Roots and Wings

An artist takes flight


What: Opening reception for "Roots and Wings"

Where: Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd.


WHEN: 6-9pm Wed., April 3; the exhibit can be viewed from 12-6pm Tues.-Sat., through April 24

Cost: Entry is free


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Not far from the massive, barn-like studio where David Syre spends long periods of time painting, he used to milk a Guernsey cow named Molly and sell the fresh dairy product to neighbors for 25 cents a gallon.

To say Syre has come a long way since those early days on his family’s sprawling farmstead along the Nooksack River near Everson is a bit of an understatement.

At 78, the former lawyer and successful real estate developer has spent much of the past decade in pursuit of the creative—whether that means working on his own drawings, paintings or sculptures, finding endless inspiration at the counterculture collective known as Burning Man, supporting other artists by purchasing and displaying their works, or doing what is needed to open a 150-mile public “Peace Trail” at the southernmost tip of South America.

On a recent spring afternoon, Syre said he wasn’t always sure he wanted to make the family farm his base of operations (even though he purchased it from his parents in 1981 so they would own it free and clear). He overcame polio and the poverty that defined much of his childhood on this land, and didn’t know if it would still feel like home. But with the completion of the studio and a goal of using the property for both personal and public transformation, it appears he’s come full circle. 

Although the self-taught artist has shown his vibrantly colorful, large-scale acrylic paintings in France, New Mexico, and Argentina in recent years, another aspect of his artistic maturity will come to light when “David Syre: Roots and Wings” opens Wed., April 3 at the new Gallery Syre on West Stuart Road. The event will mark his first public exhibit in his hometown.

Featuring more than 100 pieces—from a drawing Syre made when he was 7 years old that his mother saved, to recent paintings and sculptures that are rich with symbolism and comprise what he says are visual translations of his spiritual, personal and collective experiences—the exhibit was curated by Ana Palacio, who notes “his art is the reflection of his inner search.”

Syre agrees. He no longer questions what drives him to work on as many as 40 pieces at a time, or what the end result of his creative efforts will be. Painting from above on multiple canvases that lie atop the 2,000-year-old slab of wood that acts as his easel, he trusts the visions of colors and symbols will reveal themselves to him in time.

“My art is one experimentation after another,” he says. “I paint for love, goodness and compassion.”

In some ways, milking Molly when he was 8 years old may have prepared Syre for his current incarnation as an artist. As he recounted in a brochure celebrating the Syre Farm’s centennial last year, he took over responsibility for Molly’s care and feeding after a flood along the Nooksack River reduced the family farm to a garden—taking all the buildings except the house.

“Molly and I were soulmates,” Syre says. “[She] was my first participant in a curiosity journey. She was my first mentor for teachings of leadership, artistry and hope—later to become life’s core values for me.”

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