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Instead, for his change of pace and refreshment, Daniel turns to another form of creationart. He doesn't paint anymore because that's as all-consuming as writing. Instead he gets into a "hands on" project. Though these are fun, and we love ending up with an addition to our eclectic collection of art, they can be frustrating as well as he tries to translate the idea in his head into an actual object.
Several years ago, after he finished Beyond Civilization, Daniel became fascinated with lights, mirrors, photographs, and boxes. Here are some of these finished products, plus paintings and other objects from earlier years.
When this piece was finished Daniel wrote this list of credits to attach to the back: Concept, Daniel Quinn; Photo, Hap Veerkamp; Construction, Robert Forsberg.
Putting it all together was definitely a collaborative effort between Daniel and Robert, who is something of a genius with tools and just happened to be here in Houston for a couple of weeks meeting a seminar Daniel was holding in the evenings. During the day, for a week or so, they hammered, sawed, glued, and solved myriad problems to make this structure happen.
The photo: This piece started with Hap's photograph, which shows an eclipse of the sun as seen in an above-ground mineshaft in Madrid, NM. The little specks of light are filtering through holes in the tin roof of the tunnel and showing up as crescents of light. The rest of the tunnel is wooden boards with plenty of knotholes and gaps. Hap said that the first time he saw this mineshaft tunnel, he knew it was the perfect place to get a spectacular eclipse shot. Fortunately, an eclipse came along just a few months later! The photo originally appeared in the East Mountain News. We later had blown it up to a size of about 3 x 5 feet, and it hung on a wall in our apartment in Austin for several years. But when we moved to a house whose walls were mainly glass, it got shunted into storage. With this project, the photo got a new lifethough it had to be pruned to fit the box that now frames it.
The box: After much searching for the perfect "container" for the photo, we found this old cedar chest in one of our neighborhood antique (aka "junk") shops. The window in the front (which actually opens so you can stick your head inside the box if you want to) used to be part of an old grocery store cookie display cabinet (at least that's our guess). When we came across it, it was just a stray little doora useless object to most peoplebut for Daniel it was one of those items that "might come in handy someday." (We have boxes and drawers full of these things.) All the inside walls except the photo wall are lined with mirrors. So when you look at this construction from a certain angle you see a triple image. Daniel and Robert tried a number of esoteric ways to cut the glare of the fluorescent light at the bottom of the case, including a twenty-dollar hunk of sandblasted glass. Finally, Robert solved the problem with a sheet of styrofoam (cost: 22 cents). And voila! Art.
I even got into this act. When the project was finished, it looked great, but it needed to be on a pedestal that put it up high enough so the window would be at eye level. I solved this problem by pointing out that we still had a few cartons of The Hard Rain Press edition of Providence in the garage, and several of those stacked up would make a pretty solid base. Daniel taped some together, sprayed them black, and created just the right kind of pedestal for this piece.
This is a fairly small box, but because of the lights and mirrors when you look into it you feel as if you really are in a subway that goes on for miles (or at least directly through the wall into our neighbor's living room). Daniel made all the little heads above the light out of modeling clay, and the walls are lined with black and white photos of scenes from films noir. Unfortunately, you can't see them in this picture, but we're working on a way to make them visible. You may recognize this piece as part of the author photo on the back flap of the hardcover edition of After Dachau. Daniel used the computer to manipulate this and a photo of himself to create an author photo that exceeded the customary formal headshot most often found on book jackets.
This was a fairly simple projectafter Daniel had worked for a week or so trying different ways to get the effect he wanted and never being satisfied. Once he realized he could use fluorescent paper for the color layers instead of trying to paint them, it went like a breeze. The basic structure is a wood frame, with fluorescent orange posterboard forming the interior wall and fluorescent yellow the outer skin. Inside, a black light brings the construction to life.
This piece began life as a child's toy shower garnered from one of our junk shop expeditions, as was the doll. The rubber lizards came from a mail-order company supplying used scientific equipmentand a source of much wonderful stuff. We have a lifetime supply of lizards in all sizes. We had this construction on the wall of our bathroom in Austin, where it startled a lot of people.
This was painted in about 1963, during the time when Daniel was an editor at Science Research Associates in Chicago. About this painting, Daniel says, "This was done during a period of great emotional distress for me. Although this wouldn't have occurred to me at the time, it reflects my intense yearning for a place of peace and repose, where I'd be grateful to see even a pale luminescence of hope between the clouds that were pressing in on me." Cloudscape has always been one of my favorites and does indeed induce a sense of calmness. Our next door neighbor in Madrid (whose expertise in plumbing, carpentry, auto mechanics, and other necessities kept us going) always swore that sometime when we were away he'd break into our house and steal it. But he never did.
If we were the kind of people who remember things like birthdays, anniversaries, and such, I'd be able to pinpoint exactly when this was paintedbecause it was created as a gift for me. It was probably done in about 1973 and took months and months of work, all done evenings and weekends because at that time Daniel was Editorial Director at the Society for Visual Education. I knew nothing about all this activity until I came back to my apartment one evening after a stint at my part-time editorial job at the American Hospital Association to find the painting leaning against my door. As far as we're both concerned, this is Daniel's finest work.
As you can see, with this small gem, Daniel leaped into a new mode, which continued throughout the seventies until he felt compelled to trade brushes and canvas for pen and yellow-lined paper.
More to come soon...
More to come soon...
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