I am an Artist: Daniel Fleming, Wisconsin

1. Why are you an artist?
To tell the truth it is really kind of a compulsion. Whether I do nothing for weeks or have the busiest month in the world, if I don't paint every few days I feel like I've been lazy and unproductive. It's a release of stress, a release of emotion and a complete release from everyday life. Also, I feel like it's a way to leave a mark or accomplish something, and even though I wrestle with whether or not my work is doing any good, There still is a feeling of pride every time I decide a piece is "finished."

2. Why do you use the medium that you use?
I work very quickly and instinctively. Because of this, I found that acrylics allow for me to follow my instincts a little more freely. I'll make a mark and if it doesn't work like I hoped, I can work on another piece for the few minutes it takes to dry before I can repaint and rework that area. Also, I put a lot of marks on top of the paint. With oils I would need to wait for days before the paint was dry enough to use pastel or marker, completely blocking the "freedom" I feel when I can make marks as they come.

3. Can you talk about your work? What is your vision?
That is the thing I struggle with most...What am I trying to accomplish and is it working? I suppose at its very basic point, I want to help other people. I want my work to help people through whatever it is they are struggling with. And whether that's someone spending hours analyzing my work and how it relates to their everyday struggle, or if someone glances at it and simply likes the pretty colors, I feel that both reactions are just as important and just as genuine, and possibly just as helpful to that person. As long as someone reacts, I see the work as somewhat successful.

4. Can you speak to your use of color? Tell us what those colors lend to your concept or composition.
Color is very important to me. Whether its the overwhelming presence or the lack of it, it directly leads to success of a piece. I tend to use very bright and striking color as it is an immediate emotional connection; something that grabs a viewer. I wouldn't say that I have a preconceived symbolism to each and every color, but I definitely know the color scheme and composition I intend for the piece before I start. A slight difference in shade, tint, or hue can drastically change a paintings effect, so really knowing the type of piece I want usually dictates the colors that I use and how they I compose them together.

5. Has any great work of Art made you extremely emotional? If so which one and why?
I'm kind of a strange museum-goer. I don't slowly walk around and look at each piece, but I usually breeze through, looking at every piece but only really stopping if something strikes me. One piece I have always loved is Matisse's painting "bathers by a river," and the reason is the range that I see in it. On one end you have a bright green with a figure in the action of bathing, something very intimate. Then as you move across the piece you are confronted by two figures in an opposite manner. Straight up and down, almost removed from any setting or life at all. It's the absolute beauty and excitement that I have in art and life and at the same time, the utter devastation and isolation that take over on a day to day basis. I suppose it's both struggles that I feel move and shape my life and personality everyday on one, large and beautiful painting in which they interact in a harmony that I personally lack and hope to eventually find that makes it most meaningful to me.

6. What is the art scene like in Wisconsin?
I don't know too much about all of Wisconsin but Milwaukee is definitely improving I think. There is a lot of great galleries and work, not to mention a lot of student artists showing all the time. The market isn't the same as bigger cities like Chicago and the Twin Cities, but art is a hard sell when most people are having trouble even making rent payments. I still meet a whole lot of people who don't quite get the point of abstract-ish art, so that is a bit of a hurdle for a contemporary artist. But education is also something that artists need to open to providing if they are putting up challenging work.

7. What is the role of the artist in our society?
Sadly I think the role of artists today has become more and more detached. With how conceptual work has gotten, a huge group of the public has turned their backs to art in general. Many artists now completely disregard those outside the art-world whether they realize it or not. I believe that art is worthless without the viewer, and because of that, our duty as artists is not only to create work that challenges current ideas, but also to get the work to a place people can see it, provide it in an accessible way, and if needed, explain the work. I understand the reason for conceptualism, the ideas behind it and why it is important, but I also feel that it falls very short in uniting people, expressing a concern, promoting a cause, and overall, simply helping those around you. Without communicating any of these things, its hard for me to consider that piece of art a success.

8. Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
I hope to be better, more comfortable with what I am doing, and more integrated within the art community. I also hope that I will be continuing in my goal to re-integrate the general public into art. To show that not all art has to be in a large gallery setting, selling for millions of dollars, but it can be on a plank of wood, on a sheet of paper, and spread to everyone. One of my major goals is to start creating public works that bring art into unexpected parts of the city in unexpected ways that will get people to start seeing the world around them in a different way.

9. What are your ultimate goals as an artist?
I'd LOVE to be world famous, selling art everywhere with endless commissions, murals, and exhibits, but basically I would really just like to leave a mark in the spreading of art throughout society. I'd like to make art that helps people, help people interact with art, and help art become more appreciated, widespread, and accessible. But all that other stuff would be a great bonus.

10. What does art mean to you?
Everything. Without art I'm not sure what type of a person I would be. It settles me down, helps me get through bad times, gets things off my mind, provides confidence, provides humility, makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile, and gives me a bit of meaning. It keeps my wildly imbalanced self a little more bearable and even-keeled.

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