David McDonald – Common Knowledge – March 24th – May 7th 2018



Q: “Don’t Know”, is the answer to many questions in the Zen  meditation practice.  You are a Guggenheim Fellow and the Abbott at the Dharma Zen Center, how much do you know/don’t you know, about what is coming?

David: The past is gone, the future is unknowable, only this moment is known and if you stop to think about it you’re already in the past.

Q: Is knowing things about what you are making important, before and after you make a work?

David: On a certain level, I know what I’m doing because I have a history of making art. This allows me to start but doesn’t really inform where I’ll end up. Someone once said it is good to think about your art before you make it and after you make it but not while you’re making it.

Q: Is there anything you would like your ideal viewer to know about your practice?

David: That I’m sincere in my search, I’m not trying to be obscure or difficult, I am trying to find the most direct way to address what interests me.


Q: What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

David: Currently I would say my sandboxes. I make most of my work in sand, it allows me to work quickly and directly.

Q: What is your favorite treat?

David: Ice cream sundae or tiramisu.

Q: Does making your work come from a feeling place or a thinking place?

David: In a perfect scenario it would come from a place before thinking and feeling, but in my current state it hopefully comes from a place that balances all three.

Q: You grow up all over the world (Brazil,England, Africa, Argentina) rarely touching American soil until the age of 17, how has this shaped your worldview?

David: You learn there are no absolutes, everything is conditional. What is ok in one place is inappropriate in another. This is a good place for an artist and a zen student.

Q: What country influenced your visual aesthetic the most and why?

David: Brazil and Morocco. Brazil for the sense of materials, the way things are re-purposed. Morocco is about the light and it was the first time I saw that one color could have many aspects.

Q: Who’s your favorite living artist?

David: Brian Eno

Q: What is your greatest fear?

David: Insanity and dementia

David McDonald was born in Liverpool, England and lived in various countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, and Canada during his first 17 years.  He then came to America to attend college (Calarts MFA, Boston University) .  He has had over twenty solo exhibitions nationwide and has been reviewed by numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, New Yorker, the Santa Fean, and Art Ltd.  He is a recipient of a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2006 Pollock Krasner Fellowship.  McDonald has taught at University of Southern California, California State Long Beach, New Roads High School, and Crossroads High School, amongst others.  He is also an experienced meditator and has been certified as a Senior Dharma Teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen.