David Emitt Adams: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2013 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 27, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: David Emitt Adams

David Emitt Adams: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art
photo of David Emitt Adams by Becky Bartkowski, photography by David Emitt Adams

An artist is not someone who sits in cafes sipping lattes and sketching. Photographer David Emitt Adams is sure of this.

Adams is sitting in a coffee shop, but he's not sketching or sipping on anything. He's talking about his art.

See also: - Announcing the 2013 Big Brain Finalists - Meet New Times' 2013 Big Brain Finalists and Celebrate the Winners at Artopia on April 27

David Emitt Adams: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art
Photography by David Emitt Adams

"My life is art," Adams says. "That's what I do."

Adams, 33, was born in Yuma, but he wasn't there for long. His parents worked for the State Department when he was a kid. That meant moving every three years. He lived in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Jakarta, New York, and California.

Adams is moving constantly still.

He's wrapping up a one-year artist residency at Gilbert's Art Intersection, a gallery and workspace that has served as his studio and a venue for teaching. He's commuting to Tucson two days a week as an adjunct professor teaching experimental photo techniques at the University of Arizona. He's going to the New York Portfolio Review later in the week to make new connections in the art world and get feedback from industry folks. Then he's off to Léhon, France, for the summer as an artist resident in the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists, supported by the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Despite all the globetrotting, there has been a constant in the artist's life: his late grandfather's farm in Southington, Ohio. Adams visited the 50-acre apple farm every summer during his childhood. Now Adams' father runs the farm, and Adams says that someday it will be his.


David Emitt Adams: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art
photography by David Emitt Adams

The proximity to the farm is why he attended Ohio's Bowling Green State University for his undergrad degree in photography. The time he spent at the farm instilled in Adams an awareness of and respect for history. And his awareness of the past is reflected in his photography and desire to create physical objects.

Adams works primarily with a Civil War-era photography process called wet plate collodion.

He began using the vintage method while completing his master's in fine arts at Arizona State University. Adams set up a recycling bin for his students to dispose their film canisters. Those became surfaces for his photos.

David Emitt Adams: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art
photography by David Emitt Adams

That led to his most recently completed body of work, "Conversations with History." Adams collected rusty metal cans discarded in the Sonoran Desert and printed onto them photos of desert scenery. The works explore the cans' displacement, impact on nature, and connection to the landscape around them. The process required that Adams transport a mobile darkroom with him on his adventures into the wilderness.

Currently, Adams is working on a series he calls "Power," for which he's printing images of oil refineries and power plants onto lids of discarded 55-gallon steel oil drums. To create the images, Adams uses a 24-by-29-inche ultra-large-format camera.

He plans on traveling around the country -- Texas is next on the itinerary -- collecting images for the barrel lids and creating the new works. He's not sure how long the project will take. So far, he's made four pieces for the series, using lids found in a junkyard.

He has other big ideas in the works but isn't ready to discuss them quite yet.

"As we move forward into digital technology, people are going to want to go back," Adams says.

Wherever his work takes him next, David Emitt Adams knows where he'll end up. And it won't be a coffee house.

Buy a $10 ticket to enjoy an evening of food, drink and entertainment April 27 at the Monarch Theatre in downtown Phoenix. Meet the finalists and learn who won during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia.

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