The Art of the Matter

WORDS Liesel Schmidt
IMAGES courtesy Jonathan Burchett and David Gomez

Despite the risks of starting a business in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, Melody Smith took a leap of faith and opened Gallery on Garrison in 2020, bringing local and regional artists to the attention of the community, and giving them a place to shine.

Among the artists represented at the Gallery on Garrison are Jonathan Burchett and David Gomez, two talented individuals whose unique styles strike just the right balance between art and statement, speaking a message that uses colors, shapes, and shadow to convey. “I noticed Jonathan’s work on the official promotional stuff for the River Valley Film Festival and loved it,” recalls Melody of how she came to represent his work. “I displayed two of his amazing paintings in the gallery, selling one to a wonderful local collector of fine art. Later, someone mentioned David to me, so I looked him up and fell in love with his work.”

Artistic since childhood, Jonathan can recall drawing everything that he saw when he was younger. “I spent countless hours in my room listening to 90’s alternative rock and drawing from any how-to-draw book I could get my hands on,” he says.

Despite his long-held dream of becoming a professional artist, Jonathan bowed to the pressures of responsibility and changed his major from fine art to one that would pay the bills. “When I spoke to my peers about being an artist, they would always ask, ‘How will you support yourself? How will you make any money?’” Jonathan recalls. “Eventually I listened, doubted myself, and changed majors. I wanted to support a family in the future, so I graduated from college, got an office job, and joined the rat race. I regrettably didn’t pick up a paint brush again for twenty years.”

It wasn’t until the uncertainty of the pandemic, in fact, that Jonathan realized the importance of following his dream. “Life as I knew it was uncertain. The world had changed,” he says. “This was a moment of deep awakening. Life is too short to not pursue your dreams. If I can fail, or be laid off from my job, or possibly get a virus and die, then why shouldn’t I do what I love? It became clear that our time on Earth is not certain, so I’d better spend it wisely. It was this moment that I found the courage to pursue my dreams of being a professional artist. And I haven’t been happier.”

Since then, Jonathan has been painting pieces whose style is inspired by pop culture and deeply influenced by street art, graffiti, and comics. “I love watching movies, and I’m influenced by the film industry and comics,” says the native Texan, who moved to Fort Melody for work with an engineering and manufacturing firm. “I also am deeply in love with the vintage and retro style of the 1950s. I love the cars, hair styles, tattoos, and pinup girls from the 1940s through the 1950s.”

Among his greatest artistic influences are Shepard Fairey, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. “My biggest influence is Shepard Fairey,” Jonathan notes. “I love his street art and illustration style. He is a master of design.”

In creating his pieces, Jonathan’s greatest challenge is knowing when enough is enough. “I’m a perfectionist and have to make every detail as perfect as the painting I created in my imagination,” he admits. “I had to learn when to stop on a piece, or my perfectionism could ruin it. After I’ve forced myself to stop working on a piece and I look at it several months later, I notice that I have really grown to love the little imperfections in my work. It’s what makes the painting human, unique, and original.”

Naturally, the meaning of his paintings is personal to him, but Jonathan allows them to be subjective. “What I love about art is that what the painting may convey to me might not be the same to somebody else,” he says. “Everyone sees the world a little bit differently, and I love that. I love that everyone takes something different from my work.”

“Jonathan’s work is unique because of his use of color and his familiar—yet completely original—subject matter,” says Smith, explaining what she loves about his work. “His use of bold lines and the way he only uses a few colors in each of his pieces really catches the eye. My favorite piece of his is his impressionistic painting of Samuel L. Jackson called ‘Righteous Man.’”

Jonathan’s work can also be seen in mural form at Jen’s Kitty Rehab as well as in the logo for 2021’s Fall for Art Festival, hosted by the Old Town Merchants of Van Buren.

Much like Jonathan, David Gomez found that he was drawn to art at an early age. “My earliest memories of drawing are from when I was three or four years old, and I did my first mural at one of my parents’ friend’s homes,” says the Mexican-born artist. “They gave their child and me coloring books and left us in a room. When they came back, I had sketched a story on the wall of the room. Then, in kindergarten, I won an award painting in watercolors in a national competition in Mexico called ‘El Nino y La Mar,’—’The Child and the Sea.’ I painted all throughout my childhood, and while I was in high school, I really embraced this passion.”

Luckily for David, his passion was supported. In fact, he was encouraged to pursue art as a career and went after it in college. In 2019, it became his full-time profession, during which time he moved to Northwest Arkansas after meeting difficulty with the art market in Little Rock. “I was very happy to know the importance that this region—from Fort Melody to Bentonville— gives to the arts,” he says.

Using largely acrylic paint, ink, or spray paint, David is known for his unique abstract style. “My work is full of movement and direction,” he says. “I use ubiquitous symbols through my compositions. It could be arrows to indicate direction or even exclamation marks to indicate importance or urgency, or it could be stars to indicate excitement. Most of my work shares a message of beauty,” he goes on. “Not because of the aesthetics but because I want to share the beauty we may take for granted, or the kind that we may reject and call it awful. I believe that there is beauty in brokenness, in failure, in scars, and even when bad things happen. It’s a humbling thought because my ‘beauty’ may be a tough experience I would have avoided if I could. Therefore, my message is to inspire others to see the beauty of where they are.”

Among the artists that have most influenced his career are Basquiat, Picasso, van Gogh,

O’Keef, Joan Miro, and Pollock, though his style is clearly not referential to his icons. Still, his reverence for art shows in every piece. “I believe that art is the one thing that can unify the past, the present, and the future,” he says. “I paint from my personal interest in human experience. It ties my consciousness to what everyone else is experiencing, and I feel like what I paint helps articulate other people’s ideas. It at least helps me clear my mind and I hope that it does the same for others.”

“David’s work is striking because of his obvious use of mathematics and geometric shapes,” says Melody of David’s particular draw and the reason she chose to represent him. “I’m blown away by the storytelling he does with his artwork. Some pieces seem frenetic, but in an almost organized way. David uses more than one medium in some of his pieces, and somehow, he makes it all come together like it was just meant to be. One of my favorites is called ‘Urban Zenith.’ Its chaotic order is really striking for me.”

For the art lovers of Fort Smith, Gallery on Garrison is offering a chance to see the next generation of great artists, to experience the world from their perspective. To hear the message that they are speaking and feel it in every brush stroke.

Gallery on Garrison, 914 Garrison Avenue, Fort Smith  
479.926.6014 / visit /



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