One Californian Curator’s Quest to Represent Diversity

Linemen Series on D Emptyspace

Joseph Abbati is an artist and curator who’s committed to representing the diverse artists of his San Francisco base. He currently curates themed exhibitions at the State of California building for the senator in office. His exhibits bring together a diverse group of artists on subjects such as housing, nightlife, artists over 50, the Bay Area Asian diaspora, LGBTQ Pride, the Global Climate Action Summit, and Latinx culture.

But Abbati isn’t limited to the skill of curation. He creates artwork that explores controversial topics like “Artspeak”, LGBTQ fetish postings, and the striking stand-out poses that populate the feeds of Instagram influencers. While his art leans towards a bright pop aesthetic, the topics Abbati explores indicate his wry sense of humor.

So, read on to find out how he became a high-profile curator, what he wants when looking for artists to feature, and his ironic musings on an art world that takes itself just a little too seriously.

Explore Joseph Abbati’s Art Galleries.

If you want to get a sense of how Abbati curates his galleries, you can now experience them virtually on D Emptyspace:

Body + / Linemen Series / Art Speak

Want to create your own galleries? Click here to download D Emptyspace for IOS from the app store.

What were your early years as an artist like? How did you discover that you wanted to be a painter?

I consider myself more of an artist than a painter. At the present, I’ve been using paint as a medium along with digital vectors. And I use photography to produce tapestries and prints on metal. I’m more multi-disciplinary when it comes to materials.

I started painting when I was a teenager. I had an older cousin that was a painter and she saw that I was artistically inclined and began teaching me to paint. That ultimately started my path to becoming an artist.

Graphic Studies Series by Joseph Abbati

You both create and curate artworks. How did you get involved in curation (especially at such a high level) and do you prefer one activity over the other?

I enjoy both artwork and curating. It all started thanks to an atmosphere of collaboration. Someone at our local Senator’s office saw my work at an exhibition and invited me to put on a display of my art in their building. They liked the work I brought to the office and I suggested curating another exhibit for them with San Francisco Bay Area artists.

The State of California Building has about 10,000 square feet and large open walls, perfect for displaying work. It was a great way for the Senator to reach out to his constituency while filling the offices with Bay Area art. We’ve continued this partnership for over two years with two new exhibits each year.

Artwork is my personal discipline. Curation keeps me in touch with the local art scene and developing new relationships within it.

Tell us a little bit more about your curation work in the senator’s office. Do you find it challenging? How do you balance diversity? And have you ever had pushback on a piece you thought was perfect?

Body + Gallery in D Emptyspace

There is always a challenge when organizing an exhibit. When I put out a call for submissions I want to reach as many people as possible so I can gather the most diverse segments in our community.

A visitor to one of our exhibits asked me why there were no female Latin artists in the exhibit. I had put out the call mistakenly thinking I reached out to enough of the community. But sometimes a particular segment doesn’t respond. So I needed to change the way I reached out. Now I target specific groups within the community. And in October I am curating a Latinx-based exhibit.

I’ve been fortunate to work for a Senator that does not pushback or override my choices. When we had artwork that was nude or sexual in nature I grouped them together strategically in a separate room but there was never a question about whether or not we’d hang the artwork. He and his staff have been very supportive of my efforts to represent the diverse community of artists we have in the San Francisco Bay area.

Among other things, your “Artspeak” Series reveals how difficult it is to describe the visual language of art with a written one. Where did your inspiration for this series come from? And have any brave art critics attempted to describe this series?

Artspeak on D Emptyspace

“Artspeak” comes from a collection of sentences I’ve been saving while reading art reviews, press releases and artist bios. I noticed there was a language used that seemed very obtuse at times. I found these tropes very amusing and saved them, not quite knowing what I would do with them at first.

Then I thought many of these sentences could be applied to almost any artwork so I started to create paintings that served as backdrops to them. I haven’t shown the entire series yet in an exhibit. I just started this series earlier this year and now have one in a group exhibit titled “Language and Letters.”

I noticed when people viewed the painting they seemed to miss the humor I was trying express until I explained the premise. When artwork references a question asking “Is it still possible to forge social autonomy from capitalist dominance in the psycho-economic framework of semiocapitalism?,” it can be intimidating.

By moving these descriptions into another context by questioning what is being said in the art world, it shows us how difficult it is to actually have words to describe a visual language. It’s also amusing to read with an absurdist point of view.

Can you talk us through your recent Linemen series? I’m curious, do you choose famous “influencers” as your models? Or rather unknown men without social media presence?

From the Linemen Series by Joseph Abbati

Some of the influencers I have used for the “Linemen” series are famous amongst the Instagram community. Others are models or “wannabe” influencers.

Their body language is what I found interesting … the way they pose and the attitude they exude.

I started doing these loopy lined figures by drawing them on my iPhone in Sketch for a study. Once I saw what they could represent I then started working on them in Illustrator where my vector drawings could be scaled to my work. The figures are about contour. Without seeing specific facial features or clothing we are already programmed to understand what they mean.

You’re involved in the LGBTQ art scene in San Fransico. How has the artist community grown and changed over the years in your eyes?

“Abonimatrix,” photography on aluminum by Joseph Abbati

Living in San Francisco is difficult for many artists. The LGBTQ community is still very strong here but artists within that community are finding it increasingly difficult to find housing and studios.

When I first moved here it was a relatively inexpensive city to live in. That brought a lot of creative types to the city for decades because it was cheap and had a very open attitude towards different lifestyles. Now that the city is a tech dominated with a lot of money coming into it, artists are being priced out of living here. That’s been the biggest change I’ve seen in the last decade.

As a curator, I imagine you have lots of artists approaching you to display their work. Do you have any do’s and don’ts for artists trying to get curated?

When I put out a call for submissions, I ask for artists to submit up to three pieces. What I prefer to see from artists is a cohesive grouping because I like to give each artist their own section of wall space.

When I get submissions that do not relate well to one another either in technique, subject, or point of view it’s difficult for me to understand what the artist is trying to say. I like to hang pieces that are immediately recognizable for that individual artist. Those work the best for what I am curating.

How do you choose the topics for your curated galleries? Is it based on your own interest or do you have a process?

Joseph Abbati being recognized for his work at the California Capitol Senate floor in Sacramento

We theme our exhibitions to speak sometimes to the congressional work the Senator is doing, and sometimes to subjects I’m interested in exploring. Our first exhibit was on “housing.” The Senator was working on a bill to make housing more accessible because — as I mentioned above — it’s a big issue in the Bay Area… especially for artists. I put out a call for submissions to artists here to see what they were thinking about when it came to the subject.

Since then, we have also done exhibits exploring “Nite Life”, “Queerky” and “QueerEyes” for LGBTQ artists, “eARTh” for the Global Climate Action Summit, “Advanced” for artists over 50 years, “East on West” for artists of the Asian diaspora, and “We Belong- Pertenecemos” for Latinx based artists opening in October.

From the Artspeak Series by Joseph Abbati

Do you have any career plans for the future in art or curation? What’s next?

I have submitted a proposal for a new body of work exploring queer bodies for 2020. This work uses the 50,000+ photographs I collected on Tumblr for a site I curated for eight years. The site has since been taken down when they stopped allowing “adult material” on their platform. By using some of these photographs as my subject material, I can now show them online because they are Illustrations or paintings.

It seems odd to me that a painting of the same subject is acceptable but a photograph is not. They speak about the same thing but our social norms have determined how we can look at it. As for curating, I am beginning to work with other venues in 2020, but with planning three to four exhibits a year and working on my own artwork, I have enough on my plate at the moment

We love what you’ve been doing with D Emptyspace. What’s your process been like using it to curate virtually?

When I downloaded the D Emptyspace app I saw it as a way to do some curating online. I have photographed the spaces I use for my exhibits and Photoshop the artwork into them to help me plan for my curation. I see a great opportunity for D Emptyspace to allow curators to customize the wall spaces they use on the app to help with planning and to also make their exhibits mobile. I also see it as a good opportunity for myself as an artist to visualize my work hanging since I have limited wall space. It would also help me create mobile exhibits I could share for proposals and promotion.

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions where we can see your work in person?

“Multiverse”, 2019, acrylic on board and canvas, 34″ X 30″ by Joseph Abbati

I’ll be working with Art Attack SF to bring a queer based art program to their gallery for the Pride festivities in June 2020. The gallery is located in the Castro district, the “gayborhood” of San Francisco. We’ll be kicking off the month with an exhibit of queer artists and be programing different activities throughout the month to help celebrate. It’s a way to engage the LGBTQ community with the art scene. It’s open to everybody, so come down and show your support!

I just received an invitation to do a one-man exhibit in 2020. The date has not been set yet but it will run for a month some time in the spring. I’ll be posting more information on my Instagram account.

Follow Joseph Abbiati on Instagram or check his website for the latest news.

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What It Means To Be Broken With Artist Kurt Caddy

What It Means To Be Broken With Artist Kurt Caddy

Kurt Caddy’s photomanipulation gallery in D Emptyspace

Kurt Caddy is a visual artist, a trained theologian, and a dreamer. When the team at D Emptyspace stumbled upon his artwork, we were immediately struck by his incredible use of color.

“Caddy photographs ordinary and even mundane images of places that feel worn, broken, or unresolved. He then uses layers of color to transform these small scenes into abstract pictures of beauty, wonder, and metaphor.”

Sarah Bernhardt, curator

Caddy lives on a farm in Missouri, has eight children, and is constantly in search of a way to express the point at which pain and beauty meet in our everyday lives. This July, he is an artist in residence at Yellowstone Theological Institute in Bozeman, Montana. His lectures will be on theology and the arts, the role of goodness, truth, beauty, and theological aesthetics. He will also conduct workshops and exhibit his work.

Note from the writer: As someone who identifies as an agnostic, I was worried this interview would be too focused on the Bible, Christ, and theology. I worried that I wouldn’t relate to Caddy (a major problem for an interviewer and a writer!). But as you’ll see from the words that follow, Kurt Caddy’s wisdom, calmness, and respect for all, is abundant in the way he creates and lives. Although the words that follow contain some mention of religion, it should not deter you from experiencing his unique (and beautiful) perspective.

Did art inspire you from a young age or is it something you found later on? Do you remember that first ‘wow, I can make something’ creation moment?

Looking back, I’ve been this way my whole life. I didn’t ‘all of a sudden’ realize I had this huge thing. I’ve never been ‘trained’ to create art. It’s all been my innate way of thinking in terms of color, and shape, and texture, 3D, and expression.

My mom still has a Christmas ornament that I made when I was in first grade. It’s just string that’s dipped in glue and sculpted like a snowman, but I didn’t think “ I’m going to be an artist” at the time. I grew up in a very practical way; go to school, get a diploma, go to college, get a degree, get a job, and so on.

Flashing Sea by Kurt Caddy (Oyster shell pigment and watercolor)

Let’s get a little bit further into inspiration and where yours comes from. How would you describe it? Is it an outside force or something that comes from within?

I think it was interesting that you asked the question, “is it internal or external?” The reality is, it’s both. It’s both almost simultaneously. My goal isn’t to find the ultimate inspiration but rather to get in sync with it. To meld it with whatever is stirring in me. There is something outside of me that’s bigger than me, that I’m trying to connect with.

The word “inspired” means “to be breathed into”. That’s what inspiration feels like to me.

The Hebrew word for breath, or spirit, inspired spirit is “ruak” which means “to breathe in”. In Genesis one of the Bible, God made Adam and he “breathed into man’s nostrils, and man became a life-giving being.” This breath of God inspired him. That’s the core meaning of the word for me.

Flashing Sea by Kurt Caddy (Oyster shell pigment and watercolor)

You’ve served among Native American communities. Has your experience influenced your art?

About 10 years ago, I went to a Native American reservation to work with the Lakota people for the first time. It was Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a beautiful place. My life at the time was in turmoil. My wife and I were fostering a little girl named Kate who came to us at three weeks old. We never knew from week to week, whether she was going to be taken or if we could finally adopt her. (It took three and a half years before we finally did). We were on an emotional yo-yo, there were loads of sleepless nights, tears, fear, and a festering brokenness.

That’s how I arrived at the reservation.

And somehow in this spiritually mystical way, the brokenness of my own experience collided with the brokenness of the Lakota people. I don’t know how much you know about Lakota Native Americans, but it’s a terrible part of our history. Basically, 100 years ago, people were in the way of what we (the new arrivals) wanted, so we drove them to the brink of extinction… And here I was on their reservation with a group of missionary students trying to ease the suffering of a cultural trauma that spanned generations.

That’s when my particular brokenness with this little girl collided with their brokenness, and something welded us together.

This Is The Day by Kurt Caddy (Photograph with digital color)

I felt this surge of creativity. I would wake up in the middle of the night and write a poem in the dark. I suddenly started taking portraits of Native American kids that were good in ways that they hadn’t been before. It was clear I was seeing things differently.

One afternoon, I got this desire draw (which was weird, because I hadn’t drawn in 15 years). I sketched out this Eagle head with a Lakota shield in the background. In that moment I thought “this is could be useful. I could use this picture to tell a story about people that nobody knows about. The Lakota people are forgotten. But people will come and see art.”

Lakota Shield and Eagle Sketch by Kurt Caddy

That was a huge turning point. I ended up doing an advocacy exhibition and I’ve not looked back.

Religion is obviously a huge part of your life, how does that tie into the theme of brokenness you’re exploring?

One morning when I was praying, I asked the Lord, “how does one know when they’re healed?” And I felt this presence say, “you know you’re healed when you’re when you’re ready to be broken again.”

Oh, my gosh, not exactly the most encouraging thing I wanted to hear! But this is what life is, it’s a cycle, it’s connecting with the brokenness of others, moving through your own brokenness, and being broken again. That was a big realization for me and the theme repeatedly appears in my work.

Thirst No More by Kurt Caddy (Oyster shell pigment, watercolor, and gold leaf)

Your photo manipulations are close-ups of various textures, what materials are you most fascinated by?

I’m enamored with the concept of concrete. It’s a thing that’s all around us, a thing that nobody pays any attention to. We walk on it, your building is made with a bunch of it, you come into contact with it all the time. It surrounds us. It’s common, it is ordinary, and it’s often broken, cracked, torn up. Our school just replaced several sidewalks because they were all broken up. I was taking pictures of the broken concrete and now it’s gone through a cycle, it’s all brand new and textureless.

I’m fascinated by the places where they rip up carpet and the glue shows through. As my kids would say, that’s my jam!

It’s from everyday scenes that I find ordinary, broken, unresolved kind of places and bring them into a world where I can transform them, where I can change them. I don’t want it to stay what it is; I want it to be something better than a gray piece of sidewalk that nobody pays any attention to.

So I layer digital colors together. And suddenly, you find yourself gazing intently at something you never noticed before. I think that’s how I raise my children. They come to us in this unresolved place with sorrow and pain and hurt and agony. And we just keep putting layer of love, layer of love, layer of love, until one day you’re like, “boom”. And that’s the process. It takes time, but it’s worth it.

And you paint as well, how does that process work?

Painting takes so much time. And then I don’t do myself any favors because I like to make my own paint from scratch.

I start with minerals, dirt, and ashes. I start by breaking down something that is whole. It’s is an ancient technique in Japan called Nihonga that was made famous in the US by Makoto Fujimura (one of my biggest inspirations).

Still Waters by Kurt Caddy (Oyster shell pigment, watercolor, and gold leaf)

For example, there’s only one element that makes white: oyster shell. It’s called Gofun in Japan and is made by pulverizing a hundred-year-old oyster shell and then mixing it with hide glue. And that’s how you make the pigment.

At one point, that oyster was a living thing, and now it’s not. And I’m crushing it, pulverizing it, beating it, breaking it.

Doing all these things to resurrect it. Somehow this sorrow of death and ultimate brokenness transforms into something new and beautiful. That is that’s a metaphor that stays with me whenever I work.

I’ve started painting over my photography prints, something that’s been pushing me as an artist in a really great way.

Your family is pretty unconventional, what’s the full story behind that and how do you juggle life as a family man, a pastor, and a visual artist?

I have three biological kids, four adopted ones, and one that adopted us. So when our family gets together it’s 13 people (including spouses)! My adopted kids all came from trauma and really hard places. So they came to us broken and they came to us hurting, but they came to us.

And I thought “can something beautiful come from all this pain?” That’s the question that drives me.

I have so many interests that I don’t feel like I juggle everything, but rather that it juggles me! Somehow, between work, family, art, and my never-ending lists of projects, I find balance. My wife always exclaims, “is there is there ever going to be an end of the things that you’re interested in?!” It keeps me busy, but I enjoy it.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why?

The Lakota people have helped me understand the value of symbolic things. Most of their regalia is very filled with symbols. And so if you see a shield, or a spear, it has a meaning. Even the bead patterns are saying something beyond the pure aesthetic

For example, the pattern above means what’s happening above is reflected below. In all my work, there’s usually a horizontal line, and two colors playing off of each other. Red is a color of sacrifice. Green is kind of a hope. Gold and yellow indicate a higher plane happening. Blue is water, movement, spirit, sky.

Infinite Grace by Kurt Caddy (Photograph with digital color)

This is my father-in-law’s driveway. That’s it. You can’t get anything more common than Arkansas driveway. But here it is, transformed with color. Starting out in a dark red underneath you have the sacrifice of Christ, and then the horizontal line symbolizes a sort of bringing together before exploding into blue, or what I call Grace. I feel like that grace is infinite, and that it’s unending.

What I love about the work above, is that it’s taken something ordinary, something broken and old, and turned it into an expression of Grace. It creates a new dialogue.

You’ve worked as a campus pastor for 22 years. What’s that been like?

I’m don’t overtly do all the right ‘spiritual’ things, instead, I use my faith in the context of life, and that really shakes things up a bit. For example, I tell my students, “When I paint, it’s worship,” and they say “No it’s not, worship is singing.” Then there’s a great opportunity to open a new dialogue.

Once, I asked students, “How do you draw hope?” Then I asked, “What color is hope?” Abstract art is finding a way to paint that feeling you have. Poems, sonnets, art, all that creative intuition, that’s something I try to teach my students about.

Grace Like Rain by Kurt Caddy (Photograph with digital color)

Living in a rural area, how do you share your work with others?

I’ve really been enjoying D Emptyspace! It’s just a cool way to share my art and show it to others in context. Plus I can make my work look massive — I wish I could print 8 or 10 feet high in real life! It’s really neat to see my art in a virtual world that I have complete control over — a lot of people have been really really impressed with the visualization.

I also do a lot of Instagram because it’s great to reach people, but it’s always hit and miss with the algorithm. It’s a really flat, limited space that doesn’t really work unless I create things to specifically fit in that space. For example, if I want to share a panoramic work, it ends up looking very weird on Instagram. But in this app, your work shows up as a panoramic, just like you intended, which is pretty cool.

Emmanual by Kurt Caddy (Photograph with digital color)

Some parting thoughts to ponder on…

I used to think the goal of life was to be happy and feel good about everything. But you try, and achieve, and search and think “why didn’t that make me happy? Why do I need more money? Why do I need more of this, more of that? And why am I never seem to be content?”

I remember reading an interview with Tom Brady, the successful American football quarterback. He’s won a Superbowl like, five, six times, and he’s the best guy ever to millions of Americans. He once said in an interview, “You know, I hope this isn’t all there is to life.”

Are you kidding me? He’s got more money than he knows what to do with, a beautiful supermodel wife, and well looked after kids. I mean, if that guy is saying “I hope this isn’t all there is to life,” you have to listen.

It always seems to be (at least in religious and spiritual circles), a paradox. A brokenness where we find we find joy and sorrow.

There is no real joy without sorrow. You don’t get the mountaintop without the valley.

You can follow Kurt Caddy on D Emptyspace by searching @kurtcaddy

Canvas prints are available for purchase via Caddy’s Instagram

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The Science of Abstract Art with Daniel Stuelpnagel

The Science of Abstract Art with Daniel Stuelpnagel

If Thou And Nature Can So Gently Part by Daniel Stuelpnagel (2019)

One of the most incredible things about art is how it connects people.

This week we’re talking to Baltimore-based artist Daniel Stuelpnagel. Working abstractly with acrylics, he’s created over 850 pieces and participated in more than 100 exhibitions.

Stuelpnagel studied with Herb Jackson at Davidson College in North Carolina. He now works from a studio near Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Throughout his career, he has practiced philanthropy and donated some of his best works to causes and communities in need.

Experimental D Emptyspace gallery. Images and curation by Daniel Stuelpnagel

What led you to decide to be an artist? Was it something you knew from a very young age or did your passion develop over time? Tell us your story.

I decided to become an artist to discover all the things I never learned in school.

What led me to the decision was a combination of frustration with working an office job for eight years, mixed with a vision of a life in art. I’ve been painting for twenty years, and the past ten years with even more technology immersion. I create images in my paintings that evoke a neural network, or a surreal dream space, or an architectural vector space. So my broad interests in the sciences have informed several facets of the artwork I’ve been producing.

“I love being able to create original paintings that enable me to articulate a non-verbal conversation about science, tech, architecture, emotionality, and human psychology.“

I love how these themes relate to the ways in which we humans have adapted our brains to the latest tech toolsets of the new millennium.

Tech is a really new trend in our society that only goes back one century or so. We’re fostering so much change, yet always struggling massively to “keep up” with the intellectual and emotional and even physical challenges of tech.

I think if you’d ask twelve people about tech, you’d get twelve different answers. But all of them would say that they’re immersed in tech and their working lives are characterized by full days of interacting with computer systems.

So in my work as a counterpoint, I actually use kind of quaint, mid-century modern, “traditional” painting techniques and materials. But the hyper-stylized paintings I’ve been sinking my teeth into for the past two years are a synthesis of my own styles driven by influences from contemporary narrative surrealism, street art, and other movements.

Daniel Stuelpnagel’s art studio

So you can see my passion has developed over time. In my mind, the non-verbal nature of abstraction makes it a perfect arena for exploring intricate emotional, psychological and social forces.

Your process is unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Can you walk us through how you create your pieces?

I layer acrylic on wood panels and use tape to compose many layers of geometric structure. It delivers a collage-like effect but it’s all thin layers of paint. This sequential process is contemplative and also dynamic, it gives me a lot of room to experiment with color and the psychology of composition.

I’ve been sanding down the surface texture and then painting additional layers to yield some fascinating textural yet subtle effects. An interior designer purchased six paintings from me recently — she was thinking of photographing and enlarging the images, but as soon as she saw the originals, she said that the texture made such an impact, she would only buy the originals.

I usually work in series. Sometimes with a dozen or two squares of various sizes, but more recently a landscape format where the land mass is comprised of geometry implying a built environment. This inevitably shows the implications of climate change and the confrontation between human civilization and the natural world. It means the mood of some of my most recent paintings is joyful but tragic.

Now The Fleeting Moon by Daniel Stuelpnagel (2019)

I’ve done about 850 artworks now. My artistic eye and decisiveness that I’ve nurtured for twenty years have brought me to a place where I actually trust a lot of my decisions and choices in the studio.

I feel really galvanized into action by the dynamic zeitgeist of the time that we’re living in. There’s no room for complacency and being prolific helps me grind under constant scrutiny without hesitation to turn things upside down when a new idea emerges.

Do you see technology changing the way we appreciate art?

Tech has absolutely redefined art and continues to expand the boundaries. It’s a force to be considered in every facet of the arts now.

For example, with the D Emptyspace app, I was skeptical at first, thinking “What does it do? Oh, it looks kind of simple.”

But after two days of using it to display and curate photos, I was totally hooked, and having a vision of this enormous virtual museum, or San Francisco gallery, or an art fair exhibition hall, or warehouse, or whatever, right?

It’s a kick in the ass for an artist to have access to tech that encourages you to take a fresh look at your photos of art and nature. It’s a great way to reframe a whole conceptual photo shoot, or storyboard, or take any kind of visual documents into a different scale and context.

Some Innocents Escape Not The Thunderbolt by Daniel Stuelpnagel (2019)

People often label successful artists as ‘talented’. Do you feel like your art comes from a place of talent or hard work? Or do you see art like your TedX collection, always Under Construction?

Ah, for sure you can see both sides of this. On one hand, you have to consider the continuous nature of practice; some type of hard work intellectually and emotionally to figure out the central design principle to focus on. Building the physical skills, the craft and improv, and the techniques and processes of painting.

On the other hand to compare with talent… where does that come from?

I spent much of my school years daydreaming, so I guess being pensive and in solitude gave me a very vivid imagination. I also inherited a ton of intellectual and analytical talents from both my parents.

But that raw talent had nothing to do with painting until much later when I did decide to pursue it as a way to express myself.

Art really inspired and enabled me to travel more also, so that was super important in expanding my world view. I found it’s mostly persistence and determination. Which they call being stubborn when you’re a kid.

You often mention that you work on collections simultaneously, how does that affect your process? Do you consider if the artworks will fit together or do you let the moment guide you?

I guess it’s just like writing a book and having plenty of blank paper or a proper space to work in.

“We’re products of our choices, and by choosing to be prolific, I’ve certainly made some bad paintings, but I also have given myself room to pursue lots of exciting opportunities and variations.”

Some paintings want to spin off ideas for other new paintings, so there’s plenty of catalysts in the process. But it’s only later on that I look at them together and interpret the themes and implications.

When you work on series, the best work sometimes comes first, sometimes later, but invariably I enjoy the visual conversation and curatorially it gives me a lot to select from, which is helpful.

Images and curation by Daniel Stuelpnagel

I would say the D Emptyspace app kind of takes this to a new level because it helps me take a fresh retrospective of some new work in the context of earlier work. The virtual galleries I’ve uploaded have given me a better sense of dynamic interplay, sparked fresh ideas to bring into the studio, and developed my ability to continually think about color and contrast. The app is a great theoretical workspace to analyze the visual characteristics of your photos in a new context.

Click here to visit Daniel’s D Emptyspace gallery “Vector Space Paradise.

How do you know when a work (or a collection) is finished? And do you have a favorite work?

Haha! I do have a ton of faves, almost every series happens because I keep working and feel inspired and encouraged by recent paintings that really took off! That’s another great reason to be as prolific as possible — you kind of have to be self-motivating.

I have a favorite painting from a recent show that is called “Nature Teaches Beasts To Know Their Friends.”

Nature Teaches Beasts To Know Their Friends by Daniel Stuelpnagel (2019)

It’s a return to a dreamlike landscape with some quirks, beautifully saturated colors, and makes me think of a theatrical stage as the psychological arena of the mind for an AI algorithm or something; but it’s still about climate change, human nature, and the post-Anthropocene moment.

“I’ll say a piece is finished when I think it’s doing what I want it to do. When I feel the continuity between the process of creating it and the act of viewing it.”

It could be an abstract story but my imagination connects and enjoys exploring what’s there… it’s evocative. Also, it needs to be elegant and well-crafted, subtle, effervescent, or alternatively raw and dynamic and painterly.

If it has the “wow” factor I know it’s done, which is one reason I love exhibiting: It’s great to get direct feedback from people.

What happens before you share a new collection or open a new gallery? Is it something you enjoy?

I do enjoy it — it’s partly social immersion, part performance art and part trade show (in addition to all the artistry and business functionality behind the scenes).

Artist Daniel Stuelpnagel pictured at Superfine NYC gallery opening

I’ve done shows where we have plenty of lead time before the opening and many others where we’re always installing a day before or the day of the opening, so every experience is different. Before it opens there’s an exploration of the work in juxtaposition with the space and that’s an artistic process in itself.

Before any show opens I generally collaborate with a number of people, clarify the concept, and run down lots of checklists to make it happen. But it’s usually pretty improvisational and that keeps it exciting.

I love showing work in Washington, DC where there’s lots of wonderful architecture. Baltimore is famous for having tons of vacant warehouses and lots of room for alternative venues which tend to be really spacious with high ceilings. I install my work for corporate buyers in office spaces as well.

The title of this piece “Most Good Scientists Are Romantics, “ plays into some very deep subcontext. The point at which science and romanticism meet is fascinating, and to some, conflicting. What does it mean to you?

Most Good Scientists are Romantics Daniel Stuelpnagel (2018)

That title was a phrase I saw in a great book by Alanna Mitchell called The Spinning Magnet, it’s about possible shifts in the Earth’s magnetic poles.

It stayed with me, maybe it’s a deep dualism that is part of my world view; I think the age of supercomputing has forced many different scientific disciplines to work together and collaborate as never before and the results have been amazing.

So I think the romanticism is partly this moment of expansion for so many in the sciences that may have invested decades pursuing a particular narrow specialty, so in a sense, I think their optimism has been rewarded and I find that romantic.

This painting is pretty upbeat but still reflects a lot of consideration and discernment.

Navigating the art world can be baffling for artists, how has your time as a TedXJHU artist changed your career?

Daniel Stuelpnagel’s banner installation at TedXJHU

That particular experience two years ago was me getting to team up with a dozen students at Johns Hopkins University. They had so many great ideas, we did a collab for about two months where I came up with a large banner for the stage, a sculptural display installation for the atrium of the building, another dozen paintings and a wall collage, and four separate installations all for a one-day event. They had to provide, like, three dozen students to help install and load out everything!

I met so many international students, so I think it acquainted me in a fresh and direct way with the kind of energy level that makes a world-class artist.

Daniel Stuelpnagel pictured with students and installation of his works at TedXJHU

Almost the greater challenge with navigating the art world is that we actually have to create it ourselves. So if it’s baffling, it takes us back to the studio and back to the process of self-examination, which brings us to create work that is so distinctive that the sentiments behind it are felt as universal.

It helps to discover a unique connection and find out who can really appreciate your work the more distinctive it is.

I find architects, designers, and corporate clients especially appreciate my paintings for the lengths I go to in order to create an aesthetic durability, and a piece that will continue to intrigue the eye for a lifetime, yet also rewards a quick glance with a clear feeling and unified aesthetic.

A painting in progress by Daniel Stuelpnagel

What advice would you give an aspiring artist who’s just getting started?

I’d say how important it is to find ways to contribute to the community. I’ve been doing philanthropy by choosing to donate some of my best work for charity benefit auctions since day one.

It’s been about fifty or more pieces so far, and it’s connected me to a global community of artists and philanthropists that made me realize I could have an immediate and continuous positive impact in the world.

You’re using D Emptyspace to curate galleries now. What do you think of it?

It’s like an ideal multi-million dollar museum space built in Minecraft. It’s so specific and useful yet so versatile and adaptable as a visualization tool.

It really has great implications and I believe this app could even inspire a whole new generation of curators.

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