MB:  In considering your work I’m struck by many different references  -- capitalist realism,  60s pop art -- particularly Rosenquist,  and some of the cutting edge digitial art like KAWS.   My first question is,  how did you get started ?  

DS:  I started out with oil paints -- and still love them.  But I wanted to push for something further.  I found using encaustics fascinating because it's such an ancient technique -- but it's more alchemical than oil paint.  The plasticity is more complex because the heat of the wax creates myriad layers of opacity.   At the same time -- we live in a digital age and I celebrate that.   The idea of being able to use software programs that could find imagery of the "now" and use the "meta" quality of layering image after image after image and then collaging/distorting/filtering them really appeals to me because I think these techniques grow out of the culture that we're in. 

MB:    What steps take you from the first contact with the possible image to the last? And are there many versions?

DS:  Yes.  I usually begin with imagery that I find around me.  That can range from textiles, objects, advertisements -- I've been profoundly influenced by both Rauschenberg and Sigmar Polke -- in terms of subject matter. I think in their different ways they opened up the source materials of what's really available to artists.  I usually begin by taking photographs or doing sketches of imagery that intrigues me.  And then I put it through a lot of layering.   With encaustics I often lay down a basic grid of how I want the image to look -- but it's a medium that doesn't allow for the intense control that oils or acrylics do -- so one has to be open in a "dadaist" way to working with what the medium is telling you to do.   With digital work I like to use a lot of filters and will often create about 20 different versions -- depending on how the filtering process goes.   Again, I like to be open to surprise and opportunity -- and to see how the images respond to manipulation.   The final choice is often far from the original imagery and has encapsulated a sense of exploration or a journey.  I think if the artist isn't changed from the voyage from first contract to final image -- usually the work lacks resonance.  

MB:   Your titles are quite evocative. They seem to recall proto-surrealists, particularly Arschile Gorky in the nature of their poetry and lyricism.  Yet, some are also almost minimalist.   When do you choose them and how?

DS:   I like the idea that art opens up thinking that connects to other avenues beyond the pictorial plane, -- be it mythology, particle physics, or history.  The titles tend to occur after the picture is nearing completion -- and looks at the idea of conceptually what process seems to be reflected by each particular piece.  "Time Bomb" seemed to coalesce around the image of a dancer - taken from the belle époque era -- and juxtaposed with an abstraction that was modern.  "Afterlife" arose out of the tension of a lush garden beneath an area in the top of the painting that was rendered in black and white - and with biomorphic structures resembling teeth which suggested a skull.  I liked the back and forth of the title -- was the afterlife the skull-like death -- and paradise the lush garden. The conventions of Western art would have suggested that -- as paradise has conventionally been elevated upwards -- to suggest a celestial heaven.   But in other cultures and traditions -- paradise is now.  And I felt that the title got at that idea of reversing notions of paradise as being something that we achieve after death as opposed to an idea that we are already living in the afterlife. 

MB:   There’s an implied balance even in your most restless or intricate works. I can see why people would be attracted to all three values. Yet I’m drawn again and again to “Incarnation,” perhaps the most unified and simple of these selections. Was there anything special about its creation?

DS:  I think that as one progresses as an art form there's a balance between discovering a new tool and pushing the limits - but also getting comfortable with how far it can go.  What it can and can't do.  With "Incarnation" I had been playing with a new digital software that fragmented some the images in a  different way - creating more pixilation.   For a while I was fascinated with it and just kept creating these totally abstract translations of ordinary things like a candle burning or a peony bush in the backyard.   I just kept pushing them with this technique until they were totally abstract.  And then I started to find the "sweet spot" of dialing it back to biomorphically recognizable imagery.   "Incarnation" arrived just when I had found that balance.   And that’s where the fun is. 


"Although the artist as a shaman has been a trend in modern art (Picasso, Gauguin), the art of David Salvage seems most linked to Joseph Beuys’ belief that humanity, with its turn on rationality, is trying to eliminate “emotions” and thus eliminate a major source of energy and creativity in every individual. What I am reminded of in contemplating these numerous canvases composed of ancient materials of encaustic wax, oil paints, collaged imagery, and layered digital photography is the shamanistic energy of rock and roll culture in all of its Dionysian effervescence. Salvage’s paintings are visual manifestations of a visual totality designed to engage the viewer not just at the level of the retina and the cortex, but in a total form of body response to aesthetic awareness. The work combines the physical and the visual much the way music combines physical energy on both a grand scale – the larger paintings such as the Maybe in the Next World Series are marked by the grand scale aspirations of Wagner or Schonberg while other works such as Please Master convey the verve and alienated visual drone of the Velvet Underground or Ministry.  The paintings are willing to risk going everywhere and to use everything – aspects of pop culture, references to iconic visual masterpieces such as Picasso’s Les Dames a Leur Toilette, combined with the visual flair and irreverence for “correctness” that gave Rosenquist and Polke their danger and provocation.   The lyrical moments which form a consistent thread throughout Salvage’s body of work consist of varied punctuation points, while the color and stains support a line-through theme, building chaotic but carefully crafted visual themes that hold the volatile and chaotic compositions together against all odds.  Salvage has not crafted an artform that follows the rules and sits quietly waiting for approval.   This is a new visual voice committed to a full blown celebration of radical danger and expressive possibilities." 
John Torreano, Author of American Art Since 1900, Professor of Studio Art at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University