Dan Spalding grew up in the blue-collar city of Spokane, in a family
that owned the largest auto wrecking yard in Eastern Washington.
His early interest in drawing was fueled haunting the wrecking yard,
learning about structure and the inner workings of things. While
getting his bachelors degree from Gonzaga University, Dan developed
a deep love of painting and found a mentor in the iconoclastic northwest
abstract painter Robert Gilmore, himself a student of still-life
master Walter Murch. Its a lineage Dan sees revealed more in philosophy
than in style.
"It was rare to have someone
of Bob Gilmores stature to learn from, to see the sacrifices first-hand,
to see all the things that make up an artist. You gain a great deal
of respect for all that has come before not just the masters but
the succession of styles. You gauge yourself not only against whats
out there now, but against what has come before. What Bob has given
me is less visual and more philosophical. It doesnt deal with technique
or subject matter, but with finding your own vision."
Now 42, Dan has spent the last decade striving to perfect his visual
vocabulary, to become more ease with a paint brush in his hand.
Eight years ago he began renovating two turn-of-the-century Spokane
buildings former brothels and has filled the buildings with unique
commercial space, studio space for himself and lofts for a handful
of other Spokane artists. As a painter, he has worked at reordering
recognizable, even classic subjects, creating unique paintings of
figures, urban landscapes and still-lifes surprising visions of
familiar forms everything from awnings and bridges to melons and
the heads of parking meters.
"I suppose I'm drawn to the volume of certain forms. I like
to work large, to see the texture and tone, the brush strokes, the
nuanced uses of color. I think the expression comes out in those
ways, and much of that expressive energy is lost when the piece
is polished and overworked. In its fresh state, the work reveals
something of its structure, its architecture, how its put together.
The line is crucial to ones interpretation of this structure and
form and is the most direct form of expression. A lot of people
can lay down the same color, but each painters line is unique."
Recently Dan returned to figure-work, to understanding and articulating
the human form. He says human subjects make a painting complex but
recognizable. We look at the human form every day and are keenly
aware of it. If you dont tell the truth there, people call you on
it. Like all of his painting, Dan's figure-work is infused with
a deep physicality and a tangible connection between painter and
"To be completely honest, if you
give me a lot of things to look at, and one of them is a woman,
chances are, I'll be drawn to the female figure. It's that simple.
There is something powerful that can happen between a painter and
a subject. I suppose it is about sex, but it is also about a certain
energy. Its palpable. You just don't get that with a melon. And
if you do, the other people in the grocery store get sort of upset."