David Dees: In Memoriam
WORDS BY MAX KEENE
ANIMATION BY ROBBY DAY
David Dees was an artist that passed away in early June of this year. Dees had a fairly storied career, in the 80’s he was producing commercial art for companies like Disney and Paramount back when that meant laying down acrylic paint and airbrushing over top. He really did a bit of everything, movie posters, newspaper illustrations and promotional material for some of the biggest bands of the era like Guns n’ Roses and White Snake. In the mid 90’s he began to transition to using Photoshop at a time when there really weren’t established techniques. He ended up working for Sesame Street magazine, a nice stable job where he got to draw Big Bird all day and relax a bit. This was his last job before “waking up”.
“I found out about 9/11 in 2003”
David Dees on The Sage Of Quay™ Radio Hour, 2014
When David Dees “found out” about 9/11, it completely rocked his world. He began to bring up building 7 and the pentagon to his coworkers at the Sesame Street magazine office and unfortunately they weren’t very receptive. This really had an effect on Dees, the fact that people close to him wouldn’t even consider the information he was trying to show them made him start to look critically at what he might be ignoring, the stuff that he thought was too crazy to look into. This line of thinking led Dees into the world of new age conspiracism, a sort of mixed bag of often contradictory beliefs best exemplified by figures like David Icke. Icke is the guy that thinks lizard people run the world, and he later became a personal friend of Dees.
By 2006 Dees was fully in the conspiracy theory wormhole and started making the political art he’s now known for. He parted ways with Sesame Street after working there for 13 years and began producing his art full time, releasing it through his website to be freely decimated on the internet. The images are, above all, completely unhinged and cover every conspiracy theory you could imagine. GMO vegetables come to life, 5G towers turning kids radioactive and a shadowy cabal making it all happen behind the scenes.
His work is worth considering because a lot of it is pretty good. The hodgepodge nature of his images really suit the skittish and on-edge content. It’s also a pretty successful example of political art in the sense that it achieves what it set out to do. It’s accessible, it communicates very effectively and if you believe the testimonials sent to Dees it seems like it’s managed to change people's minds. I think things like David Dees work play off the fact that a lot of people get the sense that the world is run by a very small group of people that shape the narrative on global events and look out for their own interests at the expense of ours. I can’t help but think that a lot of people that believe these wacko conspiracy theories could have an articulate left perspective if somebody took the time to talk to them before they saw a David Icke video. Dee's work feels really distinctly of the moment, a frantic and ideologically incoherent response to a world that is impossible to process coherently.
Max Keene is an artist based in Montréal that works primarily in photography. He has exhibited work in solo and group exhibitions across Canada and has been featured in Canadian Art, SNAPLine and PhotoED magazine. Max’s work can be found at mkeene.com or on Instagram @mxkeene.