The Advocate recently had the opportunity to talk with Daniel Work, the artist currently being showcased in the Fireplace Gallery inside the Student Union.
Work is a truly active and inspired artist, constantly creating in his studio in industrial downtown Portland. He tries to create every day, and he’s been creating for 30 years now. He holds the arts in high regard and wishes more people would delve into the experience of creating, he said.
“I’m a firm believer that everyone should be doing a little bit of artwork in their life because it’s part of the human condition; I think it’s an important thing for one to experience,” he said. “I think there’s something to (creating art), that people don’t give a lot of to themselves, especially in this technology age now.”
A cool part about this Fireplace exhibit is that Work stayed for the first week the show was up. He painted, sold small pieces, and visited with students, which isn’t typical of most of the featured artists. Generally, artists like to let their creations stand alone and remain separate from their pieces; oftentimes, artists can be shy.
“I’ve never been that type,” said Work. “I’m always okay with talking to anybody, I’m fine with painting or drawing with someone watching me. People can watch me paint over my back, I don’t care. I find it more entertaining than annoying. I’m not the shy artist, at all.”
Originally from the Midwest, Work attended the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio, in 1984-89. He got his big break straight out of college when his good friend, John Chamberlin, helped open up an art gallery for up-and-coming artists, called ROY G BIV (the acronym for the colors of a rainbow).
Tragically, Chamberlin died in a fire shortly after the opening of the gallery. With the encouragement of Work and others, the gallery kept persisting in the name of his friend. Although there is now no mention of him on its website, it’s an interesting backstory to the fairly established art gallery.
“I’m proud to say that gallery is still in existence in Columbus, it’s like 27 or 28 years old now,” Work said.
He went on to reminisce about his time in Ohio, summarizing what he had done in the art community.
“I was the art director (at ROY G BIV) for 10 years. I got a lot of experience with other artists, hanging shows, and helping the arts community (during) that time,” he said.
In 2000, ready for a change, he moved to Portland, and soon fell in love with the city, he said. He has been a member of the Portland Saturday Market for 15 years, he said.
In Columbus, Work said there was a “little bit of spinning my wheels. So I thought, ‘What could I do in another city?’ And I did (move) and it’s been great.”
A cool part about his work is that he creates at a fast pace, going with the flow of the music he listens to, usually creating series within a similar subject, or one specific object. As seen in the Fireplace display, he sometimes draws inspiration from lyrics – a couple of paintings being “Things we did on grass,” which owe to a song with the same name by musical artist XTC, an ’80s band.
Among other inspirations, he favors more contemporary artists such as Jasper Johns, a multimedia American artist associated with abstract expressionism, neo-dada, and pop art. Judging by the vibrant colors seen from a quick online search, there’s definitely a connection.
Work also expressed his love for well-known artists in history, such as Vincent van Gough, Pablo Picasso, etc. And he uses elements of past work, as can be seen in a couple series shown in the gallery. For example, with the spinning top subject, he is doing a study with movement, and it kind of hints on impressionism.
Another example is the bottles series and guitar series, which both have an essence of cubism. “I’m doing a little bit of ‘cubistic’-type of stuff right now in my work,” Work said. “So that type of area, with the tops, I’m kind of trying to do a little bit of motion study… that kind of hints on futurism.”
He makes his style his own by using more than one media for his pieces – generally, oil paint, spray paint, stencil work, as well as drawing.
“I pull certain things from certain other eras and past and I’m trying to also mix in newer style. Some of the elements I use I don’t think many people combine, so that’s fun,” he said.
“Half of this is kind of planned and half of this is kind of when I dive into, (it’s) let’s just see what happens, and go with it. I let it guide me, rather than totally have this blueprint plan of what I’m going to paint.”
Work said he hoped to show again at Mt. Hood next year, if invited. He will be joining in a group show at Cathedral Park Place in June, and is planning his own one-man show next April, which he anticipates will be jam-packed with pieces.
Mt. Hood, students, staff and visitors can find Daniel’s work in the Fireplace Gallery through June 9, and check out more online at www.danielwork.me.