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“The way we are pulled in so many directions in our frenetic and digital age is also referenced in my figural abstractions. But as I’ve said recently I think in the end in my paintings love wins. They’re ultimately love letters to life,  to the people I paint, to color and form, and to the artists who came before me.”

-Daniel Bilodeau

The historical references in your work first caught my eye. You uniquely pair these figurative references with image deconstruction and collaged materials. What has inspired your choice of predominantly historical subject matter?

I so enjoyed communing with and working from the Old Masters in museums that I dared to pull them into my studio. I’ve examined portraits from the past- two in particular- through the lens of our image-addled times. Working from my own previous experiments with a Bronzino and an Ingres, instead of reproductions of the originals, I play a game of telephone- adding, shifting, and seeing what changes over the iterations. In the migration of culture into digital space and the processing of art history through an age vastly removed from the original context, I’m dealing with the question of whether these old works are “up for revision;” especially given that they are all definitely receiving it and there is no going back. It’s an embrace of the open season on visual content. I’m fascinated by the big losses and gains associated with our culture of content manipulations. Where my portraits of people around me are highly personalized, the portraits from art history are depersonalized.

Your recent exhibition at Thinkspace titled “State of the Art” featured new paintings and mixed media works where you explore post-modern life, consumerism, and identity. One of my favorite pieces from this collection is “Cultural Material and the Cloak of Enigma”. Can you please tell me more about the creation of this particular piece and what socially profound message you feel you communicated through this collection.

The title of the painting was just a bit of fun but it does imply that places we go to express ourselves – art and culture, social media, fashion – have also become the opposite- a mask, a place to hide and cover our vulnerabilities with a cloak, colorful as it may be. So many people are putting out “fake news” about who they are. This comes down to the individual and surely the piece and the title can also imply the transcendent power of color and design. Visual artistry, even in something as fluid as style and as fickle as a trend is part of and can be a conduit for transcendence – a sort of bliss – stepping a little closer to life itself when absorbed in the interplay of colors and the closeness of texture and form in front of you.

Some of my works (especially from the show before this one) talk about the deleterious effects of our throwaway culture- in terms of the environment, our psyche, and in terms of human rights as well. The way we are pulled in so many directions in our frenetic and digital age is also referenced in my figural abstractions. But as I’ve said recently I think in the end in my paintings love wins. They’re ultimately love letters to life,  to the people I paint, to color and form, and to the artists who came before me.

You studied art formally receiving your MFA from the New York Academy of Art, not to mention your many other international art residency experiences… Have these artistic international experiences given you a more open and diverse outlook in your creation process?

Undoubtedly every step has been influential and inspiring. Having just returned from Southeast Asia my mind is swimming with the colors, the artistic detail, the way that animals move and trees grow… These things will make their way into my art. At an earlier point Florence, Rome, Amsterdam and more had a direct bearing on my painting facility and stirred a passion too. Costa Rica was moving and now just recently Indonesia and Myanmar were profoundly moving. New York City is where the rubber meets the road though and I’m profoundly grateful for all this city has given me.

You are clearly fearless when it comes to artistic experimentation. You have created large scale works as well as tiny miniatures. Is there an artistic avenue that puts you out of your comfort zone that you would be interested in exploring in the future?

Nothing is off the table. There is no medium that seems unappealing to me. Encaustic can do gorgeous things that other media cannot – I loved the few experiences I’ve had with that medium and the works that are the result. I would like to do more of that and start using pastels too.  In terms of comfort zone, I think I can make something happen with anything that makes my hands dirty. In the world of the crisp and clean right now what I know is Photoshop – so the constant upgrade and refresh of new media programming is outside of my comfort zone but this is where collaboration would come in in the future. It is not lost on me that my artwork could grow massive wings in the sphere of digital/interactive and virtual art. An exciting thought.

Your dedication to your work was reflected at your recent solo show and I see that you rewarded yourself with an amazing Asia adventure after. (Love your elephant images by the way). Do you typically feel that you need to unwind after an exhibition?

Working towards an exhibition can easily mean sacrificing some of the most important aspects of life. Time with friends and family, sleep, exercise – I return to these and try to rebalance following an exhibition, at least briefly! Quite soon I’m in the thick of it again. The Asia adventure was unique- more than a vacation it was a fulfillment. It included actualizing life goals. It was a rewarding investigation of eight countries which included a lot of artistic inspiration. It was timed to blast off right after the opening of my show – so that the paintings, the interviews, the gallery were all working on my behalf while I was far away.

What’s next on your artistic journey? Do you have any exciting projects in the works?

With the solo show finished I’m booked with commissions and group exhibitions in the U.S. and England. I also have a secret project I can’t talk about yet! I’ll have works at HeronArts in San Francisco in June, Talon Gallery in Portland in July, Through Thinkspace Gallery I’ll be at Red Truck in New Orleans in August, Vertical Gallery in Chicago in September,  Moniker Art Fair in London in October,  and then Scope Art Fair in Miami in December. Disrupted Realism is the title of a book coming out in September of this year featuring my work and that of some amazing contemporaries of mine. Happy to say my work is on the cover!

I’m taking a first look at reaching into new markets (product design, fashion, larger scale installation) as I am very interested in these sorts of progressions. I’m most excited about just making more. The joy and challenge of creating, and the gratifying feeling of bringing what’s circulating through the mind, to the best of abilities, to life!

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