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The Voice of the Black Community


Darius Quarles tells stories through his art
Published Thursday, December 7, 2017
by Gabby Bulgarelli, The Durham VOICE

DURHAM – Darius Quarles is a storyteller.

He is also one of the founding members of Durham’s Pleiades Gallery on East Chapel Hill Street. Pleiades showcases art and is led by artists. It was founded in 2013 but transitioned to a nonprofit this year.

Pleiades is softly lit and unassuming, but every inch of space in its segmented main room and small loft area is thoughtfully utilized to display art. The pieces on display are usually connected by an overarching theme. Last month’s “Selfie” exhibit explored self-portraiture from a wide array of mediums.

Quarles was born and raised in Virginia, and always had a strong connection to art and music. As a child, he would often sketch scenes of the world around him. He finished high school at the height of hip-hop and joined the Navy, still finding time to sketch while serving.

After service, Quarles found himself studying color theory at American Intercontinental University in Atlanta. There, he was surrounded by music, even developing relationships with artists like Swizz Beats. Music influences Quarles art because it “provides that sound check and sparks the inspiration necessary to guide [his] paintbrush.”

Now Quarles produces surrealist, mercurial paintings. Occasionally he produces commercial work and commissions.

“I gotta eat,” he said. “Sometimes one has to break up the monotony with something, but ultimately stuff like that is an interruption.”

Quarles moved to Durham in 1999 and “fell in love.”

“There was not much around in the late ‘90s. I started working as a comic strip artist and I failed – hard – but I stuck around. I used to show my pieces at Mr. Shoe’s, but that was when art only had to appeal to a few people to be known. Post-Centerfest Durham needs more. Art now needs to represent the multifaceted interests of the community.”

In addition to the demands of Pleiades, painting and parenthood, Quarles recently finished a mural for the Liberty Warehouse at 400 W. Corporation Street. He knows how much his art affects his community presence, and is the reason he has much of one to begin with.

“It has been the most direct way to interface with the community,” Quarles said. “Pleiades has been the glue for my life, and I’d like to think it has also been the integral for the art community in this area.”

Pleiades was developed as a collective with a pretty consistent rotation of artwork. Where the space has been rented for receptions, used for community showcases and “truth to power” events, it will now be geared toward more community outreach.

Social consciousness is a founding tenet of Pleiades. “Anyone can be present, but there has to be more to it, more to art,” Quarles said. “Why are you creating? What are you pushing? Emotional appeals are always going to be stronger than monetary impact.”

The December featured artist is Tom Dunne. A closing reception is on Dec. 15. Pleiades will reopen for the spring season in mid-January 2018.



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