The LA-based artist is just as passionate about exploring the great outdoors as he is about the abstracted shapes that typify his work.
David Korty's work may center on defined color blocks and geometric shapes, but it's the organic forms found in nature that interest him most. When he's not busy working in his studio, Korty can usually be found exploring the many canyons near his California home. Korty spoke with Platform about what he learned from a psychic, how he connects to nature through fly fishing and why the San Gabriel Mountains are his favorite escape from the city.
What do you think makes a piece of art good?
I’ve always thought that “good” work is made with a strong sense of intuition and some system of inner logic. But having said that, I think the question is impossible to really answer. Oftentimes, the most interesting work defies any kind of real analysis.
When you make art, are you a planner or do you sort of improvise as you go along?
I think that there is a certain point where it all becomes indistinguishable. There is planning involved and I frequently have some sense of what I want to make, but art-making is non-linear. It moves in many directions at once regardless of how much preparation has taken place. It's my belief that any artist who is really paying attention and in the moment will be improvising a large part of the time.
Do you agree with the way people talk or write about your work?
I’m always curious to read another person's perspective and hear their thoughts. One of the great conundrums for artists, and especially painters, is the desire to see their work through a stranger's eyes. Reading what someone else has written can sometimes allow a person to peek behind that curtain but it can also be a rude awakening. I do believe that once you've made something and put it out there in the world, you have to let go of any expectation for it to be understood or read in a specific way. In the end, I suppose all the words fall away and you are just left with the work itself, which is how it should be.
What do you listen to while you work?
I mainly listen to audiobooks. The Peregrine written by J.A. Abrams and read by David Attenborough is a great one.
Is there a place you like to go, just to escape?
For many years, I’ve hiked and fished in the San Gabriel Mountains. Its hard to believe how wild and untouched some of the canyons are. I’ve run into bighorn sheep, gold miners, rattlesnakes, patches of wild mint and watercress, entire mountainsides covered in blooming yucca and even evidence of Santeria shrines and ceremonies. They say that the San Gabriel Mountains are some of the most unexplored mountains in the West (mainly due to their extreme topography). I have also read that they are very young geologically and are changing the fastest. Unfortunately, one of my favorite canyons, The West Fork Canyon, burned very badly last summer in the Bobcat Fire. Hopefully, it'll recover. It might take five to ten years, but I've been surprised by how resilient some of these Southern California habitats can be.
What's a serious interest of yours outside of your artistic practice?
One of the first things anyone who knows me will tell you is that I am very involved in fly fishing and fly tying. They serve as a doorway to the natural world. I've heard that in some parts of rural India when they have a crazy person in the village, they take them down to the river and tie them to a tree for a few days to help return them to sanity. There seems to be a lot of truth to the restorative power of bodies of water. I think I spend time on rivers and lakes for the same reason. If you look at a map of the vast number of watersheds spread across the Western US, you quickly realize how hard it would be to even see one-tenth of them in a lifetime, which is exciting to think about.
What do you do when you’re feeling stuck?
Sometimes when I haven’t been in the studio for a while and I’m feeling rusty, I tell myself that all I need to do is go in the studio and make something simple and spontaneous with no thought of making anything worthwhile or “good." If I can convince myself that the first thing is just going to be an experiment, it frees me up to relax and let things start to flow. And that usually leads me to just enjoying what I’m doing and helps me get in a groove.
Are you superstitious about anything?
There was a time when I would frequently consult with psychics. They had some helpful insights. One woman looked at me and said, "Start taking notes during the day so you don’t forget your ideas." She was right, so I did.
What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
I’ve had friends introduce me as a very talented fisherman who also paints. Its funny but there is some truth in there.