Kava turns critical lens to coast at AMSET

“Gulls on Sticks” by DJ Kava

In addition to temporary exhibitions in its galleries, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas also shows works by locally-known artists in their Café Arts series. These works are made by both up-and-coming artists and ones who have been working for decades. DJ Kava, whose photography will be shown in Café Arts through the beginning of August, belongs to the latter.

The 71-year-old artist has lived all over the U.S. and Texas, travelling for his work in the military as well as his job with the National Weather Service. Kava has made Beaumont his home for the past 35 years, and for the past 13 years has traveled between Beaumont and Crystal Beach making art. His work has been shown at Beaumont Art League and in The Art Studio, Inc.’s annual Darkroom Friends shows. According to Kava, his need to create art stems from his need to tell stories.

“I haven’t been making art for 35 years without having something to say about something,” he said.

Kava works in a variety of media, from painting to jewelry-making and found-object sculpture. For this show, however, he turns to photography — a medium he has been working in for nearly 50 years. From starting with a 35-mm camera in his early 20s to working at a film-processing plant in Fargo, N.D. during his college years, to the early years of The Art Studio’s darkroom in the ’80s, Kava keeps returning to photography. For this show, in particular, he has been working with digital photography.

“What I like about photography is that it gives you a bigger dimension than painting or making pendants,” he said. “You have the whole world with photography.”

The exhibition, titled “A Stroll Along the Coast,” captures scenes from the Bolivar Peninsula. Many shots focus on the nature in the area — birds in flight, orange sunsets in December. Another presence in the photos is the effects of Hurricane Ike from nearly 10 years ago.

DJ Kava poses with one of his favorite beach art projects — a painted portable toilet.

“With this show, I am telling a story of a stroll along the coast,” Kava said. “I start with the rookery in High Island and march down and end up at Port Bolivar. I am making a statement about the history and about the wetlands.”

Images include residents protesting the closing of Rollover Pass, a single standing tree left after the Hurricane which has become decorated with odds and ends, and receding wetlands. In addition to the erosion of the wetlands, nature is also being altered by real estate and property development, Kava said.

The show is on view at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas through Aug. 13.

For information, visit www.amset.org.

Story by Caitlin Duerler, ISSUE staff writer

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