ARTIST CHAT: DAN SUTHERLAND
Name: Dan Sutherland
Location: Austin, TX
Works available from: Moody Gallery
For those who don’t know your work, can you describe your artistic approach and creative process?
I primarily make paintings and drawings which are sometimes informed by 3d objects I construct. With the goal of keeping conception and development mysterious and at times confusing, my process of making is additive, labor intensive and non-linear. My drawings and paintings appear as almost-things and nearly-places in which abstract forms are subject to quasi-naturalistic phenomenon. Sunlight, gravity, and atmosphere distort and delineate dimensional structures that never quite conform to the laws of nature. Colors flatten, landscapes dissolve, and historical styles collide in works that appeal to our sense of understanding only to destabilize it, intertwining comprehension and contradiction.
Have you been able to find inspiration and think creatively during this time? If so, where and how?
Time in the studio is a constant for me. This pandemic has not changed my desire or interest in my work but I would say that our US politics in the last three years has, more often than in recent memory, made me ask questions about the futility of the arts. But then… as a culture and species we need beauty, intense experience and intellectual titillation. Art can supply this.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a series of paintings generated from collages, made from interior design magazines. The resulting paintings, I hope, initially feel like cohesive, believable spaces that are pleasant, light filled and familiar. Then during viewing, I want them to fracture, visually fall apart and become less logical as you look at them. I work on 15- 20 works at once. These works I hope will constitute my next solo exhibition.
Walk us through your daily routine when working.
A studio day starts at 6 am-ish. I work until 2-3pm with lunch thrown in there somewhere. I listen to news, podcasts and music while working. At 2 or 3, I ride my bike. Dinner at 5 or 6-ish and then a bit more painting or clean up. I might do some reading or bad TV before bed.
What role can artists play during a time like this?
Most often, artists have the advantage and disadvantage of affecting culture indirectly. Most of us are part of a large disorganized cottage industry, we don’t have to go through a committee or produce a bulletproof product before we put it out in the world. From my vantage point this is the perfect context for free thought. While most of us don’t directly make laws to alleviate suffering, or rescue people from fires, we do contribute to the richness, positivity and criticality in culture by slowly influencing other fields and our broader culture. I think of this process as a “trickle up” model of influence.
Who and/or what are your artistic influences?
Where do you go when you are looking for inspiration or new ideas?
My studio, friend’s studios, the woods.
What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
I have a few works that I am proud of when I think about them… then when I see them, I want to change them. I don’t think in terms of my legacy. Doing this would make me self-conscious, careful and artistically constipated. I want to be able to live in the moment with the works I am making.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
There was not a pivotal moment. It is just what I did and now what I do.
Which artist of the past would you most like to meet? And why?
People disappoint, great objects and experiences don’t.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
I question my works efficacy and pertinence all the time, but I don’t find myself questioning making my work or my interest in art generally. The construct of my “career” which I understand to be my status in the market place, is something that is hard to take very seriously or feel that I have any agency in. The art market is mercurial, capricious and really not about art at all. I try to not to use it as a lens for my work.
Why do you love what you do?
Who said I love what I do?
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
In a regular week I would say “no highlights just process” however this week my daughter, who is going away to college, pointed to a small painting in the studio and said she wanted it. This felt pretty good.
Dan Sutherland was born in Dover, New Hampshire and currently lives and works in Austin, Texas. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia in 1988 and a Master of Fine Arts from Syracuse University, New York in 1991. His work has been included in solo exhibitions at the McNay Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas; McAllen Museum of Art, Texas; Galveston Arts Center, Texas; Courtyard Gallery at the University of Texas, Austin, Texas; and the former Cactus Bra Gallery, San Antonio, Texas. He has also recently exhibited his work at Metcalf Gallery, Taylor University, Upland, Indiana; Tiny Park Gallery; Austin; Silas Marder Gallery, Bridgehampton, New York; and Dutton Gallery, New York, New York. His work is included in the collection of the Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas. Sutherland is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has been teaching painting and drawing since 1991.