Photo by Daniel Triassi- Mustang Daily

A showcase of David Settino Scott’s work, titled “California Primitive 25 Year Retrospective” is on exhibition through the end of February at the San Luis Obispo Art Center.

Walking into the center reveals Scott as an artist who depicts diverse subject matter. Scott’s work resides at the intersection of art history and following his own gut.

One of his pieces titled “Birth of Pasta,” illustrates his love of Italian cuisine. In the composition, angels watch as a giant ball of spaghetti erupts while a cook and her assistants gaze at the culinary possibilities.

But he also tackles tough subjects, as in “A Pure Working,” which features stylized portrait busts of various Vietnamese Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in the Vietnam War.

The exhibit marks a quarter century of achievement by Scott, said Gordon L. Fuglie, adjunct curator for the Art Center. Fuglie first found out about Scott in the ’90s while at an opening reception for another artist in Riverside, California.

“I went up stairs and walked into the gallery displaying ‘A Pure Working’ and I was brought to silence and stillness in its presence,” Fuglie said.

At the opening reception for Scott’s exhibit, Fuglie said it was an honor to curate a retrospective with someone with such a vast body of work rich in human experiences, fantasy, spirituality and history.

The audience seemed to echo Fuglie’s sentiments as some of them yelled “David rules!” and “We love you,” throughout the night.

Morro Bay resident Ella Mcoy came to the opening because of Scott’s historical references.

“I was interested because of the themes of Dante’s Inferno, Goya, slavery and the Vietnam War,” she said. “I’m also similar to him in age.”

Scott’s art was shaped by his blue-collar upbringing. He dropped out of high school to take on a number of manual jobs. Scott later enlisted in the Navy. He discovered his interest in art while in the Navy when he began to copy the pin-up girls from artist Alberto Vargas. He put one of his drawings in the ships locker to be his “girlfriend,” he said.

Scott describes his art “odyssey” as beginning when he got out of the Navy. Painting for the first time was difficult without any formal instruction.

“Mixing colors everything came out as mud,” Scott said.

Next, Scott’s artist odyssey led him to museums in Europe where he saw Goya’s etchings on the disasters of war.

“That was very moving for me,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is important work, and this is saying something.’”

Goya’s work made Scott committed to be an artist. After he came back from Europe, he enrolled in college. From the 1960s to ’70s, Scott struggled with his artist identity and eventually gave it up altogether to become a flight instructor.

Still, flying couldn’t replace his passion for art.

“There’s something to be said when you do what you’re supposed to do. What’s in your heart and soul to do, as opposed to what you think is best for you to do or what other people think is best for you to do,” he said.

Scott returned to art with an encouraging public response in 1983. Art Center assistant director Maura Johnston agrees that Scott’s work needs to be collected as part of the important historical art collection of the Central Coast.

“He has a unique vision, he paints what he wants, he’s not painting for profit but because he has to, it’s what he loves,” she said.

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