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Dave Lieske (aka @davey_gravy) is a creative that any city would be proud of. He wears his hometown of Calgary on his back, and is passionate about exploring his city, engaging with local businesses, and nurturing community growth. Beyond his civic pride, Dave is a talented visual artist that explores a variety of mediums — from hip-hop embroidery to landscape photos.
I understand you’re a part-time photographer and visual artist. What do you do when you’re not creating? What other mediums do you work with outside of photography and embroidery?
That’s correct. For my full-time job, I work at a private school on their creative team, creating video and photos for them. Otherwise, I try to keep myself busy with unique ways to express my passions, mainly rap music and fast food. I’ve been playing around with conceptual social media accounts, different ways to use Snapchat and Instagram stories. Also been trying to get creative in how to save money.
Can you describe your embroidery art?
They are cross stitched rap lyrics and portraits of rappers. Traditionally, cross-stitch has been used to decorate homes with imagery of one’s culture and credos. I too wanted to represent my influences and interests, and I found a way of doing that by creating patterns for myself to stitch. While cross stitching has primarily been seen as a practice for elderly women to pass time, I love the juxtaposition of a young male, creating contemporary images and phrases. Some of the pieces I have created over the years include a portrait of Tupac displaying the “Westside” gang sign and an ornate image of deer in a forest with text that reads “You’re no one till somebody kills you.”
What was the feedback like? In your experience, did people embrace the juxtaposition?
So far the feedback has been predominately positive. People love the humour in the work. They’re often smiling and laughing out loud when they see the work. I’m proud to say that the majority of the work has found itself onto people’s walls.
What inspired your embroidery project?
I organically came across it during my time in Art School. Up until that point, I had not found a medium or theme that expressed my interests and influences. I tried many different mediums during Art School, including painting, sculpture, performance art, collage, weaving, but found myself most drawn to fibre work because it included order, precision, cleanliness and planning.
Do you exclusively listen to hip hop? What is it about hip-hop lyrics that aligns with Calgary?
Not exclusively, but predominately. I also enjoy listening to downtempo, moombahton, trip hop, electro-pop, future bass, trap, and drill music. For a solid chunk of time, I was involved in the Calgary hip hop scene, attending concerts, participating and attending art shows, attending breakdance jams. I wasn’t just listening to rap music, hip hop and its culture was something I experienced on a weekly basis.
Are you originally from Calgary?
I’ve lived in Calgary my entire life so far.
What were some of your early influences while growing up? What influences do you have outside of hip hop?
I’ve always been strongly influenced by graffiti, architecture, and fashion. I’m drawn to bold, strong lines. Although I’m not a frequent listener, more experimental music like Madlib, Flying Lotus, Radiohead, and Massive Attack get my mind going.
How did you become an artist? Did you have formal training?
I graduated with my Bachelors of Fine Art in Drawing from the Alberta College of Art and Design, so it’s official. I’m an artist.
Currently, I try to have some sort of camera on me because inspiration and good light come when you least expect it.
I read that you tend to travel with your embroidery work — what is your day-to-day process like?
It depends on the time of year. For a time, I would carry around my embroidery work with me, I love how portable it is and that I can pick it up and work on it instantly. Currently, I try to have some sort of camera on me because inspiration and good light come when you least expect it.
How important is scenery and location to your process?
I’ve discovered that my environment has become more essential than a specific location. Surrounding myself with other creative individuals helps me think of different ways to express myself. It definitely helps to be in a beautiful location too.
Is there a direct message or purpose behind the hip hop lyrics attached to these photos?
I started pairing rap lyrics with landscape and the outdoors as an extension of my cross stitch work. Some combos carry more significance than others. Some describe a song I was listening to at the moment, while others are a more literal description of the image.
What is your favourite photo/lyric combinations?
The Run DMC photo, for sure.
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