Some of his pieces burst with a spectacle of vibrant color while others find their power in the absence of any hue at all. Burnt, swirled, carefully prodded and calculated with the precise hand of tattoo artist, David Sena's art pairs scientific measure with impulsive creativity. His mark-making instruments of choice include smoke bombs, fireworks and lighters -- all burning, coloring, singeing and crafting shapes and charred holes.
After 18 years in New York, the Brooklyn-based artist who started East Village tattoo shop, North Star Tattoo, is finally showcasing his honed talent in his old hometown of Dallas, and it's about damn time. His work will be on display at Gallery Interiors on Preston Road until July 31.
Walking into the shop full of plush beautiful furniture, it's easy to think you've made a mistake, but once you wind through the displays and into a room toward the back, you'll find a make-shift gallery that's a perfectly comfortable place to browse, both more homey and beautiful than the starkness you've become accustomed to.
In a display living room just outside where a crowd of people including many of Sena's family members mingled among the abstract creations, Mixmaster caught up with the hometown artist.
"I was very interested in the process of drawing as far as mark-making on a surface," Sena said, describing how he began working with fireworks. He noticed the marks they left on the ground and put that quality to work as he studied fine art at Cooper Union.
"As soon as the first burn, I knew right away that was what I was looking for," he said, explaining that he classifies his work as "drawing," though not conventionally so.
Science, circles, cell-like figures with sub-cellular burn marks, and planetary reverences link Sena's pieces to one and other with names like "Super Nova," "Nine Planets Illuminated" and "States of Matter." "Growing up here in Texas, we have wonderful expansive skies where you see wonderful things," Sena said. "These kinds of things have always been important to me visually."
With that, it comes as no surprise that he's a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York. The man's an amateur astronomer, tattoo artist and fine artist -- he's about as conventional as his "drawings," but explains his work with the humility of someone far less interesting.
His tattoo work and his studio work tie together as "ritualistic physical means of making art." And as Sena creates his firework pieces as he did at Gallery Interiors last Wednesday and Thursday, he looks like some tribal leader from another era, or maybe from a sci-fi movie, as he pulls on his gas mask, fastens a spinning wooden board to his canvas of paper, and rotates it quickly as he lights the attached fireworks and smoke bombs in the oddest artistic seance perhaps ever, and one he describes as "a spectacle of light and sound."
Then, when the smoke clears, the result is perfect rings of color with the charcoal finish of colored smoke seeped into the paper's fibers. Repeating this process, along with some touches of erasure and smudging yield his finished work -- charred but not burnt and pleasant to experience, the way many would describe the perfect Fourth of July burger -- or, apparently, an abstract, vibrant, firework orbital.