Henry David Potwin - Artist

A Conceptual Realist


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Born in Dallas, Texas, David Potwin is the oldest of three children. Potwin first put brush to canvas at 8 yrs. old. As a young boy, Potwin's family would summer vacation in Taos, New Mexico.

"During our vacation in 1965, I met my first true mentor, Taos artist Eric Gibberd. Eric was a fine impressionist artist who took a strong interest in me. Eric remained a vibrant and reverent influence in my life until his death" says Potwin.

After completing 12 years of Catholic school education and under Gibberd's mentorship, Potwin attended the University of Houston Fine Arts program from 1969-1974, studying under William Anzalone and Dr. Peter Gunther and a classmate of Julian Schnabel.

Potwin travelled extensively throughout his life and has had a variety of art-related positions from a fine arts publisher in New York City to a special effects painter at Astroworld Amusement Park in Houston. Working as an art importer and wholesaler afforded Potwin with opportunities to continue his art education in the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East. The artist has experienced periods of frenitic creative activitiy as well as periods of complete indolence.

To quote the artist, "Painting is a synthesis that considers the myriad aspects of human awareness, expressed in visual form. "
"I'm quite content to be a painter of pictures. For me, painting is a synthesis that considers the myriad aspects of human awareness, expressed in visual form, melding together philosophy, physics, sociology, emotion, mysticism, and eroticism with craftmanship. I like to tweak the colors to tease the eye with a sense of light and expressed energy. My work is "conceptual realism".

With one look at Potwin's paintings, you realize his broad assortment of conceptual realism subjects range from landscapes to portraits to observations of the world.

A recent critic said: "Directional brushstrokes and bold colors energize Potwins' landscapes as well as his self described "conceptual realism". His paintings show ties to impressionism, post impressionism and the german expressionists such as Otto Dix (and this great Otto Dix site on ARTSY ) and Max Beckman , as well as a nod to pop surreralism . Perhaps conceptual impressionism would be a more precise description. There is an interesting interplay between light and shadow and the swirling patterns created by the application of the paint. Often the strokes of color seem to burst from the canvas. Henry David Potwin has to burst from the canvas. Henry David Potwin has been painting since childhood and his works span several decades. His mature work is personal and idiosyncratic, humorous and socially aware. Potwins' paintings are increasingly coming to the attention of collectors, as the internet has introduced his work to an international audience where he has gained a large and loyal following. if you have never seen Mr. potwin's work before, it is our pleasure to introduce you to this fine artist."

David's comments about select pieces of his art

When asked to describe his feelings about someof his art, David replied: " Does it really matter what I meant when I painted it? Or is it more important what you see in it? Each should be a meditation. There is no precise meaning- only a departure point. Here are a few:"

25 Crosses is a very personal painting for the artist. Each cross represents one year of Potwin's prison sentence. The man-tree is trying to move ahead but rooted in the rubble of his life- the chasm of past and future- the various implications of the cross: torture, moral judgement- the crisis of personal suffering. Yet, the single leaf at the tip of the man-tree represents life, hope- salvation.
Assortment is a statement on females' serial love affairs, where men are consumed and discarded like chocolates. The painting depicts a bright pink heart-shaped candy box with the lid tipped back to reveal a box full of portrait-embossed pieces of candy.
Plum Orchard , we are treated to a peaceful yet surprisingly energetic painting that prominently features a Van Gogh-radiant sun. The abrupt short swirling strokes were meant to describe the relentless radiation of the sun, the listlessness of the trees, the bare earth beneath them.
INCUBUS The male sexual spirit that visits women in their dreams.
CEREAL KILLER A play on Andy Warhols' soup cans, the complete title is Cereal Killer- Prisoner of Consumer Culture.
REQUIEM (FOR CULTURAL DIVERGENCE) That diversity grows in isolation and becomes lost in the synthesis of contact.
RAINING BABIES The beauty of children and the threat of overpopulation.
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD The Walmart effect and the destruction of Main St. America.
EMPTY FRUIT Anticipation is greater than Realization
BLOWN AWAY, BY THE WINDS OF CHANGE This is my 9/11 painting.
PIGGY BACK This one is about people trapped in their self concepts, united by circumstances in competition with others.
MIDWAY The city as the "Big" Carnival
LEGACY Leaving future generations to clean up the mess
ADAMS APPLE Truths within truths. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the cessation of life within the moment that began with that bite, when man became a seeker.
DEPERSONALIZATION The reverse of people without clothes- clothes without people. A social comment on appearances.
Adam and Eve The other day, for instance, a painting of Adam and Eve (snake, tree- you know the story) was confiscated. I thought it was rather tame, as I had been emulating an italian holy card from my childhood. But alas, Adam and Eve were unclothed, which my censors do not allow. After 14 years, I am somewhat used to this but still push the envelope.

Update- my painting of Adam and Eve was returned to me by my rather small minded censors, and I was required to cover the naughty bits, which of course changes the entire meaning of the painting. I find it rather more socio-political in its current state, so I presume, alls well that ends well. I did however, give Adam and Eve navels. Somehow they just didn't look right without them.
Global Warming. I personally believe that the biggest threat to mankind and our kids fiture is global warming from pollution. I am against burning coal, and for renewable energy. I would like to see cleaner energy and cleaner cars as well as biodegradable plastics. I support the mission of the organization 350.ORG

He adds: "Many of my paintings, still lifes, landscapes, underwater scenes are meant to be eye candy. I sometimes feel that perhaps my style is too broad, but I am not a one trick pony."

In 1994, Potwin was sentenced to federal prison which he describes as the most cathartic event in his life. "this black sense of loss became a lens that focused my innate creative drive to crystalline clarity," says Potwin. Since his incarceration, Potwin has dedicated time to not only building his "Family" of paintings but also to helping other inmates realize their artisitic and creative abilities by teaching art classes and music lessons at the correctional facility. "Believe it or not, during these past years as an art teacher to inmates, I have had the opportunity to light a spark in the minds of a considerable number of disenfranchised individuals who only lacked the encouragement and the opportunity to discover their latent talents. Their pride of accomplishment is my reward", says Potwin.

Growing up playing the guitar and singing, Potwin formed his first band at 14 years old, and his love of music continues to grow. Potwin has taken on responsibility for requesting recreational budget monies that enable inmates to realize their own artistic talents. <--!

Writing also plays a key role in Potwin's life. the artist has just finished the challenge of putting pen to paper. He has just completed his first novel based on his unique view of life in Federal Prison. After 14 years , he offers credible and reliable insight. "Its sort of a Hogan's Heroes meets Gulag Archapelago", is all that Potwin will say. We are sure the novel will be as complex and intriguing as Potwin's already conquered challenge of putting brush to canvas. -->

"My inspiration is drawn from many quarters. To list all of the great artists who have inspired me would be some list indeed. What I continually seek is to refine my vision and my craft. My goal is to create a body of work that is multi-layered and resonates with the public as well as the collector. " says Potwin.

David (right) in his band, Dave Westcott (Bass)and Paul Sifuntez (Drums). Picture posted February 2009.

Henry David Potwin BLOG

---------------- 2008 -----------------

It is obvious that I have been influenced by the loose strokes and eye mixing of colors of the impressionists. But I love it all. Art Nouveau, Art deco, German Expressionists, Pop and Op, Cubist, Surrealist, Symbolist - Illuminated Manuscripts to Plein Air."

"I see common threads running through my work but it may be stylistically broad and difficult to pin down and attach a label. Basically, I just aint whatever the hell I want. When I look at the body of work created by Picasso, I see numerous divergent explorations. That freedom of expression is what keeps it exciting. In the end, I expect that the body of work will define itself. I wish to thank Carrie Cameron who owns the Cameron Gallery in Dallas, Texas, and who made possible my first one-man show. I wish that I could have been there."

"I refer all of you who appreciate my work to ArtWanted.com/HDPotwin . You might check out Olga Van Dijks site while you're there. She is one of the several artists there who always seems to have a kind word for me."


Greetings from the Dungeon

Life can be pretty dismal here. Painting transports me to a realm of indeterminate possibilities. Perhaps one can live a meaningful life, even in awful circumstances. I have taught art to prisoners for thirteen years. There are some dreadful people here, but most are just normal working class guys who wandered into difficult situations.

I tried to establish a creative refuge in an abusive environment. Small acts add up over time. Some of th emen learn to deal with thier stress through creativity as opposed to blind anger. Some don't. I was introduced the other day as "our artist trying to change the world one painting at a time" Ain't that a hoot?. Well, I just had to smile.

October 2009

David went to Vegas (....not). Here is David in front of a painting he did of the famous Vegas Skyline.

December 2010

David was asked to paint a mural on a prison wall. He chose a Texas theme, he completed a 12 X 24" painting first, then he did a wall size mural. The title is "Gathering the Strays". In the photo above, David posed next to the mural so you can see the scale. David painted a 14 X 24" copy before he did the wall-size mural. The smaller copy is for sale, click here to see it.
2010 Self Portrait
2011 Self Portrait

April 2013

From the CooCoo's Nest

Still hangin! Began 20 as a guest of the government. 20 years watching ever growing thousands sliced and diced into the machine. It's sort of like being a perpetual 10 year old, with abusive parents in a very crowded foster home. Each painting completed is a successful escape. Push repeat. Keep pushing the Wednesday (When Dey Let You Go!). I want to thank friend Bill Osten for maintaining this swell website. I also want to thank you who have purchased my work. Your patronage allows me to keep painting and to purchase art supplies - and a few Zoom Zooms & Wham Whams.


December 2013

David's 2013 Christmas PostCard

Happy christmas and Merry new year to all of my friends. Being away from family and friends during the holiday season adds a certain irony and stress for those of us who are reluctant guests of the gov't. But i have had plenty of practice, this being my 20th Christmas spent in "club (un) fed". So i can serve a positive example for those who are not adjusting so well. Perhaps you were one of those who sent a letter or e-mail to the pardon atty on my behalf. I would encourage my friends to send an e-mail to the pardon atty, asking what is the status of the clemency request from Henry D Potwin, #26525-077. THE ADDRESSD IS OFFICE OF PARDON ATTY,Rodgers,1425 New York ave n.w. #110000 ,WASH. D.C.20530 . I don't have the e-mail address. It would be at us.gov/pardon atty. If you haven't requested that i be granted clemency, that would be a nice christmas present. Just sayin. I continue to paint and seem to be achieving some moderate success and increasing positive reception of my work. I have about four and a half more years before i will return to the 'real' world, God willing. AUG 2018. may you all grow in health, wealth and wisdom. Have a great 2014. I remain, yours , D

David's 2015 Self Portrait

David's 2015 4th of July Message

To all of my friends, I wish you a happy independence day. I hope that you spend it amongst friends and family and enjoy some fireworks. It seems the older that I get, the more elusive the concept of freedom becomes. Not sure what freedom is. Freedom to, freedom from? I suppose that we recognize it when we experience it, as long as we don't push the envelope or stray too far from the fold, eh! Still, demolishing anthills with firecrackers was probably as carefree as I have ever been. so, let me wish you all freedom from cares and from ants. Yours D

David's Fall 2015 Message (September 25, 2015)

Autumn greetings to all of you who are visiting my website. I personally have never had the opportunity to log on to the internet as I have been detained since its' inception. That freaks me out. I am quite fortunate to have the support of my good friend Bill, who has established and maintains henrydavidpotwin.com. I am also honored to have the assistance of my sister,(who happens to be a fine photographer) my family and friends who continue to stand by me through these long years. We must all strive to find opportunity in adversity. Though I live in an awful place, I am free from the pressures of the market to explore the corners of my creativity. I have managed to accumulate quite a large portfolio of paintings that have never been shown in public.
I can paint what i want, well, except that these bureaucrats will not allow me to paint subjects that anyone of them on a whim might find objectionable. In this permissive society the fanatical prison censors allow no bums, boobs or innuendo. ok, I will bend, but I will not break. Here at the end of the road one must reach out. It is gratifying to hear from so many people around the world who appreciate my art. Those who wish may write to me via snail mail at Henry D Potwin#26525-077, PO Box 15330,F.C.I Ft. Worth, Ft Worth, Texas 76119,USA.
I will be back in the world before Aug 2018. I hope to find a reputable gallery or two to represent and promote my paintings. I don't really know where my work finds a receptive audience as each city and country has its own particular personality I would love to hear feedback from diverse places regarding what aspects of my work are well received. I'm sort of in a bubble here. I am anxious to rejoin the world that i have interpreted for so many years from the inside out. Peace and Love David

December 2015

David's 2015 Christmas PostCard

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I thought this card captured the geist of 2015. Not John Wayne's America anymore.
I am hoping pending legislation will correct some of the sentencing excesses and let me out a bit early. We shall see.

December 2016

David's 2016 Christmas PostCard

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - once again. 23rd Xmas in here, would be nice if it is the last.

David's 2016 Christmas Message (December 25, 2016)

To all of my on-line friends, I hope that you know that I regret being unable to respond to your many kind messages due to my circumstances. Perhaps in 10 to 13 months that will change. For now, let me wish all of you a happy new year and thank you for your friendship and encouragement. My paintings will hopefully provide me with a means of support when I return to the world, without retirement income or much in the way of social security; but painting is what I do.

I make art in prison world. This helps me succeed in retaining my identity. I'm sure that prison invades my consciousness in insidious ways. Artistic expression keeps me centered. It allows me to put the petty tyrants into perspective. I try to see the humor in the daily indignities, small acts in the greater scheme. When i am painting i could be anywhere, London, Paris, Tokyo, Mars. Painting and me have a long history.

There are few corners that i have left unexplored since I began painting in 1963, but nothing compares with the imperative that prison world has brought to the mix. Simply, I paint the best that I can. I hope to continue to progress and hone my craft until I drop dead with a brush in one hand and something interesting in the other. ....just sayin. yours d......

David's 2017 Christmas Card (December 5, 2017)

David has been especially inspired by and appreciates the art of the following artists:

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