Over the years, DAN LAM's patterned, abstract paintings have slowly accumulated textures, evoking plastic skin diseases, paint barnacles and occasionally masses of caramel corn. Recently they have further evolved
into rounded, bulging growths—think moss, tumors or cake-decorating gone unchecked—and frozen drips, which feel like
fluorescent-colored, over-sized, gooey ice cream toppings hanging from a
table's edge. In this space between painting and sculpture, desire and disease flirt with one another. Dan earned her BFA
(2010) from University of North Texas and her MFA (2014) from Arizona
State University. She has exhibited widely throughout Arizona, Texas and
California, most recently in Prick (2016) at The Platform in Dallas. Dan’s work is included in a three person show called Puffy Prickly Poured at Anya Tish Gallery in Houston, opening July 15, 2016 and a solo exhibition called Coquette, opening August 6, 2016, at Fort Works Art in Fort Worth, Texas. Dan lives and works in Dallas, Texas.
OtherPeoplesPixels: What has led you from painting to sculpture?
Dan Lam: As you've seen in the evolution of my work, the work
continues to leave whatever surface it exists on. I think my continued
exploration in textures and materials has guided me to sculpture. When I
was an undergraduate painting major, I had this catalyst sort of moment
working on one of my last flat pieces.
I was trying to create this sense of depth through layers of matte
medium, trying to create a frosty, semi-transparent surface, which
alternately revealed and hid stages of the process. It started to get
really thick, and I became interested in finding new mediums that could
allow me to layer even more. I started questioning what constitutes a
painting, what it meant historically and what it meant to me. So I started to push my paint off the canvas, off the panel, moving onto other materials like hot glue, resin, and wax.
I'm very drawn to soft sculpture, anything soft and melting. I wanted to create that aesthetic in my work and using just paint and hot glue wasn't cutting it. I constantly explore and try out non-traditional media, so my experimentation with materials has led me to continue to grow off the panel and into three-dimensional space.
OPP: Any plans to get away from the wall completely and onto the floor? What's the next step in the evolution of your work?
DL: I am currently working on some large scale floor pieces, big wall drips and various installations. Scale is the exciting part of these new pieces. I've worked large before, just not with this body of work, so that's new. Scale can change everything. I'm excited to see how the sculptures translate to living on the floor, taking up a wall instead of a shelf, and interacting with the corner of a room. When these factors change, it changes the process in small ways, which can generate new happenings.
OPP: Is building the form or covering its surface more satisfying?
DL: Both aspects of the process are satisfying to different parts of me. There is something very meditative in the pattern and rhythm of laying down the spikes. With the form, it's more fun and experimental because there's the unexpected. Chance is involved.
OPP: How much do titles matter in your body of work? Are they just ways to identify the work or clear lens through which we should read each abstraction? How do you feel when viewers don’t bother to read the titles?
DL: I think of the titles as some context for what I was thinking about when making the piece. They do give viewers a type of key for understanding the work, but I'm indifferent to whether or not people read the titles.
OPP: If you had to pick one or the other for the rest of your life as an artist, would you pick color or texture?
DL: I would pick color. Color is primary for me. It holds the content, the emotion, the illusion. Color is difficult and I love an involved challenge. I'm drawn to it over anything else because of its ability to evoke feelings, it has a weight and can affect the people/things around it.
OPP: When asked about touching your sculptures in an interview for Maake Magazine, you said—about your more recent spiky sculptures— “Depending on the kind of acrylic I’m using or if I layer resin on top of the spikes, they can prick. So now there’s this layer of the desire to touch, but you kind of get rejected. This beautiful thing becomes potentially harmful.” Outside of your work, how is beauty dangerous? Or is it desire that is dangerous?
DL: Beauty, on one end of the spectrum, can be deceiving, distracting and create obsession. Desire is the fuel for action. Both have equal power.
OPP: How does your life outside the studio affect your practice?
It's incredibly important to take care of your mind and body, so you
can make the work you need to make. I don't work myself to exhaustion. I
get my sleep. I exercise. I put time into other non-art related things
like hiking, reading, etc. I believe all of these things contribute to a
solid studio practice.
Art and art-making are intrinsically tied into my life; there is no separating the two. My practice is something I need and do daily. I can't see myself being better suited for anything else. This is it.
Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, a durational, collage installation in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Form Unbound, a two-person show, also featuring the work of Aimée Beaubien, closed in December 2015 at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL). Most recently, Stacia created a brand new site-responsive installation for SENTIENCE, a group show at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in March 2016.