JS: First thing, if you were to give someone an elevator pitch, like a twenty second spiel on who you are and what you do, how would you go about it?
DC: I’m a Pittsburgh native, I’m a salvage artist. I seem to be right now bordering outside artist, on the outside artist edge, which is kind of cool with me. You know I’m trying to stay contemporary.
JS: So when you use terms like “salvage artist” and “outside artist”, what exactly do you mean by that?
DC: I basically work in junk materials. Things that normal artists wouldn’t think of, you know. If I’m going to paint a canvas, I’ll paint a canvas with metal
DC: Not in a sense where I do brush strokes, I will put metal on my canvases, I will use things that people don’t normally think about using.
JS: And have you always made art that way? Or did this kind of evolve out of something else?
DC: It evolved out of historical renovation to be honest with you. As a kid I was always involved in art, but over time it fades out, you know…I took a few years doing historical renovation, I have a dozen renovations, actually right here on this block (Lawrenceville on Butler St.), all award winning, and you kind of get to that point where you need a change, so I decided to start doing art all over again
JS: Another thing I saw on your website is that you talk about guerilla art, can you talk some more about that?
DC: It’s pop-up installations; I like to creep in right before the day starts, before all the buses and cars hit the road, and I’ll set something up. If you look at my page you’ll see a few of them there…people will be on their way to work and be like “what is that?” It’s something they’re not used to.
JS: Kinda shock em
DC: Yeah, yeah, and then it gives them something to think about….you know, that’s what I like to do, every day they should be thinking about it.
JS: Creating an experience…So it’s more than just something to look at, it’s something to get people thinking and talking
DC: Sixteen hours a day, that’s all people think about is their jobs, you know, unless it’s the weekend and then it’s “oh let’s go to the museum”, but when you walk down the street there’s something there and you don’t see it.
JS: So basically it’s about putting art into a person’s normal life, rather than seeing it as a separate institution. I love that! So, side question: Like I told you before this interview, I follow you on Twitter, and saw a picture of a bicycle going through a tree…did you do that?
DC: Yes! That bicycle travelled around the city, and it’s cut at such an angle, so it looks like it’s going through it, but the whole front is missing. The cut is so fine it’s hard to tell.
JS: It looks so fluid! It looks like a bike just went through a tree…
DC: I love showing my stuff on Twitter because for me, Twitter is an amazing springboard
JS: So that was one of my questions, how do you feel like Twitter and if you have any other social media presences, how do you feel like they’ve influenced your practice as an artist
DC: I’ve probably done about a dozen pieces just inspired by people on Twitter
JS: So do you just get inspired by seeing things, or is there a person that influences how you decide to make art?
DC: To be honest, the only artists I ever cared about were Renaissance artists, inventors, things like that, because I invent now! You’ll probably hear about my hot water system on Twitter, I just revamped it this summer.
JS: Awesome! You kind of are a renaissance man if you think about it; that sense of discovery and doing something different every day. People who restrict themselves to one thing are just missing out! So, about Arbor Aid; how many years have you done Arbor Aid?
DC: I’ve actually done Arbor Aid three years in a row…last year I won best in show! It was kinda cool. I kinda like the juried thing, juries are kind of intimidating but this year I just pushed all the limits
JS: Your pieces are so great, you have nothing to be intimidated by!
DC: I know what I want, I just go for it…The piece that won best in show, I built a suit of armor out of pieces of wood. It’s a 15th century Hun suit of armor. You can fight battles in it
JS: Battles?! Where do you fight battles?!
DC: There’s a big war here every year! It’s pre-gunpowder, so anything pre-gunpowder you can do…it’s a week’s worth of fighting, and every year 10,000 people fight. I cracked one plate, but the wood had a flaw in it.
JS: That’s awesome!!
-More conversations about upcoming/under-wraps items…Dave Calfo is a secretive man, and he says he likes it that way! But then we started to talk about the people who help him succeed-
DC: I actually have a team that works with me which is great, people who just want to see me make it.
JS: So like your promotional team?
DC: I have a promotional team, my PR reps, totally pro bono, they’re amazing. I have lawyers backing me up, all these people who believe in me. I have a girl who does all my computer work, all my files. I can’t ask people to come in the studio to help weld, but she keeps all my stuff nice and neat, whenever I need something it’s right there. I ended up lucking out having such great people to help me. Even when I get a quick idea for a guerilla installation, sometimes I need a hand, and these guys are up at five o’clock in the morning creeping around the city with me.
JS: Wow! That’s amazing. So it sounds like if you’re not there already, you’re on the edge of something really great. Best in show, you have a vision, you have a team…
DC: Yep, as long as I keep pushing.