings of shows like the Bush-themed group show and the All Things Cleveland exhibit, I was hooked.

Since that first year of life in the 216, I've migrated eastward, and while I'm happily ensconced in Waterloo, I regret not being able to attend each and every opening that takes place in Dana's little patch of Tremont. Even as my weeks grow busier and I meet more and more wonderful Cleveland residents (and as I, to be brutally honest, worry that I am beginning to succumb to that east/west divide I laughed at when first migrating to NEO), the one event I won't ever allow myself to miss is the Asterisk Holiday Benefit, an event that auctions off work by regional artists and friends of the gallery with the proceeds going to subsidize ongoing gallery costs (including the mammoth gas bill Depew receives each month).

In previous years, I've scored some wonderful pieces, so much so that I've started to feel guilty for paying such rock-bottom prices (pieces go for as low as $30 and very frequently under the $80-100 range). This year, the annual event takes place THIS WEEKEND, with silent bidding beginning FRIDAY at 5 PM and ending on SATURDAY at 11 PM. If you are wise, you'll get there in the early evening on Friday, before the pieces by
artists like Douglas Max Utter, Scott Pickering, Paul Sydorenko, Sunia Boneham, Michelle Murphy, Gadi Zamir, Jason Byers, Thom Rossino, Arabella Proffer, KRK Ryden, Mallorie Freeman, and about 90 more (including multiple works by Depew himself) are all snatched up. If you are really smart, you'll hit the place between 7 & 8 pm, in time to do your perusing before local rockers Pale Hollow play a free set.

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

I have lived in Tremont for the past 9 years and previously lived on my father's farm in Medina my whole life.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

My favorite early memories of Cleveland would actually be the worst - you can take your pick of the Drive or the Fumble. I appreciate both of those failed events happening early in my life because it ingrained a sense of continually being let down, looking forward to something and it being torn away from you. It really defines the Cleveland "expect the worst" mentality. Both the Drive and Fumble still affect me to this day.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

Cleveland has an enormous influence on my work. Especially trying to play out the tortured artist stereotype. The weather, the adverse effect of the failures of all the sports teams, the continual butt of jokes from others. The surroundings in which we reside all makes great fodder to produce some really memorable art. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day? Or, to put it another way, if it was your birthday and your nearest and dearest were all willing to do what you wanted, what would your day be like?

Ideal Cleveland day would be Warsteiner draft served early at 6am at the Westside Market, hitting up both Unique Thrift stores, going to a few galleries, happy hour and dinner at an number of great restaurants and then meet out with friends. Or I would just get up at 5am and go tailgating before a Browns game.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

I would definitely want them to really get that Cleveland experience. I'd take them to see a band at Beachland or Grog Shop, go to Tremont Artwalk, or take them to a sporting event - either the Browns or Indians because they would both lose but not the Cavs because they more than likely would win. I would then drive them around the Flats and watch the tumbleweed blow across the street. Then finish up with a late night run to Old Fashioned Hot Dog - there is something really memorable when you see a guy stirring chili in a big pot with a dirty boat oar.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

I would want them to import - hope.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

To "Support Cleveland Art"

To meet Dana, be sure to visit Asterisk this weekend and get your bid on. Doors open at 5 PM on Friday and the auction ends at 11 PM sharp on Saturday. Also, keep in mind that Asterisk hosts openings for new exhibits monthly, timed to coincide with the Tremont Art Walk event on the First Friday of every month. Make it a habit - it was the smartest thing I ever did when I moved here.

No comments: