Dan Welden: Master Printmaker, Painter, Educator, and Author | Howard Community College (HCC)

Dan Welden: Master Printmaker, Painter, Educator, and Author | Howard Community College (HCC)


(upbeat jazz music) – I’m gonna talk a little bit about, not so much about how to
do things, this morning, but a way of doing things. In other words, sort of a pathway, in terms of going through the art world, and going through… A pathway of creativity, and if you will, I like to say that I
like to walk the talk, in sense of living in a way that is creative through and through, in and out, and around. And what I mean by that is basically I try to surround myself
with beautiful things, beautiful people, and experiences
that mean something to me. I mean I love the idea
of whatever comes along, even if it’s a tornado, it’s something that is
sometimes it’s exciting, as we had the other day. So what I’m gonna do is
talk a little bit about… I’m gonna sit down if I may, right here, and make myself
a little closer to you. Isn’t this better? Feels better than with a
podium and a big microphone, and a much more intimate audience. So, in order to get to this
particular point in life, I have to say that I wasn’t born that way. I wasn’t born with a sense of things that kinda came along and I worked with, and yet there is always
a sense of awareness. Awareness is a very important thing, and I think that’s really
what boils down to. Now especially, a sense of awareness of seeing different things
and becoming a part of them. Not separating myself from things. So, in order to do this,
live this kind of way, I had to, I had to pay the price. I didn’t have the ability
to do a lot at first, because I’d first of all
didn’t have the resources. I was in a situation, living for 14 years without running water in my life, in order to build a structure like this. And that was something that I saved. I did it intentionally, I
could’ve lived in an apartment, and had running water, and
lived like most people, but I decided to try save my pennies so that I could build my own home the way I wanted to do it, rather than to try to rent something or buy something that was
somebody else’s style, somebody else’s way. So in doing so, I found, in
the 14 years I did research, and I wanted to do as much of, and have as little environmental
impact as possible, because I believe very much
in having a green world, and a world that gets along together. So with that in mind,
I put things together. I found materials and I built this home. I had help. I didn’t do everything. I don’t do any electrical work. I couldn’t, I can’t handle electricity. It scares me, but I can swing a hammer, and put stones together,
and things like that. So I built this home and it took… Ooh, I left the uh… Can I use this thing
to make it go forward? Yes, good, okay. So this is the front door, and
there’s little things that, that’s a millstone leaning up against the, the post there. And because I live on Millstone road. Actually, off Millstone Road,
and I named the road myself, and it’s called Litho Path. L-I-T-H-O P-A-T-H. Say that three times fast
and you’re pretty good. So I live on Litho Path
and it’s back in the woods, so I don’t see another house. I do have neighbors that I get along with, and it’s an enjoyable, serene setting. And that little pole
that’s standing up there, I made up at Haystack Mountain. I fashioned it in a forge, by bending it with a red hot and then I
put it into a Spruce log, and made that thing. So, I should’ve brought
that with me in case… It’s a hook, so usually
someone off-stage uses it to pull a person, if they talk to much, so that’s what that’s for. There is things that I find, pieces of wood, mountain-laurel. This is a door handle. When the door was made
and I put that handle on, rather than having a normal… Nothing is really normal in
the way I like to do things. I like to do the most different
kind of thing possible. This is a grate that you use, that the old-time houses used to have when they had heating. Units from the bottom and
furnaces that the air… But this happened to
belong, somebody came over with this under their arm. “Can you use this?” I said, I looked at it and said, “Mm, I don’t know.” And I looked at it more
and more and I said, “I’ll figure out something for it. “I’ll figure it out. “I’ll discover something
that I could use it for.” Which I did, and I’ve
used it as a floor grate, and I can scrape the mud off my shoes when I come enter the house. But it happened to have
a little history to it. That floor grate happened
to be in the home of a guy by the name Will Rogers. So, you know, and Will Rogers, those of you that may know the name, said, “There’s not a man I didn’t like. “Was not a person I never liked.” He found something good in everybody, and that’s coming into the house. And that’s the doorway going in. And as you can see, if you notice, there’s a post coming down. Well that doesn’t look
like that anymore now. It’s got a change to it. It has a different kind of sense about it, because it’s been sculpted. That’s the inside of the house. The stairway, as you can see, has a landing and then it goes upwards. And well, if you look at
the front of the stairway, that’s a blackboard that came… They don’t use blackboards anymore, they use white boards or
something that, so, and computers, so they don’t need those things, and, of course, when
schools throw things out, or anybody throws things out, I am there to say, “What
can I do with this?” So, I not only used it
as that frontal piece, I used it for my
countertops in my kitchen. Where that arched piece of wood is, that’s a piece of cherry, that I went down into the woods to find with my friend Brian Garner, and he got poison ivy when we got it, and I basically took it to the mill, and shaped it like, well, it was shaped like that, but it didn’t have a front and a back. Well that lifts, and raises and lowers, so that I can bring my paintings
up and down the stairs. So, things are practical that way. The railings up there are from piano legs, upright piano legs, so all of those balusters I
guess they’re called, right? Looking towards the kitchen, now you can see there’s a floor. I don’t know if you could
see the pattern on the floor, but that floor has many, 200 different artists
that came and honored me by doing a little painting,
on a tile this big. So, I sort of surrounded
myself with my friends, and they’re all part of this. They all came over except for two people who had difficult problems physically. One of them happens to be the one that looks like a grid work, that you see down there in
the sort of lower right. That was Chuck Close who
painted that tile for me, and another one was Carol Hunt. And so, everybody sort of honored me with that little gift. The kitchen countertop was made, I made that myself from
recycled black walnut and mahogany, just like the black walnut, the tree that fell outside here, where it was all cut up. So, I like to cook. Cooking is very much like print making. Not that I’m a great cook, but I like it. One of my pride and joys is discovery of this
lighting fixture that is… And this is where I incorporated, I’m not a great fan of math, but I am a great fan of numbers, and so this is a number three. If you look at this, there’s three tiers, three chains that go up to the top, and actually 15 globes,
hand blown glass globes, and inside, and those
15, there’s three styles, and there’s six, six, and three, in terms of the tiers. And by the way, it is not electrified. It’s all candlelit. So, I have to raise and lower. I go up on the second level, and if you remember the
old Frankenstein movie, where Igor goes up, and
he opens up the thing with the chain, well, yeah, and so I enjoy doing that, and usually I put on some piece of music that goes along with it. Something like either a
Bach toccata and fugue, or a Rachmaninoff, something
with a little bit of, much more than this morning’s music. I mean that would have been
a little bit much for… This is a ladder that goes nowhere. Or, it goes everywhere, whichever way you wanna look at it, but it was a 77 year old ladder, made out of one piece of wood, that was cut down the middle, and then the rungs were put in there. So, it was used at an apple orchard. It was 22 feet high. Sort of gives you a sense of the space of the room that it’s in. Way up in the top corner,
you see that round thing? You know what that is? – [Audience Member] Wasp’s nest. – What?
– Wasp’s nest. – [Dan] A wasp’s nest, yes,
it’s a paper wasp’s nest, you knew that. It’s a paper wasp nest. I mean, how many people have
that in their living rooms? You know, or a tractor Ford grille. – [Audience Member] As
long as it’s uninhabited. – [Dan] It’s uninhabited is right, yeah. That on the top corner
is, that round thing, those are old shovel handles. From shovels, you know,
you just cut the hand… Well the handles were part of a shovel, and the shovels you’ll
see a little later on, what I’m doing there. Right below that is a drawing that’s framed up, that came
from Willem de Kooning, who gave it to me. You could stop or go. Or slow down. Okay, that’s the post down, and that’s what it looks like. So rather than having that
square, angular piece, this is now replacing it. It was hand carved by my friend from Peru, who came up, and she carved it. She spent about three weeks
carving and sanding it, and making a human heart. Not a pineapple, not an acorn, like one would traditionally
use in a normal house. So this has got that other
kind of sensibility to it. So this is far more interesting, I think, in terms of a presentation
for people to see how things fit in, and a way of living, as opposed to what things do, right, and how to do them. This is a new stairway that I built, I just built up a stone
wall to get to my gong. Sound is very important to me. Music is the, in my opinion,
the highest art form. It can rise a little bit more of the emotional aspect within us, then most of the other arts. Not that I wanna downplay any of them, but I just feel personally
more about music. If you felt it this morning
a little bit, great. Never had that before, in terms of a talk, to have piece of music as an introduction. This is a fun thing to look
at, because most people… I bring people into my bathroom, and I said, I say, “This is my bathroom, “and this is probably
the most unusual thing “that you’ll ever see in anybody’s home, “anywhere in the world.” In fact, you can’t ever see this in anybody else’s home. There’s only one in existence. So, does anybody know what it is? You know what it is. You know, you know everything
because you’ve been there. You wouldn’t see it normally, because it’s usually inside the body. It’s a hipbone, all right? And that’s why you
wouldn’t see it normally, because you’d have to do surgery, and it’s actually cut right here, and then they take the hipbone, that part of the hipbone,
and they cut it off, and I have to of course ask for it, and say, “Can I have my hipbone back?” And so, and they say, “What for?” I say, “Because I need a doorknob.” So, that’s a hipbone from… I had it done in New Zealand. Simple door opening device, called a door latch, that had 17 17 year old girls that could not open it up, and they were trying to figure it out, when they were leaving my home, and they were all
Googling on their phones, how to open up a door, and they couldn’t open up the door. When they simply just
push down on the latch, and it lifts it up, and it opens, but if you’re not used to those things, or you have never seen them before, like dial phones, and old style things, how do you know, right? That’s where I hang my roadkill. And this is the new building that was just put up, about
a couple of years ago, and this is basically a gallery space, and a room up above it,
called a barefoot room, where we do meditation, and yoga, and Tai Chi Qigong, and
sometimes gong ceremonies, and old crystal healings. All kinds of woo woo stuff, you know, I like that kind of thing. So this is the shovels, that, these are the shovels
that I was talking about, that I’m building. I’m building this sort of memorial, and it has the names of all, not everybody yet that I’ve
known, but dead artists. So it’s a sort of a dead artist’s society, and all the names of some of the people that I’ve worked with, or taught with, or taught under, or were my students, that are no longer around. And on top, you can’t really tell, but there’s a propellor, and that propellor turns in the wind, and my interpretation of this is that the spirits of all these dead friends, and people I’ve known, are being blown back into, back to us, again, you know? Whatever that means. This is the gallery space. A couple of works. If you could see the two pieces that are black and white pieces, those are solar plate prints, and so is the one on the back wall. They’re about four feet, they’re big. I made them in China. That’s upstairs in the barefoot room, and you can see the rounded
posts that are coming down. They’re rounded, and
there are four of them, and they represent the four elements of earth, fire, air, and water, and my friend from Peru, she
carved the four elements there. So the sunlight beams in beautifully, when it’s shining. And this is the stairway that I built because I had, I was
criticized with my floor plans, and I showed a friend, or a Feng Shui person my floor plan, and he said, “Ah, your
staircase is no good. “You gotta change it,
you gotta change this. “It’s boring and everything.” He said, “Do something with it.” So I did. And then I created a stairway that would be beautiful, so that every time anyone
walked up that stairway, they would feel something. They wouldn’t just plop
up a flight of stairs, and go someplace. They would sense something, so, that’s what it’s about. It’s a way, it’s a pathway that can be, can lead us somewhere. On the top of each, on
the top of each post is a soapstone top, which
is called something, I forgot, but anyway that
top is left over pieces from my soapstone stove in the house. There’s that one, how did I get there? Is that out of order? That’s my bathtub that’s
made out of copper, that I just… I’m gonna use that, I’d like to use that sort of like a coffin, because it’s made out of copper. Copper is a beautiful print making element that most people know, but, and I actually don’t plan on staying in that coffin after that day is… I plan on having my ashes
put into graphic chemical, and ink bone black, and
put into everybody’s work that uses that ink. So, it’s sort of a cool thing to be able to think of
yourself going out there, and being part of so much creativity. And that’s sort of a silly, silly thing, but it’s a way. It’s a pathway, huh, that
is different than what… So, you don’t hear about
these kinds of ideas, and thoughts, when you see
artist’s pictures, right? Well these are what shovels look like. In case you have any old
shovels kicking around, I can use some more, so,
just let me know, and I’ll… They have to be names that, I put the names of people
on them that I knew, not just any old name. I can’t put Picasso on
there, or Jackson Pollock, because I didn’t really
know them in person. But this is how the idea occurred, because I had this collection going, and I looked at them one day, and I said, “Gee, those shovels look like tombstones.” They look just like
tombstones, and I said, “So I’m gonna make them intentional,” to look more like, and
that’s how that took place. And that was the beginning of it. Oh, that’s my little gypsy caravan. It’s a fun thing that I go into, to take a sauna. That’s a little, it’s a wood-fired sauna. And that’s up in my
bedroom, with a glass floor, that you can stand on and look down on the floor below. A little rug in front that
I made in New Zealand, and that log is from a beaver. I sort of helped the beaver out, by taking the log, and, yeah. (laughter) That’s looking up from the bottom to where we were just standing. And that’s actually
looking up into a closet. I kind of like that idea of looking up into a
closet, rather than at… I mean, you look into a
closet, you see clothing. This way, and shoes on the floor usually, and junk up on top, and
everything like that, and things thrown. But this is my closet, looking up. It’s sort of very suggestive in a way of a lot of things, huh? Very abstract images. So there’s a log that I found, and it’s actually a locust log that I cut and made into a chopping block, so that when I have
roadkill, I can use it. And this is something that
I also found in the woods. It serves no purpose whatsoever. It’s just something
that sort of looks cool. It’s up against the
window, it lets light in, and it has this little pattern of design, and when the sunlight comes through it, it sort of makes a little
pattern of shadows, and sunlight, and that comes from an old, oh I guess 1960s garden table. That hole in the middle is where you put the umbrella, right, so… But you wouldn’t know this. You’d look at it and say, “Oh, that looks something that
you could find in Persia,” or someplace, huh? Wherever. You know, you never know where
you’re gonna see something. You could find it in Brooklyn. You could find it in, I
don’t know, in the woods. I found this. It’s very important to have one
of these signs up in your… Because people will pay attention, right? Maybe. Oh, this was a, in Peru
a couple of years ago, I took a group to Peru,
and they bought a press, and they didn’t have it
done on time, you know, but they finally got it ready, and they had music, and they had speeches, and everything like that, and they said, “We’d like
you to anoint the press.” They gave me a bottle of Cusco beer, and champagne, and a ribbon around it, and they said, “You are the
godfather of the press,” right, so, I had to crash it, and that was the thing on there. So, I do lots of silly things, and one of the silly things I did was I curated an exhibition once, because I was standing
around with a bunch of guys at the Southern Graphics Convention, and I said, “How come
women do so much together, “and guys never do anything
except play sports?” But men don’t really do much together, so let’s do an exhibition. And I said, “I’m gonna
call it Men in Aprons.” And so it brings in another
kind of thinking in a way, of guys in a bunch of aprons, and so I did that, and… So, I used the idea of men in aprons. That’s me, in case you didn’t know, okay? (laughter) So, those of you that are
coming to the opening tomorrow, there’s a reception
tomorrow, you’ll basically… You know, you’re gonna see the same show, and those of you that are not coming, you’ll have an opportunity to see it. But, this is gonna be part one of something that I’m doing. It’s a series of black and white works, that involved found pieces of metal, found pieces of zinc. Those of you that know about etching, zinc is one of the common
materials that we use for etching. Zinc and copper, and sometimes steel. Now we use solar plates too. But, with zinc, and finding a pile of zinc that was sitting for 50 years, oxidizing, and corroding, and
becoming cemented together, in this pile of, with
salt air doing its number, and nature actually creating
something on the zinc, I looked at it, and I said, “Wow, they’re so beautiful. “This zinc is gorgeous.” So I looked at the zinc,
and I created images from the zinc plates. So, if you can imagine a pile of zinc, all piled up like this, and with brown paper in between each one, and prying them apart like that, and seeing, ooh, this is opposite that. This is a mirror image of that one. This is how the images
were originally created, with the concept of opposites. Not things that go with each other, but things that are opposite each other, and as I was working on
them, the concept developed. There was no concept beforehand. It was just pure process. It was pure experimentation of what can I do, and
how can I make this work? There was no idea, other than
making the material work. So, with that in mind, I looked at them and I said, “Gee, I’ve got this opposites, “and I’m gonna give them names.” And what were opposites, and they, I came up with the
concept of Aesop’s Fables. So the slave, the Greek salve Aesop would make up these stories, and tell little children, and other, and they would all have morals, but they were opposite. The grasshopper and the ant,
the hare and the tortoise, the ox and the frog. They would have these stories, like, the frog would say to the father, “What’s that over there?” And the papa frog would say to the son, “It’s a ox.” And the frog would say, “He’s big.” “He’s not so big,” the father said. “I can make myself big like that.” And he blows himself up. He said, “See.” And the frog said, “Well I think that ox “is still a lot bigger than you are.” He says, “Well, well just watch.” And he blows himself up more, and he says, “See, how about that?” And he says, “Well, that
ox is really a lot bigger “than you are.” Well just wait. And he goes, blows himself really way up, and he blows himself completely up. So, the moral of the story is, be happy with what, and how you are. Don’t try to change yourself. So that’s what Aesop said, and it’s sort of a nice little… He’s filled with these nice stories of morals, and lessons of life, and ways about going through life. Not how, but ways, all right? So, with that, if you have any questions, I would love to entertain them. (upbeat jazz music)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *