Dan Burkhart Vwaga, 1980, oil on canvas
Article: Khari Walser.
It may be a complete cliché to say that the human mind is an incredible and complicated thing, but it’s true. For artists, their ability to interpret and analyze their surroundings and life events is what makes their minds that much more special. In my search for new art, I stumbled across a review for a Dan Burkhart exhibition in East Chelsea in New York. Burkhart is not an artist known by many because the work he creates is an acquired taste. I visited the exhibition and his work was dark, abstract, haunting, and echoed the works of artists like Francisco Goya in his somber period. The exhibition was not just paintings but also small sculptures and a mixture of the two.
Burkhart used these mediums to bring to life what only exists in our dreams and our nightmares. By looking at certain pieces it is like looking at the reimagining of the human body and the human mind. For example, his works resemble an un popped pimple that has sprouted on all of our faces at one time or another. Burkhart found a way to make this already unpleasant blemish even more unpleasant by creating a 3D effect that makes the object come off the canvas. The bright colors he uses like yellows, greens, blues, and oranges make these objects somehow more unpleasant. Another painting titled Man Sheltering from Activated Tree Stump depicts a very abstract image of a man trying to shield himself from an unknown object. What would seem like a simple image is in fact haunting and makes one think about what brought Burkhart to this conclusion. What depths does he travel to within his mind?
Dan Burkhart Hanging Sculpture No. 203, 2014, plaster, monofilament
It seems as though Burkhart’s main focus is not to create work that is appealing. His goal is to put his head into his work no matter how disturbing or grotesque it may be to the viewer. Beauty is obsolete.
As a viewer, I found that some of these works had truly deep meanings that only the artist would know and others could only speculate. I researched the names of his paintings and came up empty handed. I looked at reviews for this exhibition and it was all speculation. It was at that moment that I realized that I was like every other viewer of this exhibition. I was trying to make sense of another human mind. That is the beauty and the torment when viewing art, decipher the mind of the person that made it.
We may come to our own conclusions about the meaning of a work, but it is the artist whose truth is real. Their art is a portal inside their minds and we climb into it. We can make sense of it for ourselves but that doesn’t matter because the art we look at is a product of the artist’s mind, therefore our thoughts and opinions may be completely wrong or not even matter at all. It is the deciphering of the work and the mind of the artist that draws us to a work, not always beauty.
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