We had the good fortune of connecting with Daniel Gerwin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Daniel, why did you pursue a creative career?
Art is a second life for me. I turned forty in grad school, and have been raising two young children while finding my way as an artist. Although I had a different career for the first half of my life, I have drawn since I could hold a pencil. I was always drawing: in class during high school, sitting on my dorm bed in college, or in my free time after work in my twenties. Like many artists, I did not “choose” to be an artist, in the end I just couldn’t help it. It took me a long time to take the plunge, partly because my parents, a doctor and a biochemist, approached art as something you appreciate but definitely not something you do. As a result, the idea that I could be an artist was far outside my consciousness for the first twenty years of my life. Now I am a painter, an art-critic who publishes regularly, and am curating a show for the third time here in LA. I taught at universities for eight years but have not been teaching since 2015. My creative impulse has always been autobiographical. My mom died of cancer the year after I finished my MFA, and I made a lot of paintings about her and the loss I felt. Then, three years after she died, my wife and I had our first kid, and suddenly caring for this baby was the center of my life. The studio practice began to shift to reflect my experience as a parent. Today, parenting is the central subject matter in my paintings, and a major focus in my critical writing. I am currently curating an exhibition about the nexus of art and parenthood that will be presented in March 2021. Working with parenthood as a theme has made me aware of just how taboo this topic is in the art world. Raising children is seen as an unacceptable distraction from making art, and having a family is considered the death of an artist’s career. All this only makes me more interested in exploring these subjects in my art, writing, and curating.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My paintings use abstraction to respond to the lives of my children and the challenges, joys, and sublime banalities of raising them. My last solo exhibition was in 2019 here in Los Angeles, and I was thrilled to receive a review in the LA Times. The critic, David Pagel, understood exactly where I was coming from with the paintings and even opened my eyes to aspects of my work I had not seen clearly before. The path of an artist is never easy, but I face a few additional challenges because I did not study art as an undergrad, and only went to graduate school as an adult, nearly twice the age of my classmates. These factors tend to slow down one’s acceptance in an art market that fetishizes youth, but at the same time I have garnered a bit of maturity and experience that helps me stay on course. I wouldn’t change a single piece of my weird history.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take my buddy hiking in the Angeles National Forest, those trails are a favorite in my family. Another stop would definitely be the beach, probably the Malibu Lagoon at low tide because the tide pools there are endlessly fascinating. The rest would be some of my favorite art haunts, like the ICA LA, LACMA, The Hammer, and a day wandering through the galleries.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to shoutout some LA artists I admire, though honestly there are too many to list here fully, but a few names are Rema Ghuloum, Max Maslansky, Julia Schwartz, and my studio mate of the last five years, Umar Rashid.
Photos by Marten Elder