Darius Quarles, dynamic artist and community member

Darius Quarles posing next to his piece "Selfie" inside Durham's Pleiades gallery. (Staff Photo by Gabby Bulgarelli)

Darius Quarles is a storyteller.

He is also one of the founding members of Durham’s Pleiades Gallery on East Chapel Hill Street, an artist-driven organization that was founded in 2013. Earlier this year Pleiades completed its transition into the nonprofit realm, with lofty goals for Durham’s artistic future.

Pleiades Gallery is softly lit and unassuming, but every inch of space in its segmented main room and small loft area is thoughtfully utilized to display art. The pieces on display are usually connected by an overarching theme. For example, October’s Selfie exhibit explored self portraiture from a wide array of mediums, while the August exhibit Some Assembly Required explored the concept of assemblage through three-dimensional projection.

“Under the Hat” by Quarles (Staff photo by Gabby Bulgarelli)

Quarles was born and raised in Virginia, and always had a strong connection to art and music. When he was young, he would often sketch scenes of the world around him. He finished high school at the height of hip-hop and joined the Navy, still finding time to sketch while serving.

After service, Quarles found himself studying color theory at American Intercontinental University in Atlanta. There, he engrossed himself in the vibrant music scene, even developing relationships with artists like Swizz Beats. Music influences Quarles art because it “provides that soundcheck and sparks the inspiration necessary to guide [his] paintbrush.”

Now Quarles creates surrealist, mercurial paintings. Occasionally he produces commercial work and commissions.

“I gotta eat,” he said. “Sometimes one has to break up the monotony with something, but ultimately stuff like that is an interruption.”

Quarles moved to Durham in 1999 and “fell in love.”

“There was not much around in the late 90s. I started working as a comic strip artist and I failed, hard, but I stuck around. I used to show my pieces at Mr. Shoe’s but that was when art only had to appeal to a few people to be known. Post-centerfest Durham needs more. Art now needs to represent the multifaceted interests of the community.”

“Complex Angles” by Quarles (Staff photo by Gabby Bulgarelli)

Quarles and his wife are now raising four children (three sons and one daughter) in the Durham area. In addition to the demands of Pleiades, painting and parenthood, he recently finished a mural for the Liberty Warehouse at 400 W. Corporation Street. Quarles knows how much his art affects his community presence, and is the reason he has much of one to begin with.

“It has been the most direct way to interface with the community,” Quarles said. “Pleiades has been the glue for my life and I’d like to think it has also been integral for the developing art community in this area.”

Initially, Pleiades was a limited liability company, specifically a collective, with a pretty consistent rotation of artwork. As of this year, however, Pleiades is a registered nonprofit. In the past the space has been rented for receptions, used for community showcases and “truth to power” events, but it will now be geared toward more community outreach. This transition has been a large undertaking, but it will enable Pleiades to play a key role in the expanding Durham art scene. It also represents a continued commitment to both community building and arts education.

Social consciousness is a founding tenet of Pleiades.

“Anyone can be present, but there has to be more to it, more to art,” said Quarles. “Why are you creating? What are you pushing? Emotional appeals are always going to be stronger than monetary impact.”

Quarles has a very unrestrained style, and so does the Pleiades gallery. He will draw and paint anything–his dreams, his world, a mix of both. A variety of colors, shapes and lines.

This month, the Pleiades gallery is operating under the theme of “collaboration.” The December featured artist is Tom Dunne, and there will be a closing reception at the gallery on December 15th. Pleiades will reopen for the spring season in mid-January 2018.


Quarles’ piece “A Mental Escape around Blackwell Park” just returned to Pleiades gallery after the closing of it’s temporary home, Durham’s Oval Park Grille. (Staff photo by Gabby Bulgarelli)

One thought on “Darius Quarles, dynamic artist and community member

  1. Darius is a genius!!!! I am going to get him to do a portrait of my idol, Peter Tosh.
    He is a truly a brilliant young painter. One day I can say I know him.

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