Bill Dambrova paints the unseen. His imaginative pieces, many done on large-scale canvases, explore life’s intangible aspects in an instinctive, fantastical way. “My mind always goes to biology and internal worlds,” explains the artist. “I think about interactions within my body or with another person. I like to visualize things like pheromones.” It’s an exploration that began when Dambrova first heard about massage therapy releasing toxins from the body. “I thought, ‘Is that real? What does it look like?’ ” Exploring such realms has been his pursuit ever since.
After a stint in Los Angeles, the Arizona State University graduate returned to his native Phoenix. “The local art scene is small but there’s a funky vibe that I thrive on,” Dambrova notes. Inside his studio at Bragg’s Pie Factory, a converted historic bakery on Grand Avenue, the artist says he “activates the space” with incense and internet radio—the voice of Henry Rollins on L.A.’s KCRW or Iggy Pop on the BBC make the studio feel untethered to place, a liberating feeling for the self-described global citizen.
Dambrova often begins works with a wash of house paint (“I like its immediacy and durability,” he says), letting drips create shapes he then defines with charcoal, oils, spray paint or acrylics for texture. “These aren’t paintings of the body, but paintings of what might be happening in and around the body,” he notes, explaining that he sees his work as an exploration of health and healing. By proposing what the incorporeal looks like, Dambrova hopes observers will contemplate their own experiences as living beings.
There’s plenty of opportunity for viewers to do just that. This summer sees not only the debut of From the Earth to the Sky, his 6,000-square-foot terrazzo floor at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, but also his inclusion in “Art in Medicine” at Bentley Gallery. A solo show at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum opens next spring.
“In Arizona, there’s no definition of what art can be,” notes Dambrova. “There’s freedom in that.” And as such, he finds inspiration everywhere, from a Blue Origin rocket launch and Puff: Wonders of the Reef on Netflix, to the works of artists Katherine Bernhardt and Charline von Heyl. “They’re allowing themselves to paint what’s interesting to them,” he says. “Whatever I’m reading or thinking about at the moment is what’s exciting to me, and that energy has to make a painting better.”