Enigmatic Artist David “Spooky” Harris Defies Conventional Boundaries

Death becomes him.

  • Category
    Arts, People
  • Written by
    Tanya Monaghan
  • Photographed by
    Kat Monk

A force beyond the local art scene, David Harris, aka “Spooky,” captivates his audience with a distinctive style—blending humor, wit and a touch of the macabre. From his humble beginnings in Ohio to the vibrant streets of Los Angeles and a recent venture into the artistic haven of New York, Spooky has carved a unique niche for himself. He has left an indelible mark on the canvas of contemporary art.

Spooky found inspiration in the unconventional and turned it into an alter ego that would shape his artistic journey. In a candid conversation, Spooky shares, “I was born on a Friday the 13th in October. My older brother used to tease me about it, but I decided to embrace it. ‘Spooky’ just works; it feels aesthetically pleasing, and it became a persona I could hide behind during the transition from writing to painting.”

This transition was not a straightforward path. Raised in a nomadic environment due to his father’s corporate career, Spooky found solace in the world of theatre during his formative years. However, it wasn’t until he arrived in L.A. and experienced the highs and lows of the entertainment industry that he discovered his true passion lay in visual arts.

“Most of this work is the good and the bad, and the horrid and the beautiful. And if you pull far enough back from it, it all can be beautiful.”

Spooky’s journey through various artistic mediums was a continuous evolution of self-expression. Initially drawn to the world of theatre, he later navigated the turbulent waters of television writing. But it was the allure of independent filmmaking that truly captivated him. Working alongside Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame, Spooky delved into the film industry only to find that the creative exchange in painting offered a more pure and gratifying experience for him.

As Spooky transitioned from writing to painting, his unique style emerged mixing humor, pop culture and a touch of irreverence. His distinctive black-and-white pieces, inspired by literature and wordplay, served as a breakthrough. He chides, “At some point over the pandemic, I was like, ‘I’m gonna just go for it and throw myself into it. I’m not going to worry about this perception of the way things work—because if I dive headfirst into it, the only thing that could go wrong would be complete failure.’ And I was so used to that.”

In a bold move, Spooky took his art to New York through The Other Art Fair, an event organized by Saatchi Art. The experience of exhibiting his work in the art mecca was both intimidating and exhilarating—marking a significant milestone in his artistic journey. Surrounded by the vibrancy of New York’s artistic community, Spooky discovered a renewed sense of acceptance and appreciation for his craft.

The city’s energy and the warm reception he received fueled his belief in himself and his art. This newfound confidence transcended geographical boundaries, leading to unexpected opportunities, such as a collaboration with a Korean clothing company. His story underscores the power of taking risks and embracing the unknown, ultimately leading to personal and artistic growth.

Spooky’s work has been represented in several galleries in the South Bay, L.A., Santa Monica, Joshua Tree and New York. He is excited to start working with another beach town gallery in Cape Cod. He’s also done several art shows. One of his favorites was at Archer L.A. downtown. He loves that the organization is receptive to all artists at different levels.

“I’m eager to mix that practice and do the art fairs, and then do some local stuff,” he shares. “The El Segundo Art Walk is massively cool. I’m really excited about taking it [his art] out of the garage and getting out more. Typically, representation is a nice piece of cake but isn’t necessarily sustainable. It’s kinda like the old record label thing, or the dream of someone doing your work for you. I do like the day-to-day grind of Instagram and then building it organically.”

Reflecting on his artistic evolution and immersion in the South Bay community, Spooky expressed profound gratitude for all the support he has received. The South Bay, with its eclectic mix of creative minds and supportive individuals like Lauren Kolodny and Johnny Flanagan of Right Tribe, Jennie and Aaron Berger of High Vibe Collective, and interior designer Kate Lester, has provided Spooky with a sense of belonging and acceptance.

The community has become the backdrop for Spooky’s artistic renaissance—a place where he can explore and express himself freely. “I had a hard time embracing the South Bay in the beginning,” he admits. “Just coming from L.A., I didn’t think I was gonna be accepted here. The fact that I was accepted on my own terms makes me love it.”

Spooky’s artistic process is a fusion of spontaneity and introspection. From his garage studio, he often starts with a blank canvas and allows the process to unfold organically. His black-and-white pieces, reminiscent of vintage newspaper comic strips, convey a sense of nostalgia while maintaining a contemporary edge.

“Somewhere along the lines I started playing with acrylic, and it was coming out more like my drawing style, which is cartoony. And I was like, ‘You know what, why don’t I play with that?’ And then it was the experience of my divorce—it just made things start pouring out of me. Most of this work is the good and the bad, and the horrid and the beautiful. And if you pull far enough back from it, it all can be beautiful.”

Spooky’s love for wordplay and literature remains at the core of his artistic expression. Each piece is a narrative, inviting viewers to decipher the hidden messages and connections within the layers of imagery. Humor and darkness exist together in his work, creating a dynamic tension that keeps audiences captivated.

As Spooky continues to redefine the boundaries of contemporary art, his journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring artists and creatives, with a commitment to authenticity and a fearless approach to pushing boundaries. He invites viewers to embrace the beauty within the unconventional and find humor in the darkness.

I left our conversation at Spooky’s studio with my head swimming with ideas and inspiration, and I think that’s the point. His work invites us all to join the journey of self-discovery and laughter, and to explore new possibilities.

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