Dan Nadaner is a painter and video artist, and holds a Ph.D. in Education as well. His paintings have been exhibited throughout California, while his video work dealing with aspects of consciousness and presence have been exhibited internationally. He has a number of publications dealing with art education and art theory, and is co-editor of the book Imagination and Education.
What follows are his erudite responses to a interview conducted by correspondence, presented intact:
Artcore: What is your creative process like, from conception to finish?
Dan: I start with drawings, thematic ideas, and mental images. I draw a wide range
of things that fascinate me, from found objects and kelp on the beach, to
industrial forms like anchors and buoys, to rocks, maps, trains stations,
graffiti, and the human figure. At some point these come together with themes I have in mind, themes about life experiences and the flow of consciousness, and then I form mental images of how to further develop the paintings using the forms I have drawn.
Artcore: How do you select the subjects of your paintings?
Dan: My subjects are human themes that preoccupy me: loss, travels, immigrations, disappearances, memories of people, encountering the unknown, being anchored and casting loose, the body in a constant state of motion, wandering, and the flow of consciousness in these situations. The images in the paintings connect many times and places. They refer to half-heard sounds, maps, islands, swimmers, crowds, flashes of memory, and the ocean. The ocean is not so much my subject but my sources of metonyms, and it is the nearest spatial equivalent for what I am trying to get at about consciousness. When James Joyce is at the height of his experimentation, he has images of the ocean coming up everywhere. I think this is because the ocean is ever changing and mysterious. For a painter, it is a floating space with unpredictable overlays and many possible points of focus, much like thought. It is also a place of struggles, of wanderings, of escapes, of challenges, of points of contact. For a person in the water it is a space where social definitions are muted and the organic re-emerges. I would like to think that the paintings too move in and out of the symbolic order, trying to defy definition
Artcore: Who are some of the artists / movements that inspire your approach to painting?
Dan: I am fascinated by the history of painting world-wide. The work of the San Francisco Bay Area painters of the 50s and 60s, Diebenkorn, Lobdell, Bischoff, Oliveira and Joan Brown, is a major influence for me and also figures directly in my education. They presented such a wealth of "events on the canvas", to use Diebenkorn's term, and inspired me with a lifelong passion for what a painting could be. I was inspired early on by Japanese brush painting, by the subtlety of tone, clarity of line and form, and the philosophical depth of the compositions. Many European modernists, Giacometti, Tapies, Morandi, Chagall and Munch inspire with the intensity of their thought and their profound connections between the canvas and the human condition. I am also inspired by literary and cinematic works that experiment with time and space; the novels of James Joyce and Haruki Murakami, and early Russian avant-garde in film, and French and Czech New Wave cinema.
Artcore: Where does creativity come from, or what function does it play in the human makeup?
Dan: I can only speak from my own experience on this question, and I would have to say that it comes from a deep place and is necessary to me as a person. I have drawn and painted many works and made many short films that were perhaps not necessary, but when the paintings and films come along that resonate for me, they seem as if they were
destined and were only waiting for me to bring them into the light.
Artcore: What do visual arts teach the general public?
Dan: The visual arts teach us many, many things, more than could even be hinted at
in this space. When we look at the history of human culture, after all, we are talking
I would only add the note here that I think that people find what they need to find
in art. By this I mean the same as when I said that some of my work resonates for
me and seems destined. For each viewer there will be some works of art that will
contain that crucial glimpse of something that they urgently need to see or think
about. I think that this need will have a lot to do with the person and the time and
place that they live in.
When a viewer has resonated with one of my works, it is a very important experience
for me as well. Often a viewer will tell me something about one of my works that
I had not had in mind, but makes perfect sense to me when they say it.
Artcore: Does an artist have a responsibility to the viewer? Why / why not?
Dan: The artist's responsibility to the viewer is not different than the artist's responsibility
to themselves. If the artist is honest with themselves and their work, then they are
giving the viewer what is potentially most valuable to the viewer. I also try to share
with the viewer a set of thoughts, feelings, and questions that I have experienced, and
also leave meaning open enough so that the viewer has room to create their own
Artcore: What led to your becoming an artist?
I could try to trace a lot of circumstances behind my commitment to art, but more
and more I think it is a kind of fate. Certainly seeing paintings at a young age,
my parents' encouragement, a strong sense of curiosity and a desire to go beyond
conventions and explore, and some good teachers all had something to do with it.
Artcore: How do you keep life interesting, and your creative practices dynamic and moving?
Dan: Life seems to pull me along and give me momentum. Family and people are the main sources energy. Teaching, reading and writing about art, learning more about different parts of the world, and some good friends to dialogue with, keep me fired up. A blank canvas remains one of the most exciting journeys I can imagine embarking on.