Don Simon - Our tragic indifference

by R27 CREATIVELAB on Monday, 4 May 2009

Don's work has a strange dreamlike quality but then again maybe thats just me. Surreal settings with the unlikliest combinations of subject and environment. But for Don this isn't a dream, he's commenting on how he sees the world around us. Below Don Simon talks about his achievements, influences and hopes...

Title: The River 2 - 2006 Colored Pencil 24x13"
Bio: Don Simon uses colored pencils and a surrealistic style to speak about the conflict between nature and industry. He was awarded a prestigious New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in 2008, and a Full Artist Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center the same year. His work has appeared in solo and group shows, in galleries and museums across the country and in Europe including Verge - The Bridge Art Fair Berlin 08, Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, the L.A. Art Show, and Windham Fine Arts, Windham, NY. His piece Cows On Garbage 2 won the Purchase Award at the 2005 Works On Paper show at the Perkins Center for the Arts, Moorestown, NJ, and was acquired by the Jersey City Museum for their permanent collection. The work was on display in 2007 as part of the Perspectives II: Then and Now exhibition.

In addition, his work has twice been selected for publication in New American Paintings - once in 2006, curated by Alex Baker from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; and again in 2007 curated by Stephen Bennet Phillips from the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. Mr. Phillips singled out his piece, The River II calling it, "...a tour de force of drawing." He has also been published as an Emerging Artist of 2006 in Direct Art magazine, and in the ArtPeriscope Calendar, curated and published for European distribution out of Czestochowa, Poland.

Don was born in Madison, NJ in 1972. After earning a BFA at Syracuse University he entered a ten year career as an Art Director in Philadelphia advertising. In 2004 he walked away from advertising to pursue art full time.

Title: Cows On Garbage 2 - 2004 Colored Pencil 24x13"

Title: The Herd 2 - 2005 Colored Pencil 24x13"

Title: The River 2 - 2006 Coloured Pencil 24x13"

Title: Parkinglot Serengeti 2 - 2008 Coloured Pencil 30x20"

Artist's Statement: Throughout history, particularly since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, mankind has been less than kind to their cohabitants on the planet. We build, produce and consume with little or no regard to the impact it has on the environment. It is the nature of nature to adapt and evolve in order to survive, and we are forcing other species to deal with compromised, damaged or destroyed ecosystems.

This series of triptychs depicts scenes resulting from our tragic indifference. They are rendered in a beautiful and natural way, highlighting the idea that we find this acceptable. We are numb to the damage - and so, the unnatural becomes natural to us. This may be the saddest commentary of all.

You can view more of Don's work via his site :
He is also on twitter: @donsimonart


How long have been doing this?
I majored in Illustration at Syracuse University, but after graduation I moved to Philadelphia and went into advertising. Originally it was to be around Art Directors to get a feel for how they selected artists, but in the end I became an Art Director myself. It was a lot of fun and challenging in a lot of good ways, I actually got to shoot a commercial with Ray Charles once, but I was starting to feel unfulfilled, like all my energies were going into something I wasn't born to do. So about 5 years ago I dropped out and started thinking seriously about dedicating myself to art.

What got you involved?
After I walked from advertising I gave myself a month. I bought a north american rail pass and traveled across Canada and around the US by train. It was a beautiful experience. The open spaces, especially on the first leg in Canada, and going through the Rockies. Literally days without seeing a road or a town much less a refinery or city. It struck me as really odd, and I realized that, in my experience, industrialization and sprawl had become the norm and nature was the rarity. When I got back, I knew what I wanted to do.

Your recent achievements?
It's been an interesting year. I had slideshows of my work on and that got a lot of attention. People in the green movement really seem to be responding to the work, which is very satisfying. I have a solo exhibition, Nature 2.0, that's currently up in a gallery in LA (, it runs through Earth Day ) We partnered with an initiative started by the mayor called Million Trees LA and a portion of all sales will benefit them. We also have posters available through the gallery or Click Here, also with proceeds going to MTLA. Very proud of that.

Your background?
I grew up in the suburbs in Madison, New Jersey, about an hour from New York City. Like most artists probably, I was drawing all the time. I just always assumed I would be an artist, but after college I guess I bought into the starving artist thing and got scared into advertising. I don't regret it though. A lot of the skills I developed as an Art Director, I'm putting to use in my process now. My parents were both teachers and have been super supportive of my career, as has the rest of my family, and my fiancee (which I guess I could list as a recent accomplishment too, she's amazing).

Originally I just felt that, if I was going to walk away from a safe career, take the leap so to speak, I wanted the work to be more than just decorative or self referential, I wanted it to be about something. There is a lot great art about art, and that's important too. But personally, I wanted to communicate with people on some level about something I would like them to think about more. After the trip I was thinking about our relationship to nature, and how it wasn't something I gave too much thought to before. I started realizing it's like that for a lot of people. We get so caught up in the day to day business of driving and working and spending and raising families. There's only so much brain space left for anything else. So I thought if I could hit emotional notes and get people to stop for a second and feel something, maybe I could give a voice to the wildlife that doesn't seem to have one in our culture. Sounds ambitious, but really, I just want to play a role and help the environmentalists that are doing the heavy lifting right now.

My biggest hope is that my work will serve as an effective tool that the green movement can use to raise consciousness.

Future works?
I have some ideas I'm working on for future series that will still be talking about the environment and how we relate to it, but from a different angle. For right now, though, there are still things I want to do with the Unnaturalism series.

Do you have any exhibitions planned ?
Last year I was awarded a Fellowship by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. They are having a group show of recipients at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit, NJ. The opening reception was April 24th. It was lovely to be part of that with so much great work around us.

You can view more of Don's work via his site :
He is also on twitter: @donsimonart

Don thanks for your time and May 4th be with you....

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Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Best Regards Rajesh