Darrell Ezekiel


Scraps of Memory

by Brett Levine    

Photo by Jerry Siegel

 

For artist Darrell Ezekiel, beauty is often found in things other people throw away. “I have always worked with multiple materials,” he explains, “although I prefer to describe myself as multidimensional rather than multimedia.” Fine art was not even a career path Ezekiel had expected to pursue. “I completed a graphic design degree at Auburn University,” he says, “and what was so wonderful about the degree was the latitude you had with electives. I didn’t necessarily like the structure of learning graphic design itself,” he continues, “but I was always able to convey my ideas in ways that I thought were meaningful.”

After graduation he landed in retail, working as a sales representative for the Atlanta Merchandise Mart. “It was unexpected and fortuitous timing,” Ezekiel laughs, “because at that time I had not really imagined I could even make a living as a fine artist.” After almost a decade in retail, his perspective changed. “I had a friend who was interested in purchasing an original work of art,” Ezekiel says, “so he asked if I would give him my opinion. I saw the work and said that I thought I could do a similar piece at a competitive price. I did, but he didn’t like the color.” Unfazed, Ezekiel painted the work again. “I gave the original piece to a benefit for Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama, which was also the beginning of my belief that although I often don’t have money to support a cause, I can use my talents to support the ones I believe in whenever possible.”

Enthused by the sale, Ezekiel took the bold step of quitting his job to make art full time. “It was 1999,” he says, “and I really had no idea how the art world worked. I loaded up a car full of paintings, and I simply drove to Loretta Goodwin Gallery. I walked in completely unannounced—it had never even occurred to me that I might need an appointment—but it worked! I left the paintings with them,” he says, “and the very next day they called to say that yes, they would represent me.”

Ezekiel was represented by Loretta Goodwin Gallery for many years. “I think my challenge, like it was for many artists and for many galleries, was that there came a time when selling original art simply was not as straightforward as it had been. I moved to Hawthorne Gallery,” he continues, “and part of my agreement with Keith [Miller] was that I would not represent myself through art fairs or other galleries.” His relationship with Hawthorne and Miller was wonderful. “Hawthorne Gallery, really Keith, understood that there was definitely still a market for original work in Birmingham and even much more widely.”

At the same time that Ezekiel was working with one gallery, he was opening another. “I decided to open Clay Scot Gallery, a small space near Rhodes Park. It went very well for a few years, but the demands of being a gallerist meant that I really didn’t have time to focus on any of my own work,” he says. After three years, Ezekiel closed the space, giving himself time to rethink his approach and to redefine his artistic identity. “By that time the entire creative landscape had changed. Hawthorne Gallery had closed, so I wasn’t represented in Birmingham anymore.” What this meant was that if he were to represent himself, he would have to return, in part, to the art fair circuit. “I have always loved the fairs actually,” he says. “I never really did too many a year. I usually went to between six and eight, but I simply didn’t have the strength to be a road warrior setting up a booth in a different city every week. Also,” he continues, “even the art fairs had changed. More people were looking, but fewer were buying. Participating in a fair became something of a calculated risk. I am still very passionate about them—in fact, I was just in Artwalk, and I will be at Moss Rock Festival the first week of November, but I don’t travel to the big Florida fairs or the larger ones in the Midwest.”

Fortunately, Ezekiel has found representation in a number of new galleries, and he is turning to both Facebook and a website, currently in development, to better market his works. These new pieces combine his love for the well-worn with a contemporary, graphic approach. “I have begun making a series of shadow box works,” he explains. “I have a laser cut, identifiable image that serves as a screen on the front glass. It might be a bird, or a flower, a building, or a state. Then, I have been using pieces of quilts that I find at junk stores and flea markets as the background. I see these works as being very vibrant, and having a strong sense of the renewal of life. For me,” he continues, “I can clearly recall my grandmother, or other women of her generation, who were constantly sewing, quilting, and knitting. We are seeing a resurgence of these practices today, and I think it is truly because we are turning back to an understanding of the unique qualities of something that is handmade,” he says.

Even today Ezekiel continues to support charities. “I gave the first work from this series to a charity,” he says, “which has become a pattern for each new body of work.” All this is part of Ezekiel’s strategy of bringing understandable art to as wide an audience as possible. “The arts exist in a very unusual space,” he remarks. “A lot of people have a very difficult time understanding the value of an artwork simply by virtue of the dollar value that is placed upon it.” He is optimistic that this perception is changing, however slowly. He recently participated in Southern Makers, an event in Montgomery, Ala., celebrating what is unique and handmade within the state. “What people are learning now, particularly through the works and successes of Alabama artists like Natalie Chanin and Billy Reid, is that there really is value in quality, in the singular object and in something that is lovingly crafted and handmade. To me,” he says, “creating art and making work is simply about having the opportunity to have an impact on people, and to perhaps change their ways of thinking about the arts and how things are made.”

Ezekiel’s works can be seen at the Moss Rock Festival, Nov. 2 and 3, and as part of an ongoing rotation of works at the Hoover Public Library.

One Response to “Darrell Ezekiel”

  1. Mary Croley says:

    I enjoyed the article. I hope you will enjoy being represented by High Horse Gallery. I will look for your work when I drop off some things to Mary McKinley. We, in Greenville, are thrilled to have an art gallery which represents so many talented artist.

    Wishing you lots of luck!

    Mary Croley

Leave a Reply