A Decade of Excellence
By Sandra K. Basile
Continuing the series of interviews with the artists who have been awarded the annual Pawtucket Foundation Exhibition Prize from 2008 to 2017.
|David Duhaime, Finish Line, Mixed media, 24 x 24|
A psychologist by profession, David Duhaime has been painting and making sculptures and constructions for nearly forty years.
“I don’t use the word ‘artist’ to describe myself,” Duhaime says. “But making these things is an important part of my life.”
Largely self-taught, Duhaime thinks of his work as a visual diary. He does not start a piece with a fixed idea, but rather begins to “muck around” in his studio to see what comes, relying on instinct, following rather than forcing.
“Of course the works have meaning to me, but I prefer that viewers draw their own conclusions,” Duhaime says.
Finish Line, awarded the Pawtucket Foundation Prize in 2013, engages on many levels. Its composition is dynamic and energized. A running, stick-figure man is shown leaping, with outstretched hand and graceful foot. Collaged elements – the image of a ritual mask, and two X-rays – create a friction of references. One evokes early African culture, the other modern, Western medicine. The X-rays are recognizable as a human hand and foot and somehow convey a revealed humanity. The painterly, mustard-colored, wash behind the subject further mixes up the messages, and reminds viewers that Finish Line is a painting, not an artifact. This is a deceptively simple, cerebral and layered work. It is also joyful – the joy of physical exertion, of abandon, and near flight, a finish line nowhere in sight.
Born and raised in Rhode Island, David Duhaime lives in Mansfield, Massachusetts where he has a studio space in his house. Most of his career has been as a psychologist working with children in school settings. He is currently in private practice in Providence.
“My work as a psychologist and my creative efforts both require a similar intense engagement, flexibility and a willingness to consider new perspectives. In some ways, both feel like walking on a high wire. Uncertainty is always part of the equation and failure is always a possibility. But when things work out, it’s thrilling.”
Duhaime does not approach his work with an eye toward exhibiting. But a good friend, the artist Kristin Street, did, and she encouraged him. When bothDuhaime and Street were working at the Moses Brown School, he as the school psychologist and she as a teacher of visual arts and the curator of the Krause Gallery, Street asked Duhaime to participate in several exhibits. And over the years Duhaime‘s art has been shown in a number of galleries.
“Winning a prize in an exhibition that featured many fine professional artists was a very pleasant and unexpected surprise,” Duhaime says about receiving the Pawtucket Foundation Prize. “I understand the subjective nature of evaluating art. Still, it felt validating.”
Going directly to the heart of what motivates the Pawtucket Foundation to support this annual exhibition, Duhaime says, “I believe that support for the arts is one of the clearest indications of a city’s health and vitality. It’s great when organizations like the Pawtucket Foundation and the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative support the arts so generously.”
The 10th Annual Pawtucket Foundation Prize Exhibition is on view at the gallery;
Thursdays 5:30 – 7:30, Sat/Sun 1-5 pm.
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