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Gavin's Underground

April's Gallery Stroll: Dan Christofferson

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2009-04-19 -

Back onto Gallery Stroll I go, climbing out of the Hoth-like winter we've been suffering from for the first real spring jaunt this year.

Made my way back to Kayo this month, checking out a dual showing from previous interviewee Trent Call and the fine painted and framed works of Dan Chritofferson. Accompanying them in this showing were a quintet and a pair of dancers to complete the ensemble and make the evening a little extra special. I already had the chance to chat with Trent back in February, so I chatted with Dan about this showing as well as his career and thoughts on the art scene, along with tons of pictures for you to enjoy.

Dan Christofferson

http://www.robotsandangels.com/

Gavin: Hey Dan, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dan: I am a skinny white Mormon kid from Salt Lake City. I love Salt Lake. I love it's traditions and history. I love Salt Lake, but I hate winter. I think I am developing seasonal allergy disorder and I am not too pumped about that. I love music and baroque flocked wallpaper patterns and I have NEVER walked out of a movie. I come from a very supportive family who have always helped me explore my creativity and I used to play drums, ride BMX and skateboard. My body prefers watching movies and reading celebrity gossip blogs now though, in my old age.

Gavin: What first got you into art, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Dan: As a little kid I would trip off of old fantasy art. Boris Vallejo and all those artists who painted dragons and swords on book covers. I used to mimic their styles and sit on my floor and draw ninja turtles for hours. My parents had some really creative ways they encouraged me. They would put me in communities of artists to draw and learn from them. I would visit different classes and seminars and my mom would always find new ones and ask me if i wanted to try a few. It was never a pressure situation so I feel like I really enjoyed it and grew from that type of encouragement. I got real into graffiti art and street art in junior high and high school. I loved the medium of spray paint and how my technique and can-control would develop the more I worked. Again my mom never argued with that lifestyle she just made me promise to wear a mask as much as I could. After high school and into college I identified a lot with the early Italian masters. I loved oil paint and the way pigment was mixed and how opaque and thick it was. I loved how they used light and shadow to compose areas of interest on a canvas. I love Joe Sorren and Mark Ryden. That whole squad of illustrators turned fine artists made me sick how awesome they were. I was also really influenced by the gallery shows of Jeff Soto and Barry McGee. They had a way of creating environments around their pieces and turning their shows into installations and experiences.

Gavin: I understand you were up at Weber State for design. How were their art programs, and what was it like getting your degree?

Dan: Weber was amazing. My first semester was in the old art building. Really small and poorly equipped. I loved that I could finally paint and draw with people serious about the craft as a career. I grew really fast there. The new huge art building opened up right as I built my momentum. I had some really strong professors who helped me see that my aesthetic had strong ties to commercial illustration and even design and typography- I transitioned from a traditional 2D painting and drawing major to a visual communications degree. I was given a lot of great opportunities and had a really intense BFA experience. My senior show was a 20 foot altar piece dedicated to the story of Yuri Gagarin in the middle of a huge beautiful gallery. It was really incredible.

Gavin: What inspired you to start drawing and painting?

Dan: I think my instincts since i was young were to really study things visually and work out their depth and space relations. I was always really interested in peoples hands and would stare at their knuckles and fingertips and try to remember how they were posed in certain points during a conversation. Drawing was a logical step for me to get all these images out of my head. I love watching people sketch. I'm sure when your mind develops the ability to translate the image in your head onto a flat surface most people start to see the image appear even before marks have been made. It's definitely like that for me. I can physically see the piece in my sketchbook before I have put my pencil to it. Like when you look at a bunch of bright lights and close your eyes then look elsewhere and you see an imprint of those lights superimposed on something else. It's kinda like that.

Gavin: I've seen some of your work prior and the different ways you end up taking to the final piece. Is there any particular approach you take to creating your works, or does it just evolve as you go along?

Dan: I wish I could develop more ability to react to my paintings or pieces. I typically plan it out so much that its just a matter of getting it to the final stage. There is some flexibility in some of the processes- I love aging my prints for example and I experiment with different coffees and teas to get the right look. There are also instances when an accident will happen during the process and I will be pretty pumped about it and incorporate it into the works. But generally all of my work starts with a series of sketches and detailed thumbnails. I never just start on the canvas.

Gavin: When you first started showing, what were some of your first exhibitions like?

Dan: After my senior show in 2004 I had a few pieces in different shows here and there. I had a show at Slowtrain a couple years ago which was awesome. The Coyote Hoods performed and the turnout was awesome. I had a show at Palmers Gallery last February based on the theme of PICA. A developmental disorder which compels people the ingest non-nutritive substances like chalk, dirt, hair and wood. I love being in the gallery watching people decode my work and hearing their comments. Little kids viewing art is really informative. They either hate it or love it for such simple reasons.

Gavin: How did you get involved with the 337 Project, and what was working on that like?

Dan: I'm good friends with the Potters who do a ton of sweet poster work and printmaking. Erin tipped me off to the 337 Project. I emailed Adam Price, the wizard of the 337 realm, and he got back to me in like 10 minutes and showed me the building. I found a really cool little room in the back and the idea came pretty quickly. My idea came from seeing all of the artists sort of competing for space, competing with unique styles and competing with color and scale in their work. I thought of it as sort of a battle field and my room was filled with surgeons and medical personnel in white uniforms. Some of the biggest murals and brightest pieces were contrasted with the littlest details and tiny perfect craftsmanship. The atmosphere around the project was amazing. That early summer was pretty magical- you knew at any given time there were gonna be a group of people creating in that building and it was really electric.

Gavin: What did you think of the final destruction and the projects that have spawned off the idea?

Dan: My first thought was i was kinda bummed cause I forgot to go remove some spotlights and stuff I used in my room. They went down with the ship I guess. But it was nice to see it go down. I loved being able to work without the weight of some timeless archival piece I would have to keep track of and lug around. I like to work free from those kinda things. I typically don't sign my work and it usually just gets stored in my studio after the show is over- maybe in 100 years people will find my work and the decay will have added some nice character to it all. So I don't worry about preserving my pieces- or making sure the paper is acid free, or that everything is archival. Its not necessarily a good practice. Just my style.

Gavin: Tell us about the showing you have at Kayo this month.

Dan: This show at Kayo is my opportunity to develop my personal statement or concept a little bit. I'm using my heritage as a unique platform to develop a body of work that tells the story of my ancestors and current beliefs and helps me sift through links from my past and problems with my future in a very manageable way. I'm using the metaphor of worker bees in a beehive and the concept of Mormon pioneers being known for their thrift and skill with their hands. They were workers. As were my ancestors from the old danish sailors/shipbuilders all the way to my dad who trains and raises falcons. I am really interested in the idea that hundreds of years ago some great-grandpa of mine was making his living creating intricate things with his hands as i am today. You see a lot of worked, worn and pierced hands in this show. The key through the hand is a symbolic reference to religion and the sacrifices that religions ask of their believers.

Gavin: How did it come about for you to do a dual show with Trent Call?

Dan: Shilo at Kayo wanted Trent and I to be better friends and this was the only way she could think to make it work. I think really she thought our influences were similar but our work and processes are quite a bit different so it would be cool to see two illustrators coming from a street art background put out such different work.

Gavin: A little local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Dan: I love the Salt Lake art scene. The local talent here is amazing. Its pretty evident when you see people who could go anywhere in the world and sell out galleries who choose to stay here cause they love this city. Salt Lake has a unique position as far as an artistic city that is almost a kiss and a curse. Our landscape and the variety of different terrains allow artists to develop an amazing ability to paint and mix color in a way that is rarely found anywhere else. On the other hand it seems to make people think Utah artists have to have some sort of experience painting redrock formations and aspens. Which i have never done. There is a really supportive network of artist communities and studios that look out for each other and help promote each others work.

Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Dan: I think the work Adam Price has done since the 337 Project is exactly what this city needs. With more recognition and more funding people could see that there is art everywhere and it's extremely powerful and motivating. I love Fashion Stroll mixing in with Gallery Stroll and the whole feeling along Broadway on Friday nights needs to be bottled and sold at Slowtrain for 5$. I think Chris and Anna would do it too.

Gavin: What can we expect from you the rest of this year?

Dan: I'm working on a 337 "Neighborhood House" style show coming up this summer. A group of artists or gonna compete in an 18-hour style showdown and our work is gonna be judged. Everyone is invited to come check it and watch our progress. Watch me sweat as I see the pieces right next to mine look cooler and cooler. Also I'm planning a late summer show at Este Pizza downtown... they just don't know it yet.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Dan: Thanks for the chance to talk about all this stuff. I think I have dropped enough names and spilled enough beans. Thanks to Trent for inspiring me on this show and tag-teamin' Kayo for this Gallery Stroll.

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