Forty hours of Danny Gibson's week are occupied by a data-entry job, but when he's not at work, he's often putting together an art project of some kind in the basement of his house, which sits south of 39th Street in the shadow of the old Loretto Academy building. Gibson is a collector of things — gloves, old toys, obsolete technology, office paper, corn husks, helicopter leaves — and he stores his prized finds in this colorful subterranean lair.
That he is an artist who uses much of what he collects in his work cushions him from the label of the collector's less endearing alter ego: the hoarder. But a case could be made. Gibson is best known for DJG Design, the name under which he has been designing poster art for local and national bands for the past decade. Starting September 2, he's displaying somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 original pieces of work in an exhibition, Quietly Contributing, at 1819 Central Gallery. None of them are for sale. After the show concludes at the end of the month, he'll haul them all back to his cave.
"I've only sold a few originals," Gibson says, sorting through a dusty stack of notes, sketches and old prints. "A lot of this stuff I don't think I'll ever get rid of. They mean too much to me."
Nosing around Gibson's basement is like flipping through an old yearbook of the Kansas City and Lawrence music scenes. Anvil Chorus, In the Pines, the Stella Link, Namelessnumberheadman, Doris Henson, the Afterparty, and about a hundred other local bands' names — many defunct and mostly forgotten — are inventively fashioned onto show posters. In this way, the 1819 Central show isn't just a celebration of Gibson's work. It also serves as a kind of retrospective of the past 10 years in our local music scene.
"There's a sort of timeline or history involved with these posters," he says. "Lots of stories, lots of other people's bands. Promoters, venues. Posters have such a short life span, and then they're kind of forgotten. So it'll be neat to line it all up."
This winter, Gibson made the decision to retire DJG Design in order to focus more fully on visual art, which also makes the show a bit of a memorial. "I had been wrestling with the design thing for several years. I've always been more into visual art than design," Gibson says. "And I've been kind of moving out of the music scene in some ways. A lot of my friends in bands have grown up and moved away. I don't get out as much as I used to. I woke up one morning in February and was like, 'I'm done.' It felt good."
Gibson grew up on a farm in north-central Missouri — barnyard imagery is a recurring theme in his work — then studied art and design at Missouri State University in Springfield. After four years, he dropped out and relocated to Kansas City, where he moved into a house ("a rathole by where Costco is now") with some Elevator Division band members, whom he knew from Springfield. The house became a sort of revolving door for local musicians, and Gibson converted the basement, used by a previous tenant as a photography studio, into his own art studio. He started making posters for Elevator Division shows, which led to work with other bands.
"A lot of people knew Elevator Division, so people would see my stuff and come to me and be like, 'Hey, will you make us a poster?' " he says. "I got paid a lot of times in cheeseburgers. There's no real money in making poster art for your friends' bands. But it was exactly what I wanted to do. Make art, mix it with music. I had a really great time with it."