Daniel Fleming – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Briefly describe the work you do.

Maps To Other Things,   40x 46”,  Acrylic on canvas,  2013

Maps To Other Things,
40x 46”,
Acrylic on canvas,
2013

My work has notes of expressionism, graffiti and primitive artwork combined with images, symbols and narratives from contemporary social and political issues. I use bright and vibrant colors, primitive mark-making, and texture to create complex compositions that seek to display a variety of beliefs and perspectives that you might not otherwise encounter, helping the viewer gain a bit more understanding about the vast world around us and our place in it.

At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?

The cliche answer would be “I’ve been an artist all my life,” but in reality, I didn’t think “artist” was actually a job direction I could choose until fairly recently. I had always been interested in creative jobs, from illustration to special effects, but only after a few months turning down college parties to stay in and paint alone did I realize that painting, specifically, was my passion. Even after that, I think it took a year or two for me to fully realize that I could legitimately make this a career…and if I’m being perfectly honest, there’s multiple times per month I have a little crisis of faith with art. 

I’d say I’ve always known I wanted to be creative and I’ve known I wanted to, specifically, be a fine artist for around 6-7 years…but even knowing the direction I’m moving, I wonder, from time to time, what it might be like to give it all up. I suppose that’s the essence of being creative…seeing where you are, wondering what’s ahead, and, no matter how good it is, looking to create something better.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I grew up in a mid-sized city that specialized in building computers (IBM) and taking care of the sick (Mayo Clinic), and though it is, for the most part, upper-middle class, there really isn’t much of an art community. On top of that, I went to a tiny Catholic high school and never really had much to choose from in terms of art education. Art was supported and fostered by my parents, but art projects were scarce and I, largely, taught myself how to draw and paint through practice and developed my passions for art alone in a basement surrounded by art books, “how-to-draw” cartoon books from which I ignored the directions, and a constant supply of random paints, recycled surfaces and subjects to try out. While I don’t know if I’d suggest this path for most people, I think it definitely lead to a more open, unique and carefree approach to art. I have never really worried what reaction will be to my work…I’ve never really stopped to think if something was “correct”…and I’ve never had much care for “definitions” of what an artist is and what they can do. I run into artists that will see a piece I’ve done on a found object and say “I never thought you could do that” and my reaction has always been “I never thought there were rules.”

Standing in Line at the Butcher Shop - The Prize Fight,   48x 62”,  Acrylic, Ink and Charcoal on canvas,  2013

Standing in Line at the Butcher Shop – The Prize Fight,
48x 62”,
Acrylic, Ink and Charcoal on canvas,
2013

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

My work is all about perception. I adopt certain symbols, beliefs and viewpoints from a variety of cultures, subjects and stories and present them in a way that is interpretable in a number of ways, depending on your past experience and knowledge. I hope to engage the viewer with the selected viewpoints, educate them about thoughts and beliefs that they might not otherwise encounter, and create a discussion that leads to a greater understanding of the world around them. The work may not mean the same thing to each person, but then neither does anything else in this world.

These concepts all reveal themselves throughout my process of art-making. While many artists approach a new piece with a set goal and a sketch, I approach a piece with nothing more than an inkling of what colors, surface or subject I may have in mind. The piece begins as a few small marks but, over time, becomes more complex, more specific and ultimately gains the meaning and purpose that usually follows the work. Our complete understanding of our world is developed throughout our lives with little control and no real foresight. We are influenced by the things we see regularly around us but, especially in the internet age, we regularly seek out that which shocks, excites, and sheds further light on the mysteries surrounding us. My work is this process and is created through this process of investigation and discovery. While the viewer may slowly scan the work and develop a unique understanding, I, the artist, slowly bring in symbol, narrative and subject as the piece slowly builds into a readable form. Like the scribbled down notes of someone in the beginning stages of a research paper, my work documents the accumulation of ideas as they come, presenting thoughts, questions, mistakes, and ultimately, the final product.

We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?

Sleeping Trouble,   48x58”, Acrylic and Pastel on canvas,  2013

Sleeping Trouble,
48×58”,
Acrylic and Pastel on canvas,
2013

I love making art. It’s that simple. People ask how I make so much work and still have time for fun and I’ve always laughed at the question…ART IS FUN. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be spending all my hard-earned money from the day job on art supplies…i wouldn’t be sitting alone in my living room painting instead of drinking at a bar with friends…I wouldn’t write a daily blog that requires me to think long and hard about the work I’ve been creating. Art is what I enjoy doing more than anything else I have ever encountered…and this drive, this love, this compulsion to create brings me back to the studio daily. I can’t say I completely agree with Chuck Close, because hard work without inspiration happens daily at every workplace without much to show for it. Hard work alone gets our trash picked up daily…Inspiration alone gets us an uplifting quote…mix the two together, and you can get Guernica. Artists need to work hard, there’s no doubt about that…but they also need to be inspired by that work to continue making advancements…Loving the work you do is the best inspiration…and if you love the work, then the hard work comes easy.

What artists living or non-living influence your work?

The artist that inspired me to become one myself was Matisse. All of my early work could be considered an amateur attempt at capturing the simple beauty of Matisse’s colors, subjects and compositions. The artist that has most influenced my current work is Jean Michel-Basquiat…and he’s the one that really put some gas in the “You can be an artist for real” engine. His work makes me look traditional and his energy struck a note that I still yearn to match. It was just something I’d never before seen…there was an excitement that seemed to be missing in traditional work….a vibrance or boldness that seemed lost in many modern masterpieces..and a subject matter that, while abstracted, was very much a real, every-day experience. He was the first artist I saw that I didn’t feel like I was looking into the past…

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in? 

This question gets harder and harder as life goes on as, well, I do less and less that doesn’t involve art…but there are a few things I fill my free-time not taken up by art-making…Like most guys in their mid-twenties I enjoy drinking beer and watching football. Unlike most guys in their mid-twenties, I’m not a big TV show watcher, gamer or gambler. I enjoy watching a good documentary over an action flick, and I couldn’t care less about fashion, trends or the recent celebrity gossip… I tend to keep to myself for the most part but I always enjoy catch-up meeting over drinks.

About 

DFleming_headshotI approach my work with an unparalleled enthusiasm and energy, exploring a variety of social and political issues and displaying perspectives and ideas that many would not otherwise encounter. I take pride in creating work that spans various religious, political and cultural boundaries, creating a discussion and narrative that informs the viewer of the vast world around them.

Though I call myself a painter, I use a wide variety of media and am always exploring new tools and techniques. While I almost always include painting in my work, drawing has become an equally important aspect of my recent work, leading to an even greater variation in mark, color and impact.

I seek to display the energy and excitement with which I approach my work, the impact and emotion I hope to convey to the viewer, and the strong underlying narrative with which I hope to create an ever-developing discussion. Through this combination of viewpoints, you not only are invited into the thoughts and questions of the artist, but your also led through a vast wilderness of differing opinions, investigations into new ideas, and explorations of beliefs and realities you would not normally confront.

The Studio

The Studio

www.danielflemingart.com

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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About Frank Juarez

Frank Juarez is a gallery director, art educator, artist, published author, presenter, and arts advocate living and working in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Organizing local and regional art exhibitions, community art events, facilitating presentations, and supporting artists through professional development workshops, use of social media and networking has placed him in the forefront of advancing and promoting local artists and attracting regional and national artists to interact, collaborate, network and exhibit in the Wisconsin.
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