87-year old painter David Byrd has painted incessantly since grade school, and has never before exhibited his work in a commercial gallery. Living and painting by himself in Sidney Center, New York, he had long since resigned himself to a life of invisibility after retiring from his long career as an orderly at a psychiatric Hospital.
Last September, a new neighbor was curious about a driveway filled with random junk carefully arranged, and she worked up the courage to knock on the door. There, she met Mr. Byrd and saw a house filled with hundreds and hundreds of his paintings. There were so many that they were hung three to a single nail. When she took one down, there was another one nested underneath.
The neighbor, Jody Issacson, also a painter, reached out to gallery owners on Byrd's behalf. As a result he is having his first-ever gallery exhibition at Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle, where Isaacson also shows. His first show comes 77 years after he attracted attention for his grade-school drawings, more than 60 years since his brief formal art studies, and 25 years after his retirement.
The paintings are astounding, for their sense of narrative, studied poise, and unexpectedly tranquil centers. The surfaces are parched and raw, with a sparse pale palette, bringing forth visions of people Byrd has known, places he has seen, and more than anything else the intense and solitary lives of the people he observed every day at the hospital.
The nearly 100 paintings and sculptures represent work made throughout his life, and span the entire
first floor of the Kucera Gallery. Jen Graves wrote a feature article on Byrd for the Stranger, which gives some sense of the unexpected beauty of his work. Seriously - Don't miss this show if you are in Seattle. At the Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave S. From now until May 18, and completely free.