Sunday, September 28, 2008

Artist Interview: Dan Zinno

"mal-adjusted to the establishment"

Dan Zinno is a talented young abstract artist living and working in Georgetown. When you meet him you are struck by his quiet, unassuming but personable presence which is a seeming contradiction to his intense and passion-filled oils. His panels are a complex layering of color and hues. His surfaces are rutted and dripped. But all is controlled and composed by the finishing glazing creating the ultimate effect of drawing the audience into the canvas. Very sophisticated work from a young artist.

Enjoy the interview below for some insights into what lies behind this wonderful work.

Tell us about art and your childhood - I was always drawing. On rainy school days, when we were forced inside for recess, I always had a crowd around my desk as I drew rocket after rocket in different colors and designs. Art was not a big deal in my home though; I come from a long line of Doctors. My father was a bit of an artist as a child. (Above my bed when I was a kid, hung a finger painting of a clown that he had done when young. I loved that picture.) My parents weren't really interested in art or art museums, but they always enrolled me in summer and afterschool programs at RISD. When I got older and decided to pursue art as a career, I would take my parents to galleries and museums. My father was so impressed with the surface of some paintings in local galleries that he would touch them to see how they were made. When we went to the MET in New York, I reminded him not to touch the Monets or he might be "escorted" out.

"you have not been paying attention"

Tell us about your training and education - My training began at the Wheeler School in Providence, RI. It is among the top private college preparatory schools in the state and was founded by an artist in the late 1800's. We were quite advanced by high school standards, working from the model and entering work into local competitions. I went on to study Painting at Boston University's School of Fine Arts. There the program was very traditional with emphasis on learning the basics - perspective, negative space, anatomy, color theory, art history, etc. Though I mostly work abstractly now, I carry many of those lessons with me. Most valuable of which come from my drawing instructor, Professor Peter Hoss. He taught us more than drawing; he taught us how to be artists....To consider why we are drawing the subject-matter we are; why we are making the marks we are making. He taught us to question ourselves and to make us consider the importance of what we are doing. He made many in the class cry. I can still hear him in my head, yelling about "picture makin'" in his strong Boston accent. He keeps me going even now.

"this too shall pass"

Can you label your style - I consider myself an abstract expressionist. If there is a subject in the picture, whether intentional or otherwise, my work is really about the paint and the surface it creates. I used to paint really thick. Layer after layer, sometimes squeezing the tube right on the canvas. I added found objects into the paint also. Then I got into thinning the paint way down and dripping it over the surface. Watching it break up, the way grease in a pan will break up when you add soap...the color floating down a river of turpentine. When I look around today, I don't see anyone really doing what I'm doing but it has its history in Abstract Expressionism.

"to seek a new beginning"

Talk about your process - I work on hard panel as opposed to canvas. I like the resistance and durability the hard surface brings. I build my own panels. I never have a plan. I usually just do the opposite of whatever I just finished. Having completed a large square painting, then next I will build a long, skinny panel. It keeps me fresh and prevents redundancy.

I work on the floor, mostly, pouring paint from a bottle or can. I tilt the panel to control the flow of the drips. I build up dozens and dozens of layers over a month or 2, periodically using a brush to clean up a problem area. I stand back and think a lot. It's easy to take your time when you have to wait for the paint to dry. I have 5-10 paintings going at the same time to keep busy. Because of this my studio is usually a mess and hard to walk through.

When I'm looking and thinking, I'm waiting for the painting to speak to me. I am listening. When it tells me what it needs, I do it. When it stops talking, it is generally finished.

"next time around"

Is there a message in your work? - The underlying message in all my work is the inexistence of permanence. Nothing lasts forever. It is an idea that most Americans do not think about and can not handle. The message is shrouded behind layers of dripping paint because I don't think that most art buyers want to be reminded that one day all that we know and love will end.

"drawn into deception"

What music do you listen to? - I listen to KUT on the radio. It is a great station. Always new music that no one else plays. A lot of smart interviews and Garrison Keillor with the Writer's Almanac. I love that. I get most of my titles from something I hear on KUT. Anytime I'm in the studio and the radio is not on, the silence is deafening.

"apologies to the next generation"

Are there any books that inspire you? - a really great book for artists is Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugene Herrigel. I was required to read it at BU (Professor Hoss' class) and I have had a copy close by ever since. For any professional artist, or aspiring one, it is definitely a must read.

Thank you, Dan, for bringing some understanding to what a professional artist does and thinks. I look forward to seeing your work in the October Art Hop Juried Show.

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