Delacour—a white man with dark brown hair—stands in front of a wall of portraits that feature vivid colors, especially reds and blues.
At his October 21 art opening, “People’s History, People’s Art,” Delacour stands in front of a wall of portraits he painted. (Alastair Boone)

Dusk Delacour, 31, has been making art since he was a child. Some of his earliest memories involve art-making with his mother, Gina. Together, they would draw on the walls of their home using crayons, transforming their living space into a canvas. “That’s when it started for me,” he says.On October 21, community members gathered at the Shanice Kiel Gallery—the Youth Spirit Artworks art display and event space—for the opening of “People’s History People’s Art,” a show of Delacour’s work. The gallery was full of brightly colored pieces in his distinctive style, depicting a wide range of issues and events that impact the world today. Pieces ranged from portraits of Delacour’s friends, to important historical figures, to moments of social unrest, to everyday scenes of homelessness and people experiencing mental illness.

When asked how he chooses the subject matter in his paintings, Delacour said his goal is to exhibit topics that speak to the historical moment we are in, and express what it feels like to live through these experiences. “I grew up around a lot of homeless people,” he reflected. “I want people to see that they are everyday people just like everyone else.”

Two of Delacours paintings hang up side by side. The one on the left features a homeless encampment beneath a BART train, under an overpass. The one on the right depicts climate change. In the foreground planet earth is starting to become blackened. In the background the sky is red and studded with pipes that are spewing pollution into the air while a plane flies above.
Dusk focuses on topics that affect the contemporary world, drawing from his own experience to help viewers get a sense of what it feels like to live through this historical moment. (Alastair Boone)

Dusk was born and raised in Berkeley. As a young artist, he spent much of his childhood amidst the social movements of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Much of his work depicts the fight for social justice, focusing on topics such as People’s Park, homelessness, environmentalism, mental illness, and more. He attended Berkeley High, where he had great teachers who he says made it fun to learn new skills and techniques. He draws inspiration from the artists in his family, such as Walter Smith, a British art educator from the 1800s who wrote books about industrial art, and became a leading proponent of industrial design in the U.S.

Dusk is a vocal advocate for people living with mental illness, drawing from his own experience to spread awareness about what life feels like from an alternative perspective. At the gallery opening, a member of the crowd asked the artist about whether spirituality impacts his practice. He pointed out two paintings featuring a person hearing voices. While these pieces may not be strictly spiritual, he said, they are intended to help explain unseen but deeply felt experiences. 

A person sits in a room with their arms outstretched in despair, as if to say "stop!" Along the walls there are angry faces and figures with their arms outstretched. The word "voices"   is printed on the wall above the figures.
Delaour’s uses his art to advocate for people who hear voices, and others who have experiences that the viewer may be unfamiliar with. (Alastair Boone)

“It’s almost like you can’t stop it but it continuously happens. It happens for a lot of people actually, and at the time you just don’t know what to do, and you think nobody else experiences it. Making art shows something that a lot of people don’t see,” he said.

Delacour’s favorite medium is acrylic paint and drawing. He estimates that he has made hundreds, possibly even thousands of pieces throughout his life. Looking around the room at the ones he chose to display at the opening, he reflected. 

“It’s cool,” he said, “seeing all the years come together.”

You can see People’s History, People’s Art until mid-November at the Shanice Kiel Gallery at 3324 Adeline Street, Berkeley.

Alastair Boone is the Director of Street Spirit.