Name : Dan Conner
Occupation : Artist / Master in collage
Date of birth : 1983
Nationality : American
Based in : San Diego, USA
La Gazette des Artistes : La Gazette absolutely loves collage art. How did you get into collage ? How and when did it start for you ? Why did you use this name “Bad Art, Good Love” ?
Dan Conner : I got into collage work in the mid 90s while I was in high school. I had always liked arts and creating but simply could not progress my talent with hand made drawings, sketches, or illustrations. I can’t draw to save my life but heaven help if I can’t use an X-Acto with the best of them. The recent style blending vintage magazines with a heavy emphasis on nudity from vintage men’s magazine, this style is about five years old and was more of a goofy way of addressing the uncomfortable nature people have with the female form and sexuality. I call the project “Bad Art, Good Love” as a tongue in cheek reminder to be happy with yourself even if someone else thinks what you’re working on is total trash.
LGA : What have been some of your favorite inspirations to draw from ? You’ve talked to me about creating something new from materials you find in garages, closets, junk shops… how do you select them and turn them into collages ?
DC : It’s important to expose yourself to as much as you possibly can handle. The beautiful thing about art is that every skill level is capable of making something truly amazing if they allow themselves to spend time with the material and to do something with it. The problem with that dirty word, “art”, is children aren’t taught that way. Everyone has experience drawing. It’s one of the basic skills we’re taught to develop motor skills and cognitive thinking at an early age. Unfortunately as we continue to draw we are expected to create realism because we’re taught from a very young age that artistic progression is gradual development towards realistic art. I never got better at drawing and always felt inferior to other students in art courses because those were the expectations we were graded on ; so I gave up and tried writing, photography, cinematography, and audio/radio broadcast.
A lot of my inspiration came from the 90’s/00’s New England/Tri-state punk scene, during a time when bands still made their own designs, photocopied flyers and LP covers. Not a lot of it held up but knowing you could create your own image was in direct contrast to what they teach you about art and design in school. Most of these punk flyers weren’t perfect aesthetically but what they lacked in technique they made up in emotion. One of my favorite bands from that period, Tear It Up, had a ton of super interesting D.I.Y. design. Their guitarist Paul D’elia is still an inspiration. His artwork continues to kick ass and is constantly a reminder of what I consider to be great design with punk aesthetic. A great place for discovery, or at least in 2010, when I found him there was Twitter, which put me in touch with a Chicago artist by the name of Zach Hobbs, who has a killer sense of humor and makes the most killer art and collages.
For my personal style, I grew up in absolute adoration of the nude human form. At an early age, I became interested in Playboy magazine because someone’s Father always had a copy hiding somewhere that we’d peak at and giggle over. I decided to create collages from these old magazines. Most of them just sit in people’s garages until they die or divorce (where I’ve ended up with most of mine), and secondly I think it’s critical to remind people that we weren’t always an on-demand culture. Seeing a woman naked was not always as simple as a Google search.
It’s tough to create art from pornography because very quickly people want to point fingers and label it as sexist or anti-feminist. I can see where someone would get that impression, but to me it’s more about the reappropriation of sexual material in a way that makes sex and sexuality less stigmatized. There’s this thing on the internet, particularly the Facebook owned entities (Instagram, Facebook), that is super popular #freethenipple. It’s this movement that a man’s nipple is completely appropriate for social media but a woman’s nipple is not, right ? The thing is it has been turned into a branding opportunity to sell Miley Cyrus records. So there has to be people out there who still want to make points about sexuality but not want to brand it to sell you jeans, coffee, or digital downloads. If you can’t laugh at Wolverine using his adamantium claws to rip his way out of a vagina, or a woman performing felatio on a handgun, you’re really missing out the beauty of the absurdity in life.
LGA : Do you think there is anything in particular that triggers the creative process for you ? A mind set, a moment of the day, perhaps people or events ?
DC : There are a lot of artists that need to create something every single day no matter what. I’ve tried doing it and I simply cannot. Occasionally I will binge create ; but most of the time I just sit in my garage and thumb through magazines for hours without making anything. It’s just as beneficial to me in the creation process to know where something may be within those pages than it is to make something, if that makes sense. N. B . It does ! Other times there are weeks where I can’t make anything. It’s important to do what feels right. When learning new skills or techniques, what worked for others probably will not work for you, otherwise you wouldn’t need to research and seek out methods and techniques. Find 100 people whose work you really like, and then narrow that down to 10 people whose personalities and character aren’t rubbish. You will inadvertently teach yourself more than you want to know.
LGA : How do you know the project has reached completion ? And how do you feel once it’s over ?
DC : Some of the better received pieces I’ve done haven’t taken long to do. It’s really tough for me to look inward at my skills and abilities and at times I find myself to playing with shapes and arrangements. The projects I enjoy the most are the ones I make for people that I know. This type of question is difficult for me to answer because I think it indicates I might have a more serious process than I actually do. Let’s use a recent collage as example. My creative process generally starts with a simple idea like “Wow, I hate collages with flowers everywhere for no reason.” I take this idea and then flesh that out to something ridiculous, like what can I take from an old magazine, that is beyond ridiculous and apply that same principal. “How many crackers can I put onto this piece of paper to poke fun of artists who use flowers for the sake of flowers ?” N. B. Collage above. When’s the last time you saw a magazine ad for Cheese & Crackers ?
LGA : As an artist, what would you consider to be your role in society ? Are you proud of this role ?
DC : I don’t consider myself an artist. My friends know I’m artistic, and like to do weird things. Sure strangers can apply that label of “artist” to me, but I’ve never felt comfortable with calling myself an artist. There are weird psychological discussions that could be had over this… but I regularly wrestle with applying labels that project a particular form or identity, particularly when it comes to how people make a living versus how people want to be perceived.
The role of art in society is far more important a discussion to me than the role of the artist. Some artists create to make a living and that’s great, but I’m more interesting in creating as a stress reliever and conversation piece. If someone wants to buy my stuff, that’s great. Selling art is this new thing to me, and I can’t say it doesn’t feel a bit like prostitution. My original mindset was price everything at what you could get from the Fast Cash button at the ATM ($40) so that it would be affordable to everyone, even those who wouldn’t normally consider purchasing “art”. This was an approach that I learned from studying Tomata du Plenty. I’ve been approached by colleagues and told to raise the prices but I struggle with that. I’d rather have 100 of these in college kids rooms than 5 of them in an art gallery.
LGA : What’s next for you ? Are you working on a specific project now ?
DC : I’m constantly trying new things but I’m rarely ever satisfied with them. I like to think I have a pretty strong barometer for interesting art and design. The problem is, I don’t generally consider myself skilled enough to create work that exists within that lexicon, so I end up locking myself to collage. It’s important for me to create and experiment. I’m going on a road trip in a few weeks and am hoping to make a photo zine, profiling the people I meet along the way.
La Gazette des Artistes / Dan Conner 2016
This interview originally appeared on http://lagazettedesartistes.com/