The January Final Friday event took the theme of Elvis, and turned it up to 11. Gallery Director Dan Click's most recent focus on a single artist and subject for the Final Friday event – The Elvis Artwork of Greg Damron – became a celebration of all things Elvis, from peanut butter and bananas to the King's music and style, turning the Grayson Gallery into a little bit of Vegas and a little Tennessee for the evening.
This is the Gallery's second Final Friday event to feature the work of a single artist, a practice that Click said he wanted to focus on more when he closed the Gallery's 2019 Final Friday season with the work of photographer Carol Shutt.
Click said he liked the single artist's focus on a particular subject in this exhibit because it enabled you to see how Damron grew as an artist as he returned to these Elvis sketches over the years.
Damron first started creating art as a young man, the same time he was learning to love the music of Elvis from his uncle Johnny.
“I grew up here in Hitchins and my uncle, Johnny Damron, I hung out with him a lot and we would sit up late nights watching (Elvis) movies and listening to his records.”
But Damron had, in fact, put down his pencil for several years until his daughter's fascination with Elvis, in part, helped coax him back into creating art. His daughter began encouraging him to start drawing again around the same time he took the family to see an Elvis Tribute show.
“And she loved it,” he recalled.
She became interested in Elvis and then in photography – several of her photos of Elvis costume details were featured in the exhibit as well – and so it only seemed right to do some Elvis drawings as he began practicing his art again. But something else about the King kept drawing him back.
“I picked up the pencils and started working again, and I did a lot of different pieces, but it seemed like I kept coming back to the Elvis pieces, and I just kept going,” Damron said. “I never stopped. I just really enjoyed doing it.”
One of the things that appealed to Damron was the ability to work from source material, and to use his imagination, while still maintaining historical accuracy.
The “hardcore” Elvis fans, he said, who appreciate his art really know that level of detail, and look for it. So Damron researches his drawing meticulously, often working from old photo sessions, using blurred, out of focus photos or otherwise discarded photos and recreating them as they could have been.
“So what I do is I end up going out and finding photos that are blurred, or incomplete, or something like that. I'll choose those, do research to find out what happened, what suit he was wearing, and I'll recreate it.”
He pointed to one of his works and noted that the arm was blurred in the original.
“But I loved the thought of him sitting there in that criss/cross stance, so I went back. Did a little research. Found out what watch he was wearing, and stuff like that, and really focused on that.”
The faces, he said, almost become secondary to the pose and costuming.
“A lot of the stuff, I'm focused more on the jumpsuit than I am necessarily him, because I've found that the people that like Elvis – Elvis tribute artists and fans – they really focus on the suit. 'That's right. No, that's not correct, it's supposed to be this color,' and stuff like that.”
That's the crowd he's looking to appeal to, because he identifies with that passion.
“That's what they like, and so that's what I really focus on,” he said.
The work in the exhibit reflects a period of work stretching over more than 15 years, from the time he began working again in 2003. While none of the work in the sale was currently for sale, Damron did have prints of his other art, including fantasy work, available for purchase at the event.
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