@SNAP4act Photography Series

I love being able to give through my paintings and photography. One of my favourite ways of doing this is through a photographic event called SNAP in Toronto, presented by TD. The evening consists of both a live auction and a silent auction, and an entire night of tunes, food, drink and mingling. This year there will a drag performance by a RuPaul’s Drag Race superstar – Aquaria!

There are two auctions that take place during the evening – a Curated Live Auction collection and a juried competitive collection – the Silent Auction Collection. The acts of jurying and curation are performed by some of Toronto’s most well known creatives and sharp-eyed philanthropists! For four years now I have submitted an entry to the juried Silent Auction pool and had the good fortune of being selected. Here is an overview of the photographic works I have submitted.

Dan Nuttall, Brothers in Brown, available as limited series of 10.

Here’s what I said in 2015 in relation to “Brothers in Brown”:

“As a recovering catholic I like the role that subversive art can play in questioning the dogma of the church. Here, the twinning and reversal of one of the images is a simple device that creates two men, identical twins. The title, offers another form of twinning, in the form of double meaning as Brothers (ecclesiastical) or brothers (siblings). The mirroring (used here as a psychological term) can be seen as a form of mimicked behaviour (we imitate the gestures of others during conversation to establish a rapport for example). Such replication may increase intimacy and enhance connection. Certainly many men have connected through the church and their faith however we tend to have their sexual sides overshadow their spiritual. Is there a spiritual or religious tale of two men in love in the context of organized religion? Somehow, the flipping of the image also created a cat-head vase in a floral headdress in the middle. Is this some accident or could it be the hand of god?”

You can read about Queer Catholics as the “ultimate rebels”, HERE.

Dan Nuttall, Pansy For Jocks 1, 2 and 3, photographic series, edition of 10.

My entries for the next 2 SNAP silent auction competitions were from a series titled “Pansy For Jocks” which used jock strap cups and hockey garters and girdles to create flowers. You can read a more comprehensive description of my process HERE. Though a series of 3 was created only two were submitted over 2 separate years to @SNAP4act – the successful entries being “Pansy For Jocks 1” (black, upper right and lower left) and “Pansy For Jocks 3” shown in the lower right corner above.

Here’s is an excerpt from my writing on the above series: “In sports, many aspects of “maleness” are underpinned by “femaleness”. Some men acknowledge these underpinnings while others eschew them. I find it hard to ignore femininity in a world of spandex, padding, cups, straps, clips and girdles. In and of themselves these design “elements” are “neutral” – materials, shapes, degrees of rigidity, support, protection and wicking. Historically, these neutral design elements have been sexualized when it comes to men thinking about of women. However, it is anathema to most men to think of them as erotic when applied to other males, especially in the locker room. In the gay world all these suspensory elements are celebrated – exploited as “hyper-male”. Many a well-swung gay fantasy has rotated around the fulcrum of a jock strap.

For “Pansy For Jocks 3” I received an Award of Merit at the 2018 SNAP event – I was thrilled and humbled amongst such a great field of artists and photographers. Thank you jurors!

Dan Nuttall, WONDER, limited edition series of 10.

This year’s submission is from a series of works titled “Constructions” which use twinning again (remember “Brothers in Brown”) and structure (this time steel straps and girders) to create a novel and whimsical entity intended to affect mood. The queer community in Toronto has had a trying year – problems with the police, a serial killer, ongoing politics about how, why and with whom we celebrate our pride. I wanted to create something “synthetic”, new and integrated, light and positive.

You can see more of art and photography at: www.dandoesdesign.com

You can follow my art on FaceBook at: https://www.facebook.com/torontoartist/

You can follow me on Instgram @dandoesdesign

Simply typing in the words “Dan Nuttall” and “art” in a Google Search will also give you a nice overview of my work.

I am represented by Lee Contemporary Art and Partial Gallery and specific artworks are availabe through these awesome and supportive galleries!

Have Great Day!

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The Perfection of Gray Days

Winter days and monotonous grey skies hardly seem like ideal conditions for anything. Despite these conditions the process of image-making finds some unexpected advantages here. The sun, hidden behind clouds, can offer a diffuse light that changes the texture and nuance of surfaces. Looking up into the sky is easier without harsh light and reveals the world you pass by on brighter days. Under gray skies colour photography tends toward appearing black and white with very subtle hints of colour. Contrast can be high and skeletal forms are revealed. The gray of winter means you can see farther into the landscape in the absence of leaves. For anyone living at high latitudes getting out of doors during the winter is critical to health, so as an artist I try to frame the weather in terms of the opportunities it provides! Wake to a grey day? Get outside with your camera or paintbursh and watchful eye.

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The delights of a cloudy day – the appearance of skeletons.

Over the past few years I have had a chance to work with floor tiles in the Yucatan, Mexico. The experience altered my conceptions regarding pattern, repetition and how a “whole” is created. In the Yucatan the tiles are often laid out in rectangular areas in the middle of the room and surrounded by a border of tiles of a different colour or pattern – creating the appearance of a rug in the center of the room. This exists in contrast to the repeating designs found commonly in wallpapers and fabrics which lead the eye out into space with their infinite possibilities. Under what conditions do “parts” make a whole? How does prior experience inform? And how do the variations in repetition (number, relative position, orientation, colour, extent of array) affect what we see, either in part or as a whole? Engaging with the visual world and seeking patterns and anomalies with the intent of survival is as old as evolution itself.

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Pattern, Francis Bacon, and a critique of the war in Vietnam.

Back to grey skies and looking about.

Looking up not only orients you to a part of the world that may be escaping your purview but also offers an opportunity to isolate phenomena and frame them in novel ways. Of late, I have been capturing only parts of objects. This, because of how I treat these photographs, has trained my eye to dissect, to dis-assemble as I shoot, and to imagine what the possible outcomes might be. This mental re-configuration or “framing” means I am building as I am deconstructing. With practice, the world is fracturing before my very eyes, and I am encouraging its dissolution.

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Enigmatic through dissection, waiting to be re-assembled.

The near black and white partial skeletons are (with thanks to Dr. Frankenstein) re-assembled back in my lab – ahem studio. And as many a scientist, ecologist or keen observer knows, there are some rudimentary forms of symmetry that repeat themselves in our natural world. You’re reading this aticle thanks to bilateral symmetry – one half of your body is, pretty much, identical to the other. For me, capturing the world and juxtaposing it with its reflected self provides some gorgeous narcissistic depth. In a world obsessed with perfection how can these new entities be anything but perfect? Is every form of self-reflection a form of obscuring, of blindness? Is information lost or gained?

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Self/Reflection/Narcissism/Double/Trouble

And intriguing. Once again our desire to comprehend the parts and the whole (and to survive in a increasingly strange world) has us scrutinizing what we’re looking at. Confusing. Surreal. Familiar. Is comprehension always the goal? Can confusion be an endpoint? Strangeness?

And the double, of course, can be doubled again or twice reflected to gaze at its own navel. This imparts something closer to radial symmetry.

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The Floating Tower

And although it was the monotony of gray skies that inspired my initial foray into these explorations it wasn’t long before open blue skies held the same appeal. Below, a visit to Coney Island, New York, and a capture of part of the “Wonder Wheel” ferris wheel results in my image “Wonder” which delights with its butterfly-like whimsy and its uplifting and engaging symmetry. 

So get outside, point and discern, comprehend and gesticulate, couple and twin, mirror and reflect, take apart and re-assemble normal.

You can see more of my work at: www.dandoesdesign.com

You can follow me on Instagram at: @dandoesdesign

And on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/torontoartist/

You can find out more about “Wonder” and its sale at auction here: http://snap-toronto.com/

WONDER by Toronto artist Dan Nuttall will be at auction at SNAP 2019 Toronto in early 2019.

HUNTING AND GATHERING: HOW ART FAIRS HELP YOU EVOLVE

I often tell people that being an artist is like being a more primitive human – we tend to live in caves more commonly referred to as studios. Periodically, we step out into the world, art in tow, to bask in the light of the collective gaze.

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You are what you hunt and and forage for?

Though few primitive humans actually lived as cave dwellers, over ninety percent of human history has been spent hunting and gathering. As hunters and gatherers the ongoing goal of the human animal has been survival and adaptation. Over evolutionary time frames the success of our species has been predicated on our ability to detect and then locate the resources that allow us to survive. Such detection has relied heavily upon our sense of vision. In terms of space allocated to the senses vision is the clear forerunner – 30% of the neurons in the brain’s cortex are dedicated to vision while touch (8%) and hearing (2%) are a distant second and third. The human animal is a species that has evolved to search. The human animal is a species that has evolved to look.

And what are we adapted to look for and thus at? Things that sustain us.

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Water sustains, “Forest Stream” by Dan Nuttall, 2016

As the human animal has evolved the idea of what sustains us has broadened in direction association with our broadening culture. While “hunter and gatherer” humans travelled great distances to secure the things that sustained them, the transition to a more sedentary agrarian society meant a consolidation or concentrating of necessary resources. Think about your reaction when visiting a market – all those resources gathered in one place – and the pleasure of looking nearly synonymous with the reward of having. The invention of agriculture ensured that variables such as proximity, diversity and ease of selection became critical criteria in determining how we live. Further, it makes sense that we tend towards modes of efficiency when securing valuable resources. It seems then that we humans have a foundation built upon hunting and gathering, with a veneer of newfound appreciation for the efficiency of the marketplace.

Most animals have “search images” meaning they have evolved to have forms of visual shorthand that help them locate the things they need to survive. In a world that may seem visually confusing to us, the process of evolution has produced animals adept at spotting exactly what they require to ensure their survival. Thus for human animals a glance at the confusing tawny stubble of a fall field yields little to look at while the scanning eye of a hawk has evolved to identify the exact information required to pounce and secure prey. Animals survive by developing images of the things that will help them survive.

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Can you find the blueberry?

Enter the art fair, where hunting, gathering, and the search for images and survival collide.

But is a visit to an art fair somehow adaptive? If it is, what are we searching for? And how might it be adaptive? Do people who collect art or live in the presence of art leave behind more genes? Is there something about collecting art that connects us to our more primitive selves? What does a visit to the museum or art fair or the collecting of art or exposure to art do for the modern human being?

A visit to an art fair keeps our “sensual selves” intact, meaning that we “live in the realm of the senses” when we look at art. Such looking engages and hones our senses, particularly vision, as we move about, like our primitive selves, in search for things that sustain us. Is the act of looking at art at an art fair become a metaphor for survival? Instead of seeking the actual resources are we instead seeking representations or scenes where our basic primitive needs can be met, scenes that we are “hard wired” to appreciate? And are there other benefits at play that are also adaptive?

When we think of how humans evolved the theory of “prospect-refuge”, proposed by Jay Appleton, in “The Experience of Landcsape” (1975), proves particularly useful. This theory suggests that humans were essentially an “edge” species that inhabited the boundary where the forest met the grassland. There, our species could seek safety (refuge) in the forest while being able to seek opportunity (prospect) while looking out over open spaces. More specifically:

1The theory thus predicts that humans are attracted to art and circumstances that have:

  • broad, unoccluded vistas
  • visible places for easy refuge(a copse of trees, caves)
  • water
  • plants
  • a smattering of preyspecies

It further predicted that we should like spaces when:

  • we are at the edge, such that our back is protected (rather than the middle where we are most exposed)
  • we are covered, rather than open to the sky

In short, we should like everything that is optimal for survival and reproduction in the savannah. The theory says that we respond to such things in art subconsciously, and that individuals attracted to such circumstances would have stood a better chance of survival by choosing to spend time in such places. Art that puts the viewer in between prospect-dominant and refuge-dominant areas will be most appealing.”

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At the edge, looking out, a broad vista of water, “Cape Cod” by Dan Nuttall

Prospect-refuge theory seems to predict not only the kinds of spaces we might actually enjoy but also the kinds of spaces that we might like to have represented. Indeed, prospect–refuge theory seems entirely consistent with some of the most popular genres of painting, namely “landscape” and “nature” paintings. The theory is also consistent with the kinds of landscapes that are designed to be “therapeutic” for human beings. You can read more about therapeutic landscapes HERE.

Such gazing at nature and landscapes, if it enhances our chances for survival, should place us at ease, at peace with the open space, the greenswards, the falling water and plants, the animals, and the abundance of resources at hand. This sense of ease is supported by research that indicates that being in the presence of actual or virtual landscape-nature resources can prove relaxing. You can read about how landscape and nature art reduces stress HERE.

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Zebra Long-Wing Butterflies and Coralbush, Mexico, connect us to nature,                            as in “Butterflies” by Dan Nuttall

But back to evolution and adaptation and leaving more genes than your competitors: do people that experience the relaxing and therapeutic aspects of art leave behind more progeny?

One could argue that relaxation is a key variable for survival in our modern lives and one does not have to look very far in the literature to find concrete evidence that stress reduces lifespan, sex drive and quality of life.

So it seems that when we engage our senses in the act of visiting an art fair we are doing more than merely wandering amidst a deluge of images and occupying time. Instead, we are searching for images that connect us to our primal needs and simultaneously serve as resources for our contemporary selves. In our modern lives the resources we call “art” engage us in ways that are adaptive, in ways that help to relieve stress and to sustain us. Thus art and the art fair are essential to the self in both cultural and evolutionary senses.

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Dan Nuttall, The Artist Project 2016

I like to think that when modern humans, Homo sapiens, occupied caves, one of the benefits of being bi-pedal, dextrous, and a tool maker and user, was the ability to place art on their walls, through drawing. Today’s art fairs have come a long way. There are now a myriad of ways to put art on your walls, and the act of hunting and gathering art may be more essential to your survival than you know.

You can see more of my art here: http://www.dandoesdesign.com/

Visit me on FaceBook here: https://www.facebook.com/torontoartist/

Follow me on Twitter as @dandoesdesign

Follow me on Instagram as: #dandoesdesign

 

REFERENCES

1 http://everything2.com/title/Prospect-refuge+theory