Sounds like painting
Visiting artist combines acrylics, spray paint and music during Idea Fabrication Labs residency
During last summer’s Raindance music festival up the Feather River Canyon in Belden, painter David Cedeño saw an 11-foot-tall möbius-strip-like wooden structure he called “one of the most impressive main-stage designs I’d ever seen.” That’s saying a lot, coming from a festival regular like Cedeño (aka “Chocolate David”), who’d been traveling the circuit to gain exposure for his own live-painting performances.
As it turned out, the stage designers were Chico guys who were equally impressed with him, and invited him to apply for the artist-incubator program at their Idea Fabrication Labs, a 7,000-square-foot warehouse wonderland that encourages artists and makers to experiment with traditional and high-tech digital fabrication tools.
“I was immediately interested,” said the Buffalo, N.Y., native, who drove his bus (and dog Jaida Kiss) to Chico from his current home in L.A. in September to set up shop as the newest resident in the tech-art incubator program.
“We chose David because he had intention. He knew how he wanted to use the tools here,” said IFL co-founder Jordan Layman. For Cedeño, the lab’s laser cutter was an attractive new device for perfecting the acetate stencils he uses to complete the application of his acrylic and spray-paint based pieces. “It’s been a dream come true to play around with that machine. I was using an X-Acto knife before,” he said.
Cedeño’s IFL residency will culminate with his Transpositions exhibit, which opens at the lab on Saturday, Dec. 13. “I’m hoping to have 30 completed paintings by then,” Cedeño said before a recent stencil-making workshop he conducted at IFL as he showed off the fruits of his residency—some completed, others awaiting finishing touches—scattered around the grounds of the lab. While some canvases stretch as high as 6 feet, even the small 5-by-7-inch paintings were easy to spot with their bright color palettes.
“I’ve had a long-running theme of using psychedelic colors and neons,” Cedeño said. “Even as a kid, I’d raid my dad’s farm spray cans and thought it was so cool [that] I could play with fluorescent.”
Heavily inspired by comic-book designs and “character-driven graffiti of the ’90s,” Cedeño said his style is “still evolving.” But music remains a recurring theme in most of his works, including those making up Transpositions, which features vivid portraits of various musical instruments and DJs, mixed with “organic life forms,” such as one with neon green frogs sitting atop a trumpet.
“Music is inside us. That’s what artists and musicians tap into—that emotional vein that runs through us,” he said. “An ongoing obsession of mine is exploring what it is that makes a DJ’s sound unique to them, just like any other artist has their signature.”
It’s fitting, then, that most of his works were inspired by (and sometimes created during) live concerts, which Cedeño claims were conducive environments for making new work. “During my traditional training, the spray paint and comic-book styles were discouraged because galleries aren’t falling over themselves to get that kind of work, but the festival circuit was made for that.”
As Cedeño’s most recent workspace, IFL has been another invaluable place for growing his creative process. “It’s a learning club of art geeks who can get together and play with these toys and techniques.” Although he’s studied and worked professionally in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, Cedeño noted the difficulty in finding collaborative opportunities in the big cities. “That’s one thing that’s missing in a lot of artistic communities—a meeting place to exchange ideas. Chico is fortunate enough to have an established maker-space with a creative energy.”
While harnessing that energy to finish his latest series, Cedeño also found extra time to teach two IFL workshops, both on basic stencil-making. “I think it’s our responsibility to impart what we’ve learned onto others, so they can take it and run with it,” he said.
Inspired by Layman and fellow IFL founder Erin Banwell’s lamps made using the laser cutter, Cedeño has also created his own collection of wooden lamps that will be shown alongside his paintings during Transpositions. Clearly, the Chico program’s worked out well for him. “They asked me how long I wanted to stay and I said, ‘Are you kidding? I could stay here forever if you let me.’”