Derek Owens

I’m an artist working in mixed media and a writer of fiction and poetry. My painting and collage reflect a fascination with sampling, remixing, and salvaging found materials. I’m drawn to discontinued fabric samples, library book discards, and anything old, worn, or forgotten found in flea markets, garage sales, and roadside garbage.

My painting process is one of layering–usually ink and acrylic first, then oil stick, then paper ephemera, string, zippers, dried flowers, peppercorns, etc. (I suppose here the compositional impulses resemble that of a bower bird.) My collage method involves hours of looking through old magazines and books for the unexpected off-kilter image to juxtapose with morsels of text from arcane sources—manifestoes on personal magnetism, weird medical histories, old timey elementary textbooks, and the like. My fiction has a magical realist bent; the poetry, like the visual collage, remixes language from discarded sources like vintage newspapers, pulp novels, and treatises by clairvoyants.

My work has been described as whimsical and surrealist. But a current running through my efforts is also solastalgia, the anxiety and melancholia we feel at impending environmental risk and crisis–what some have described as a kind of pre-traumatic stress disorder, a pervasive anxiety and apprehension at living here in the anthropocene. This mixture of melancholy and wonderment, disquiet and delight, echoes throughout the work. Seeking the fantastical in a saddening world.