Davin Watne Painting Featured in Netflix Drama Master of None

It’s the latest in a string of successes for the talented KC artist.

Kansas City artist Davin Watne has been racking up exposure over the past 15 months.  In late 2014, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art acquired Watne’s multi-panel painting, Feel Secure, featuring 20 images of armored police vehicles from countries around the world.

The purchase coincided with Watne’s inclusion in “Consumer,” a public art project in Cardiff, Wales. Curated by Cardiff-based photographer Dawn Wooley, and displayed for six months on purchased advertising spaces around the city, the project featured works critical of consumerism by four artists. Watne showed images from his “Capital Myth” series, combining high-glamor advertising imagery with graphic forms drawn from the art of the Tlingit people of the Pacific Northwest Coast.

But the viewership of Watne’s Nerman Museum and Cardiff, Wales, works pales in comparison to the audience for his latest coup—landing a major painting on the set of the award-winning new Netflix series, Master of None, by Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari.

Titled The Darkness, the 2009 painting is part of a series of night paintings Watne made following a body of work depicting car crashes. The night paintings “deal with a lot of the same concepts,” Watne said. “I was interested in ideas of fear, and this kind of collision between man and nature, but I took the drama out of it.”

It’s a peaceful, yet eerie, painting, of an empty landscape at night. Snow covers the ground, which recedes into the darkness of a dense band of trees rising to a midnight sky. One feels that anything—or nothing—could happen here.

In Master of None, the painting appears on the wall above the protagonist’ s bed, “where a number of large scenes take place,” Watne said, noting that Episode Nine offers extended shots of the painting.

The Netflix placement came about through Amy Williams, a production manager in New York, whom Watne has worked with before.  The two first made contact after Williams bought a print by Watne at Cannonball Press in New York in 2009; Williams later got two of Watne’s paintings into the independent film, Someday This Pain will be Useful to You.

In a recent email, she described Watne as “my favorite and go-to artist” for many of her film and television projects, and Master of None as “the perfect opportunity to share his talents with the masses.”

Before that, it was books.  In 2000, a painting by Watne graced the cover of J.G. Ballard’s novel, Crash.

Watne sees film as a “fascinating way for my art to interact with the public sphere.”

“More and more,” he said in a statement, “we are seeing fine art mediated through entertainment and delivered to us by way of smart phones and digital formats.  The effect is the increase and volume of image trafficking.”

Placement of a work is a digital transaction. “I just send a digital file: it is printed out on canvas and stretched at whatever size they want,” Watne said.

Going forward, Watne said, he plans to be more proactive in placing work in mass-media productions, and likes the idea of fulfilling commissions relevant to specific story lines.

But his studio work comes first.  “I’m getting ready to start a body of work that explores some element of police violence, and I’m using perceptual tricks—inverting images, color inversions, layering techniques,” he said. “The idea is to be more visceral than literal.”

Alice Thorson

Alice Thorson is the editor of KC Studio. She has written about the visual arts for numerous publications locally and nationally.

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