small talk // damion silver // visual artist

damion silver is a former coworker from converse. there, he is the design director for the men's all star / chuck taylor footwear line. his creative work outside of the office has always intrigued me so we recently reconnected and i picked his brain about his creative journey, artistic process and his combines featured here. damion grew up going to flea markets with his mom. it was skateboarding as a teenager that really exposed him to everything; the graphic language of skateboarding inspired him to explore album art, graffiti and later painting, ceramics and drawing. in high school, he took shop class, worked on cars and did industrial arts. he learned how to work a letterpress and started making tees, business cards and posters. at only fourteen he knew he wanted to do graphic arts. he went onto community college and later a state school where he studied fine arts, philosophy and graphic design. he bought a mac computer and started a freelance design business. he did logos, rave flyers and also worked at an animation company for a few years. he then moved to philly where he worked at a cabinet shop and then a foundry where he made art for major fine artists. around this time, nike bought converse and they started hiring their target consumers. so it was in 2006 that damion was hired to design the urban and heritage basketball lines. some eleven years later, damion is now heading up the men's footwear design team. while i was working there, we collaborated on a couple projects and also went to art basel miami together. damion is a supremely talented, laid back and an overall rad dude. we share some mutual inspirations, like robert rauschenberg and bill withers. i love how damion translates his collected objects and ideas three dimensionally and i'm excited to see how his work will continue to evolve in the future.

more about damion below:

cultureisland: tell us more about you.

damion silver: i was born and raised in new britain, connecticut or as we called it "hard hittin new britain." stanley tools was from there. anyway i lived there with my mom 'til i was 11. spent a lot of time with my grandparents, who helped raise me. i was a normal kid i guess. played baseball, rode bikes, watched mtv and hung out with a lot of older kids, which always led to trouble. we moved to bristol, conneticut, home of espn when i was 11 and things flipped once i moved there. i got into skateboarding and met the first art teacher who really pushed me. that was 7th grade and when i got to high school i took intro to shop class, you know cad, wood shop, cars and graphic arts. there i learned how to make silk screens, letter press and offset press. at 14 i knew that was it. graphic design and art was what i wanted to do from that point on.

cultureisland: tell us more about your art.

damion silver: right now i make assemblages or rather combines. i use reclaimed materials, found objects, silkscreens, spray paint, transfers, and combine them into abstract & geometric forms. combined, these fragments of images, textures and colors create a new harmonious narrative for the viewer to decipher. 

cultureisland: tell us more about your creative process and your combines.

damion silver: the combines i make now, process wise is very fluid. i have piles and crates full of material all over my studio. i generally clean off one of my work stations, dig around in a stack of wood. i wait for a piece to speak to me, catch my eye or maybe i've acquired some new materials that i'm just stoked on using. this could set the tone for a color palette or the over all shape of the piece. other times i'll cut out a base shape like a circle or square or whatever and use that as the framework. from that initial selection i look for a complimentary piece all while incorporating stacking, shifting, and juxtaposing texture, color or shape. i might cut it, distress it. or break it until it feels like it has the right placement and feels good. then it's a step and repeat process. sometimes i'll hang a piece that's in process, draw in areas that need more materials. rounding and balancing the pieces until it's complete. each piece is unique and different from the next. they can take a few days or they can take months. as for acquiring materials, i am a bit of a scavenger. i hit flea markets, yard sales, garbage days, railroad tracks. sometimes you just need to liberate materials as well. lately i've been on the train a lot so i'm planning a track hunt too. i've been seeing a lot of good material by the tracks. i purposely bought a car with space to be able to load materials and work. the pieces are little capsules of everyday life. combining past and present language and form. we are bombarded, overloaded with visual stimulants all day everyday. from the tv to our phones to the cities and people we interact with. these pieces capture fragments of that chaos, balancing it through form and structure.

cultureisland: how has your art evolved? how would you like it to evolve in the future?

damion silver: my work is always evolving. new techniques, new materials. i used to do a lot of collage work. some of my older work was more figurative, it's an evolution and a combination of skills and techniques i've learned since as far back as i can remember. my new work has been something i've been wanting to create for sometime now. i wanted to evolve from my collage work into a new space with more depth and dimension. instead of engaging people with figures it's more through form and dimension. there's a freedom in allowing the materials to speak to you. letting them be what they are and not overworking them. sure i still add in bits and pieces of my figures here and there. but only as accents to the overall composition. when i started working in a cabinet shop around 14 years ago, i started using wood, cutting out shapes, characters and epoxying them in the streets. that evolved into making larger wood pieces that incorporate techniques and such i've learned since i was 14. in the future, i would like to do some site specific work and some large installations. it would be great to go to another country and make work out of all the debris and detritus found. give it a new life.

cultureisland: where do you find inspiration?

damion silver: inspiration is everywhere. i travel a lot so going to new places is always cool and inspirational, meeting new people, my kid inspires me and my wife has a great eye for things. i really think it's all around us. it's just looking at things the right way, or just being open to being inspired. i'm always looking.

cultureisland: who are some of your favorite artists?

damion silver: i have to say robert rauschenberg is a huge inspiration. his combines are just amazing, techniques and breath of work. he rules it. james turrell, ben venom, aj fosik, kenji nakayama, there are too many folks to list.

cultureisland: what are you listening to right now?

damion silver: i'm all over the map, om, burning spear, ho99o9, ex cult, american sharks, james brown, bill withers -- he rules! depends on the mood and day.

cultureisland: what are your favorite places to see art, shop, get coffee, eat and hang out around boston?

damion silver: lot f gallery, ica, for art there's a new spot thomas young gallery opened so i'm headed there next week. when i'm in boston, i hang with my friend kenji nakayama @ his studio. he's usually got some beers and great art going on. beyond that, i like to post up at home with a good whiskey and some records the studio. i'm a homebody.

* check out  more of damion's work here // follow him on instagram *