NEWS- Era's end: Breeden found art everywhere (a remembrance)

Charlottesville will miss David Breeden. The baron of Biscuit Run, who died of heart failure Tuesday, September 12, at the age of 68, was a fixture in the local art scene for 30 years.

No matter that lately he had become such a curmudgeon, speaking his mind to the point of being hilarious (or insulting); leaving his own dinner parties without saying good night; telling the truth about life and sex and art and land and money when everyone else was pursing their lips and saying what was proper, or not saying anything at all.

It's funny now to think of him as the young whippersnapper in the portrait in the Biscuit Run family room. Son of a Northern Virginia businessman– his father developed Tyson's Corner– young David smiles with self-satisfaction, a sword across his lap, a latter-day Cavalier. 

In the early 1970s, his father sent him to Albemarle County and assigned him the task of making something out of 1,365 acres just south of town. There, he morphed into the artist stoking the flames of creativity at Biscuit Run, where workshop and studio and gallery spaces grew in all directions from the big house, jam-packed with art, the fields around dotted with trailers of stuff that David brought home with the belief that art could be made of everything.

Over the years, he and his wife Elizabeth raised five children, often among a shifting cast of visitors– some who lived and worked at Biscuit Run, some who came to party, whether to potluck dinners on Wednesday night– a tradition suggested by Elizabeth in response to David's invitations to all and sundry– or to Easters, celebrated at their house once UVA's administrators banned the mudslides in Mad Bowl.

More recently, people flocked to bonfires organized by musical son Christian, who, like his siblings, inherited the urge to make art of everything.

Breeden pere made art incessantly. It could be soapstone, it could be glass, acrylics, stitchery, onyx, steel. He resisted talking about the meaning of any of it. For David Breeden, art simply was.

Sometimes the works grew monumental– like those soapstones outside PVCC, Cale School, Republic Plaza, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Building locally, and others in Pittsburgh, Jamaica, Nassau, and Antigua. 

Sometimes they stayed small. I have a recent painting, for example, of a couple dancing, yin and yang in polka dots, on a 6x8-inch scrap of masonite. David signed and numbered it: 85,345. He really wanted to get to 100,000.

On Wednesday night, September 20, friends and family were invited to gather at Biscuit Run for the last Wednesday night dinner. Christian planned to build a bonfire, the biggest ever, and into it guests were to throw something they had made, their own works of art, gifts of thanks and remembrances for David, gifts not offered with tears but into flames of life and passion, just as he would have wanted it.

2002 photo of David Breeden with "Family," his soapstone sculpture installed in 1981 in front of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.


1 comment

I was at the funeral and bonfire - and it was the BEST ever- such a wonderful way to remember David, his life, work and philosophy - anyone who ever attended a Weds. night potluck knew the one thing that was constant was that you never knew who, or what would appear...and last Weds. was no exception - it was a great party, incredible memorial, and beautiful send-off for a man who touched so many and who's legacy lives on in his work, and his friends! Thank you our dear friend, David...thank you....and in the words of your last song...."Sleep in Heavenly Peace" we will miss you...