FROM PRISON TO HOLLYWOOD: Dave Vescio’s Incredible Life Story In His Own Words

© Dave Vescio

How I went from Ex-con to Movie Villain to Award-Winning Contemporary Artist


Also Read: WAN’s Exclusive Interview with Dave Vescio

“My mission as an actor is to educate the world on what real life villains are really like so people know how to protect themselves against evil”

They’re Always Watching Me, No. 3 © Dave Vescio

By Dave Vescio

Always attracted to the darker side of life, I quickly found my passion for playing the antagonist & villain and have performed in over 45 indie feature films, including ‘Hick’ starring Oscar Winner Eddie Redmayne & Chloe Grace Moretz and now, two upcoming art exhibition films created by the world-renowned contemporary artist Paul McCarthy called ‘Coach Stage Stage Coach’ & ‘Donald And Daisy Duck Adventure’.

Now, I did not become an actor until I was 32. Before that, I lived my life to the fullest, and it is my real-life personal experience that prepared me for the acting career and now the international winning contemporary art career that I currently have.


By the time I was 18, I moved 12 times. My father was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force who did three tours in Vietnam. I grew up watching TV news with my mom hoping to see my dad, but also hoping not to see him. Some of my friends’ family members never came back home from that war. I also saw my first dead body when I was 4 and I saw a motorcycle rider die in front of me when I was 7. After these tragic events, I kept on asking myself: Why are we here? And where do we go after we die?

“I saw my first dead body when I was 4”

They’re Always Watching Me, No. 46 © Dave Vescio

“That fine line between life and death has always fascinated me”

Death & decay and, that fine line between life & death has always fascinated me. I grew up reading and watching everything that I could about war since I lived next to military bases and old military battlegrounds. I also studied ghosts, spirits, magic and illusions. Learned how to hunt, wilderness survival, and rose through the ranks as a Boy Scout. At 18, I joined the U.S. Army as a combat infantry soldier specializing in jungle warfare for the 25th Infantry Division.


Three years later, I seriously got into drugs and alcohol (we had a motto in the Army: “Work hard, play harder!”) and before I knew it, I started dealing drugs as a middleman in an LSD drug cartel. After I realized, I was dealing to an undercover agent, I went on the run for a year-and-a-half. I finally got caught and was sentenced to 10-years at Fort Leavenworth, a hard-labor, maximum-security prison for Department of Defense inmates. I lived amongst some of the worst criminals in the world. We had serial killers, rapists, child molesters, and even murderers. Which turned out to be the perfect training ground for me to study these monsters and figure out why they committed these horrific crimes. I did 5-years in total; two-and-a-half on the inside and two-and-a-half on federal parole. 

I finally got caught and was sentenced to 10-years at Fort Leavenworth, a hard-labor, maximum-security prison

Prison was the best thing for me! I got my act together, cleaned up, and started to educate myself about art. I had a sense art would one day save my life. I finally went to college at Virginia Tech to study broadcast journalism with an Emmy nominated news reporter. In my junior year, CBS News pulled me out of school to work full-time as a TV photojournalist – where I specialized in spot news (which is natural disasters & man-made disasters).

They’re Always Watching Me, No. 13 © Dave Vescio

At 31, I then decided to become a professional actor. I read over three dozen acting books. The two books that stood out to me were written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Mamet. I attended his acting conservatory in New York City the summer of 2002 and trained another year before I got the courage to audition on my own.

“I now wanted to become the hero of my own dark story”

Since I am an ex-con, I now wanted to become the hero of my own dark story! My mission as an actor is to educate the world on what real life villains are really like, so people know how to protect themselves against evil. Because everyone has a real-life villain in their life, external or internal. From 2004 to 2018, I booked 68 acting projects in total that are listed on IMDb. I also acted with 19 actors who won or got nominated for the Oscar, Golden Globe, or Emmy.


After working with Paul McCarthy for two years as a performance artist in his art exhibition films (which Hauser & Wirth funded), I then decided to combine all my professional art skills into one art form – contemporary art. Contemporary art allows me to do everything I love to do! So, I spent the next two years consuming everything I could on contemporary art from PBS’s Art 21 to the writings & documentaries of past abstract painters, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, and I even studied cave paintings (the actual birth of abstract art).

They’re Always Watching Me, No. 1 © Dave Vescio

On my 50th birthday, I picked up a camera to invent a new style of abstract fine-art photography that deals with that fine line between the life & death of objects, then death & decay, and now, a rebirth (a.k.a. spirits or other worldly beings like the supernatural). I specialize in up-close and personal, macro photography of urban decay. I have even won eight international fine-art photography awards for these artworks.

“Even in death and decay, there is beauty”

My mission with abstract fine-art photography is to reveal to the world that even in death & decay, there is still beauty, as well as a new source of energy; life that wants to be born into this world, just in another way. We just need to look at it from a different light, a different perspective. Life truly never ends! It just gets reborn into this world again & again as another essence, another beautiful being. Just like how a caterpillar gruesomely transforms into a butterfly!


I also give my limited-edition abstract fine-art photographs another kind of *rebirth*, by printing them on materials close to what they were originally born on. My macro close-up photographs of metal decay are printed on archival metal; my macro close-up photographs of decaying plastic are printed on archival acrylic (which is a plastic); to etc. It is my way of making sure my abstract fine-art photographs become more life-like than ever before; making them seem like the actual objects that I photographed in the first place.

They’re Always Watching Me, No. 2 © Dave Vescio

We all get old, we all die, we all have real-life villains in our lives. The sooner we accept the cycles of life, the sooner we embrace the changes that are needed, to become the hero/heroine of our own story! Where we will enjoy life more & enjoy all the different sources of energy that are all around us. We only live once (or do we?), so, enjoy the ride!

“We all die, so enjoy the ride!”

The World Art News (WAN) is not liable for the content of this publication. All statements and views expressed herein are only an opinion. Act at your own risk. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission. © The World Art News

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