Distinctly Dory

Local artist David Dory will inject new artistic life into a local bar

David Dory works on a commission for the Reno Jazz Club.

David Dory works on a commission for the Reno Jazz Club.

Amidst the swirling, brightly colored symbols on the walls and the ultra-modern light fixtures, you might feel that the Reno Jazz Club is already teeming with art. Bursting with it, in fact, considering how tiny the Fourth Street bar is compared to the sterile, sprawling sports bars popping up all over the Reno-Sparks area. But in a watering hole already saturated with eye candy, local artist David Dory will soon supply a new focal point for bleary eyes.

When I visited Dory at New Medium Art Gallery last week, he had recently finished the curvaceous outlines of four nude women—all previous or current bartenders at the Reno Jazz Club—who will dominate a mural in the bar’s back room behind the pool table. Done in oil pastels, the commissioned piece was the brainchild of the bar’s owner but will certainly reach maturity with a style local art lovers recognize as distinctly Dory.

“I’ve been painting my whole life, but I did an internship in the Bay under a guy named Nagi Chami—he was a little French guy—and while I was studying under him, he used to get mad at me for signing the front of my paintings,” Dory says. “He said if people can’t recognize your work without your name being on the front, then you’re not there yet. You have to keep developing a style. So the style came from basically him forcing me into a particular idea. And even though I like to paint other things, the sand dune ones are the ones that kind of became famous.”

Indeed, Dory’s sand dune paintings and drawings, which often feature women’s nude bodies melting effortlessly into the landscape, have become a signature in which no words are necessary. While some of his sand dune works feature men, and even a Pegasus in one piece, Dory says women’s bodies lend themselves better to his style because they “flow.”

Dory’s slight frame, red hair and glasses, combined with his gentle, tentative speaking voice, give him the aura of an elfin creature straight out of a J.R.R. Tolkien book. And as I read Dory’s personal philosophy on art, now in print in New Medium’s free N Magazine, I learned that my fanciful description of him is not far from the leanings of his own mind.

“In my art, I summon and evoke creativity of a time when imagination ruled our lives," Dory writes. "When we, as children, could see images, die deaths and live fantastic adventures wrapped in such innocence and belief that to question their existence would be to question our own credibility."