Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Visit with Artist Philosopher Dan Hansen

I'm not sure he would call himself a philosopher, but he's in that territory as an explorer of intellectual concepts. He would probably call it grazing, and certainly brings an enthusiasm that is unusual to everything he does.

Dan Hansen's current enthusiasm is preparing for his upcoming show at Benchmark Tattoo for the month of April. I first met Hansen in the fall of 2012 in a show at Duluth's PRØVE Gallery. I quickly discovered that the artist is as entertaining as his work.

Currently he is racing against the clock to get his work ready for the exhibition, with its opening reception slated for April 3.

EN: What are the themes in your upcoming art show? 

Dan Hansen: My upcoming show entitled 'Sofia' (Greek for wisdom) is a work of historical fiction that is presented as an archeological find of Pythagoras' lost writings. So the theme is very Indiana Jones for lack of a better description. The content is focused on the philosophy and creation myth of each number 1-10 in our base 10 number system. Pythagoras is most famous for being the originator of western mathematics and the Pythagorean Theorem, yet he was foremost a philosopher and mystic. All we know of him is what has been written from other Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. There's controversy as to whether Pythagoras existed or not. For me this does not detract from the fascinating idea that numbers comprise everything from nature to music to cosmology.

EN: How did you become interested in fractals?

DH: At first in high school I thought fractals were interesting from an aesthetic design perspective with its infinite complexity. A few years later they became more profound to me when I learned of the Fibonacci sequence and golden spirals. Whether it was fantasy or not I was convinced there was some kind of infinite resolution and pattern built into the fabric of reality. This pattern of reality I viewed in my minds eye as some kind of 4 dimensional fractal. This combined with the idea of hypercubes got me thinking maybe this is how movement is possible within a fixed infinite tapestry that is the fractal. It could all very well be a pseudo scientific fantasy playing in my head but it has a tendency to provide an entertaining context to the world around me. It also gives me that Game Genie feel from the NES era... let's get Mario to jump over the flag pole and see what's on the other side!

EN: How did you go about producing the work that will be displayed in this show? Run through the stages from concept to execution.

DH: It all started with a ton of research. I studied up on various Greek philosophers. Since so many Greek philosophers seemed to be heavily influenced by Pythagoras I decided to steal a bunch of their ideas and pawn them off as Pythagoras himself. Then I tried to write it in a Biblical/Shakespearean style. I'd use Illustrator to manipulate the text to make it look worn out and scrunch everything into neat tidy columns. Designing the images accompanying the text came after that. I went for a modest hand drawn look. I checked out some Greek writings from Euclid and his drawings were basic. I couldn't find Socrates writing. Plato was a bit more artistic and it seemed Aristotle was a lot more artistic. So considering Pythagoras came before all of them I went for an in between of Euclid and Plato look. After all that I ordered up 12 sheets of 24"x36" Egyptian papyrus from Egypt because I couldn't find a place in the US that sold sheets that big. That process was a fiasco, but I did finally get them 4 weeks later after getting my bank involved with the transaction dispute. Now I'm still waiting on the print shop to get their printer operational so I can experiment on the test print to artificially age the papyrus to give it that ancient feel. So it's down to the wire folks!

EN: You are a disabled artist. Has your disability influenced the premise of this exhibit?

DH: Great question, Ed. Yes it surely has. One of the most challenging things in my situation is staying interested in life without having access to thrill seeking activities such as parkour, free climbing, a career, hang gliding, women, wingsuit flying or base jumping. Many times I've fantasized about running down 21st Avenue with a hang glider just to see if I could clear the power lines and catch the biggest adrenaline rush known to Dazzle Town. That's all just that...fantasy. I have to dig way deeper than that to up my fantasy rush. That has been evolving the past decade which has arrived at investigating the nature of reality. Peeling back the veil like a kid taking apart his Blu Ray player to see what's inside. As a kid I'd be fascinated by that little projector window in the back of the movie theater. I'd look at it more than the movie and observe not one person even remotely concerned where this movie was coming from. Who is the mysterious projector guy running it? I think subconsciously I've always been trying to find this projectionist. He's never where anyone claims he is. It's a controversial task. People have their beliefs and I have miles of boredom to remedy. It could get ugly, it could be the best move I ever made. That's my disability, that's my art show, that's my new thrill!

EN: What is your favorite color and why?

DH: My favorite color is Yellow Brick Road. Because I'm a Wizard of Oz fan. I wish all my t-shirts were this color they really pop with my red headed dome. Unfortunately I can only find those awful canary yellow shirts with nothing clever written on them.

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You can see here why Dan Hansen is on my short list of most interesting people I've met through blogging about the arts. Thank you, Dan, for sharing your ideas here and in your upcoming show.

Benchmark Tattoo and Gallery is located at 1831 East 8th Street, kitty corner from Chester Creek Cafe/Sarah's Table.


John said...

Fascinating person. Hansen's enthusiasm for discovery makes one wonder who, really, is disabled. Thanks for the interview, Ed.

Alicia Gaskin said...

I hope others will be as enthused about attending Dan's opening as I am, knowing how brilliant he truly is and the complexity of how his mind works, not to mention the depth of his spiritual being with in his reality, not only as an artist but as a human being. I am excited to see his work!!! Be there!!!! Great interview, Ed.