Dave Archer has such a rich history and we have become so close, I’m sure I’ll miss something, that’s how it goes, right? You always neglect your pals. heheheheee… Dave is a great and true artist and one who knew his calling very early on in his life… Dave is famous for painting with a tesla coil, but he’s a talented song writer, poet, illustrator, author and sculptor… I love hanging out with Dave and getting all philosophical… I feel Dave is very underrated as an artist… oh, and he’s a “wanna-beat,” I guess that means he moved to North Beach to be a beat poet… I consider Dave one of the greats.
What is underground art?
Art comes from the subconscious ooze in the darkest places in the human soul. It’s not all muck there though. There is also gold and gems. The underground is the meeting ground-of-being for all true 1% outsiders like us actually. We are malcontents (or I was a malcontent artist) and wanted to be on the creative killing floor, where songs are written, and paintings are painted. The underground say: Punk Rock, is an authentic rock scream from the bowels of ripping hell, where it festered and churned, and now, it has “arrived” in the so-called upper-world in the form of an international chain of stores called: “Hot Topic” and then it’s deader than a cow on her back with all four legs straight up and her tongue hanging out.
Everything starts in the dark. The artist dives down into the dark well and dredges muck. In the muck (nature) he/she searches and finds unique and beautiful ideas, gems, breakthroughs, connections, roots, and brings the dredged muck up and into the light, tosses the gross, keeps the gems, and puts them on a pedestal and, “What the jack-straw is that stupid looking thing? How can that be art?” And eight years later, sure as hell, that “turd in the plaza” is now enshrined in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and selling tons of books and t-shirts in the gift shop, not to mention, little snow globes with your sculptures reduced in both size, and price. Just shake the little dome and watch it snow on your parade. The underground is where the creation begins.
Now, I personally believe, after 72 years of art making, that one can get stuck in the underground and without it’s counter-part, the LIGHT, it becomes tedious and one begins to wonder if one will ever get out of the damn well again. I for one, have been to the blackest pit of Hell collecting gems, and I have collected enough to answer all of my questions, and I left, but I almost got stuck there. The underground is a place to dredge, not live. For me creation has always begun in dark places, then into the light, I hope. I want to get it, get out, and then CREATE on what I got, and once back the “above-ground” CREATION I want to then CREATE from what I found, but CREATE in the LIGHT.
Are there rules or a set of ethics to the underground?
Yes: never call a cop, never burn friends, respect every private space, room or pad as a perfect guest showing respect, make art or leave the room, make art from anything, no excuses, coat hanger wire to fine art supplies, every day, the underworld is for artists, if you are not an artist you had better have a great set of hooters or pack a Jeff Stryker. Then you can be as stupid as you want. You are called a model. You will pose nude like Paris, France, okay. Always bring food when you come over. Something really good. Chocolates, fruits, tamales … Never steal from your mates, do not flake on artistic responsibilities, respect is shown for ART WORK, plus how funny you are. If you cannot tell a good story, stay away from North Beach and The Village. The underground is not a place, although it has it’s sway and is visible. The underground is where all GOOD new music, dance, painting, sculpture, creative writing, and theater come from, bubbling up into “straight” above-ground-vegetable culture. We are turnips and carrots. “They” are pecans. Both good. The dark, best in measured amounts. Surface when your depth meter and clock converge to tell you your tanks are low.
What is selling out?
Selling out is when any artist reaches a point in their career, whether actor, painter, sculptor, etc., where acceptance has given them a great life they love, and their art is still fresh and from their heart … AND THEN: there is a knock on their telephone and it’s the Devil. And they offer the artist a sensational deal if he will let them put his art on everything from shower curtains to magazine covers and of course, the magick word: HOLLYWOOD. So the artist has been doing well, but this is a shot at the BIG time and he wants that more than his soul, so he is actually about to dump his precious art ethic and let them murder his work for money. He has one more phone call where someone has the audacity to ask him to paint: “Crows wearing tophats” in his style, of course. Sort of knocking off himself for bucks. And he goes out to dinner with his wife and discusses it from every angle and finally says no, because he feels he would be “selling out” his heart and soul, to the Devil (Monsanto say, wants to hire you to make art for their corporate headquarters) … if that’s not the Devil and selling out, I don’t know what would be.
Can underground go above ground and still be underground?
Yes, in that people can hear the music rising out of the sewers and they love it and buy records and support the underground artist, who chooses to stay in the underground, like a Jazz musician, while playing a lot of above ground gigs. And in this way, his music, bubbling up from below, infuses the culture with it’s spice, and grit. Straight culture at a jazz concert is always there, poppin’ their fingers and tappin’ their toes. Louis Armstrong was such an outsider, such an underground character he had to enter the best American venues through the “underground” kitchen, yet he found gems: “What A Wonderful World” is an example. That beautiful song full of light and hope came from a dark place covered in mud.
Have you ever sold out?
Yes and no. Ron and I thought that was what we were doing with glass painting, but the world told us differently. It’s one thing if you change styles, etc., like we did, because we made discoveries that had never been made before (truly, we did) so in the end, we let go of worrying about it and just kept experimenting, mostly of course, underground.
Is it possible to steal an idea?
Oh god yes, just look at David Bowie. It’s what you do with the idea that counts in the arts. If you take inspiration from other artists, that is perfectly GREAT … we all do that, then make it our own over time. But if you create something new, like I did, then I protected it through secrecy for a long time to get it established. Once that was in place with dozens of TV shows and exhibitions and performances, then I shared it, but I still retain three secrets that only Brent Durand knows. All of the old master painters held their secret formulas tightly to their person, and never shared them. Times have changed. But there is a way to let it out where you don’t ruin your own work, and that requires a little time to get established. To get a track record, so people always refer back to you as the “pioneer.”
Your biggest artistic regret?
My biggest artistic regret is that after my camera was stolen shortly after arriving in North Beach I never replaced it and photographed the scene. Considering the magic of the time, and all the future house-hold name celebrities that were there, I could have had the coffee table book of all time. Shit. Don’t do that. Take a million photographs everywhere you go. My great teachers told me that and I listened, and should have replaced the camera and made it my North Beach identity. That I shall regret it to my grave, and beyond, and will probably have to reincarnate to get it done.
Your biggest artistic inspiration?
Standing in the Kings Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, all alone, in pitch black dark, with the guide my Uncle hired waiting outside for me, that is, outside the tunnel leading to the Chamber. I was 18 and my Uncle sent me on a trip to see the great art of the world. He set it up so there would be no one else (he was a famous man) at the Pyramid when I was taken there. A car took me part way, then I was met by a man with a camel. He took me up into the pyramid. There were no tourists, or other people, or awful shops like today, for godsake, Starbucks and Taco Bell. The guide took this photo with my camera, the one I should have replaced. Inside the Great Pyramid, in the King’s Chamber, all alone in my little suit and tie, 18 years old, the pyramid became the “threshold” of my great adventure of the “road” and living LIFE. For in that chamber, for the timeless experience I had, I knew this was it. The beginning of what I supposed would be an adventure all my own. And it was, and it has been, and still is. I have sailed the Pacific on the Goodwill, shown my work at the World Headquarters of AT&T in NYC and sat watching a Hollywood actor play “me” in bed with Janis Joplin. If that’s not adventure, then what’s yours? We all have one.
What is dangerous art?
Dangerous art is art that the “Powers That Be” do not like as it speaks truth about them, and they HATE the truth. Well, they love their own “truth” just not ours. The statue of “Lady Liberty” constructed in Tiennimen Square in China, scared the living shit out of the rulers to such an extent they wadded in with tanks. Art played a big role in that Chinese demonstration, very big. Art supplies are dangerous to artists. Let’s see, of course, danger is subjective, so this can go either way. Danger is in the eye of the beholder. One guy will jump off a cliff with a small parachute, the other won’t even look off Vista Point due to fear of heights. If art is not dangerous to tyrants, why do they shoot the artists first?
Bonus question… nature or nurture?
Nature. All art is nature. Pottery came from sparrow nest left by fire to cook eggs. Sculpture from termites. The wood duck inspired the idea of “beauty” in decoration, pottery, etc. Squirrels teach saving. Beaver teaches house building. Bird prints in mud and sand inspire marking. Ants: cooperation / war. Animal tail: paint brush. The stream teaches: time. The sea teaches the sea birds who taught us to fly. Nature’s light says it best. She gives the movies “key” light, and the painter, well, everything. The human pineal gland is nature. Essentially a DMT machine. Nature is therefore spiritual. Every speck of it, It is only humankind that has tried to insulate from nature, and in doing so has put itself in the position of competition and raping the Earth for the short haul, because that is our NATURE. We are in the “grey dimension” one end is white (light) the other black. We are in grey. Now, I have come to the point where at least I have the road going in the right direction for ME. I don’t know about anyone else, but my dark studies are essentially over, and I now paint for light. Well, I always did, but now, I have achieved a place where I can sense immediately if my “bad Genii” is getting a foothold, and I simply turn toward the light, and “he” has no power. It’s the greatest relief of my life and I highly recommend it.
It is also our NATURE, and even more so, to seek the light. We are built for ecstasy in every pore. In Gurdjieff, we call it “walking the wolf” … visiting the darkside for art. The wolf is walked on a LEASH, and when one has what one went for, leave, right then, or pay a terrible consequence.