“There’s no place I haven’t seen that doesn’t look like something in America. And there’s nothing in America I haven’t seen elsewhere."
It’s hard to know where David Ford’s studio truly begins and ends. After all, it’s only one part of a compound he owns on 18th Street, a “for-profit arts center”, as he calls it. Within those walls, one will find YJ’s Snack Bar (which Ford also owns), Birdies (artist Peregrine Honig’s intimate apparel apothecary), a yoga studio, design studios, artist studios (including Honig’s), Peggy Noland’s storefront, a tattoo parlor, and Ford's Mardi Gras krewe’s shrine, which of course he established and maintains. He also lives there, somewhere.
What is more, Ford—who defines the majority of his work as private—is one of the more public, vibrant, and sustained elements of the Kansas City art community. His work and involvement is spread across the city—across cultures—from the fine art establishment to the local jazz and Mardi Gras scenes. The studio itself is something of an official headquarters, a beating heart with rather unconstricted valves.
He describes himself as someone without filters, and in corresponding fashion he gains vitality by allowing his studio to be a place where most anything belongs. His work, ranging from traditional painting to conceptual fabrications, is surrounded by cues he’s brought into the studio from the very big world he frequents. The line between referent and work-in-progress is blurred by a curated rubble of news clippings, plants, costumes, doll heads, and more.
One such stimulant is a photograph of Ford’s great ancestor. “He fought the Battle of New Orleans,” Ford recounts with both radiance and wonderment, “…fought it street to street.”
The place itself, its every object, and each of Ford’s explanations for their meaning and purpose seem to be trusses of an ongoing effort to embody his view on life. Each work of art, each odd thing, is pinioned together by a personality, a gravelly voice, that searches as it speaks.