Exploring the inaugural cohort of SFAI’s new 3rd Street Studios Program, here’s a studio visit with resident artist Grey Dey, whose paintings delve into institutionalized gender conformity and the construction of male identity.
Describe the ideas you explore in your work and the mediums you work in.
I’ve always been most interested in the ideas around personal and cultural identity. I feel that the primary existential crisis in today’s Western Culture is that we do not know who we are. The need for personal individuation struggles against the pressure of group conformity to the extent that one or the other makes us feel either threatened or safe. If we feel suffocated by social norms and societal expectations some of us will rebel against them as far as our personal survival allows. If we feel comfortable in our social standing, we sometimes suppress and oppose any challenge or confrontation to that security.
I am particularly interested in how male identity is constructed and visually projected. I have explored these themes through a variety of mediums, including drawing, painting, photography, writing, and performance. Since 2005 I’ve been interested in narrative portraiture, working primarily in oils. I work from life, on location, and from reference photos in the studio. I try to create intimate portraits, and use color and light to draw the viewer in. I believe in the life of an image, and it’s power to reveal more over time.
I have no formal degrees, and never attended an art school, but I have participated in numerous workshops and have had important mentors, including Cedric and Joanette Egeli in Provincetown, and Rob Anderson here in San Francisco. I use impressionist and realistic techniques equally, and combine painting with knives and with brushes.
As an inaugural 3rd Street Studios resident, what excites you about this opportunity for community, space, and practice?
As a 21-year resident of San Francisco I have developed a very personal appreciation of SFAI. I participated in many Open Drawing Studios on Friday evenings in the Chestnut Street drawing studios, attended SFAI public events, and visited Graduate Open Studios at the 3rd Street Campus. I met and befriended students through those activities and enjoyed interacting with the creative community at the school. It was the closest I could get to be a part of the school.
The longer I engaged with the arts in and around San Francisco, the more I learned how SFAI shaped the cultural contributions of the Bay Area. As a painter, The Bay Area Figurative Artists, who originated out of the SFAI community, held particular interest for me. I studied their explorations of integrating painterly abstraction with portrait and narrative. As I learned about these artists, I felt an excitement drawing in the same classrooms where they taught.
I was thrilled to be chosen as a studio resident in the inaugural cohort for the 3rd Street Studios pilot year. It comes at a critical turning point for me. In 2014 I lost my mentor, Rob Anderson. I miss him and his guidance, and the sense of community I felt through his studio school, where I also had my painting studio. I was evicted from that studio in SoMa last January when the building was sold. I now have opportunities through the 3rd St. Studios program to deepen my art practice by making new personal connections and developing new skills through access to the many resources at the school. I am looking forward to this opportunity for direct dialogue with the SFAI community and the impact that interactivity will have on my work.
The 3rd Street Studios Program is a professional residency offering subsidized artist studios in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. The inaugural cohort features 19 artists from a broad range of disciplines who will develop and explore new practices together during the program’s pilot year from October 2016-August 2017.
Image credits: 1) Grey Dey in the studio; Photo by Stephanie Smith; 2) CHIRON, 2010; Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches; 3) Mark & Bill Cherry Grove, 2013; Oil on board, 20 x 16 inches; 4-8) Photos by Stephanie Smith.