Itches That Need Scratching

Artist S.W. Dinge on display at One Way Gallery


It is no secret that Providence is full of artists. While there are some visual artists who have become household names, many others remain under the radar, never seeming to get the recognition that should be due. One such artist, who goes by the pseudonym S.W. Dinge, originally hails from the Adirondacks in upstate New York. He relocated to Providence ten years ago and has been a resident on the East Side for the past four, during which time he has experienced quiet success.

As a young man out of college, Dinge moved to Boulder, Colorado with friends. Before arriving at his destination, he made a monumental decision that he was not going to play around: he wanted to be an artist and he was going to devote his life to making that happen. In Boulder, he spent his formative years as an artist immersed in his studio, experimenting and creating art while keeping his nose in a revolving stack of art books. He never expected overnight success; he made his own rules and found different ways to exhibit his work. After three years, Dinge started to see all of his hard work and devotion pay off. It was around this time he decided to move back east. Providence may not have always been the obvious choice, but it fulfilled all the requirements Dinge was looking for – and for the first time, he was not living in the mountains.

Soon after Dinge arrived in Providence, he met the crew at AS220, the art space downtown, and even though he decided against moving into their live/work loft space, he was able to start showing his work in their gallery spaces. He also started showing at the West Side restaurant, Julians. The second time he decided to hang some work there, he received an important phone call. Christian Harder, co-director of One Way Gallery, had been at brunch when he first saw Dinge’s work displayed in the restaurant and invited him to join the gallery’s roster. At the time, Harder and Stephen Cook were just starting to pull together some artists for their new gallery space in Narragansett.

Several years later, One Way has grown beyond its original space with satellite locations in downtown Providence and work featured in a space in New York City. Unlike many other gallery spaces, One Way does not put on traditional shows; they are constantly rotating work between all of their locations. When Dinge wants to drop off new work it is always accepted and usually immediately hung. This relationship has kept Dinge on their roster and currently, they are the only gallery where his work is available for purchase.

After seeing Dinge’s work in his studio and the gallery, it is clear that he is not a one trick pony. He has developed three main bodies of work and describes them as different itches that alternately need to be scratched. Some have noted that they’ve seen all three bodies in the same space and not realized they were by the same artist. Regardless of whether or not his paintings, sculptures and mixed media work can be interlinked, they are all are very true to themselves. His recent paintings, which use various mediums on a raw canvas, started as an exercise to release him from the control required for some mixed media collage work. He brought them into the gallery as an experiment, but the public has warmly received his acts of “selfishness.”

Never one to be pigeonholed, Dinge wants to push the envelope. In October 2011, a series of signs were installed around the city at different intersections in Providence. Dinge and a few others went out in the middle of the night armed with wrenches and ratchets to install his different messages. Some that referenced religion were quickly taken down, but a few have been left untouched.

There is no magic formula to what makes an artist, but there is still a difference between an artist and the rest of us. Inside each artist, regardless of talent, there is a creative energy that if left untouched will take a part of the soul. Some may be crazy like Van Gogh or irritatingly cunning like Damien Hirst, but all have something inside of them longing to be expressed, like Dinge’s itches. S.W. Dinge may not be a Providence celebrity, but he is still a humble talent worth recognition and Providence should think itself lucky to have him.