BY DAVID WILLARD
Anthony Hecht once said, “It doesn’t seem to me strange that children should like the macabre, the sensational, and the forbidden.” Indeed, our childhood fascinations can have an indelible impact on how we see life, and even ourselves. What child has not put visualizations to the “bumps” they hear in the night, or a face to the monster under the bed? What adult has not had to learn to fight the fear of the unknown or the “monsters” that live inside each of us? Or more simply, who doesn’t remember their first scary movie and who they were with when they saw it? One downtown Winston-Salem artist certainly remembers these childhood memories and continues to let it influence his work even today.
Dane Walters is originally from Winston-Salem. Growing up in Kernersville, Walters graduated from East Forsyth High School in 2002 and then moved to New York to study digital filmmaking editing at The New York Film Academy. It was there he found his new direction in his art career.
“I was especially inspired by the plethora of art and galleries. On returning to North Carolina, I began pursuing visual art. I began showing work in Winston-Salem around 2006. In 2011, I relocated to the downtown arts district and eventually became a co-founding member of Delurk Gallery,” says Walters.
Looking at Walters’ work today, you can see that it certainly reflects those fascinations of childhood. In fact, he embraces them to produce his art. “I guess I’ve always had a fascination with the beauty in the macabre. As a kid, I was always drawn to science fiction and horror films. Halloween was my favorite time of the year. So that definitely transferred over to my paintings. As a kid, we had to discover artists from books in libraries and magazines. I used to collect comics and magazines such as FANGORIA and The Dark Side. In those magazines, they would have ads for art books from a company called Morpheus Publishing. It was there that I discovered H.R Giger and the Polish surrealist, Zdzislaw Beksinski. They were definitely some of my earliest influences,” adds Walters.
“When I first started painting, I knew that I wanted to be completely free to let whatever happen just happen. It always ended up being some type of humanoid creature, so I embraced that. I’ve always tried to portray them in realistic scenes as if they are organic living beings existing in their natural environment. I think of them less as ‘zombies’ and more like inhabitants of other dimensions, natural beings that have a spirit and emotions,” he continues.
When describing his work, it is obvious that there is much more to see than the macabre initial visual that is first taken in. In fact, he relays this in his view on art as a whole. “I suppose it (the art) is the result of diving deep within yourself and sharing what you’ve found. Creativity and art have always felt like a safe place for me. A place where there are no boundaries or limitations other than your own imagination. Hopefully, something positive is seen in my art. It’s my hope that people see past the immediate darkness on the surface and dive deeper. There’s a lot of light and hopefulness in the beings that inhabit these paintings. It just takes some digging to get to it. Above all, I hope that my paintings inspire someone else to go out into the world and explore their own creativity and create something that is special and unique to them,” he concludes.
Downtown Winston-Salem, as we have seen, is not short on creative minds and talents to bolster the city’s moniker of “City of The Arts.” Through many individual journeys and experiences, the area has collected many artisans who are taking pride in building an area of vision, support, and community. It is in this community that artists such as Dane Walters are opening eyes and minds to visions and experiences never seen before, except in the minds of the artists of downtown Winston.