2021, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 36" x 30"
The work of Dan Gluibizzi refuses to be superficially defined by its subject matter, a trick that seems almost impossible to pull off given its overt nature. Instead, Gluibizzi leans into his preferred themes of sexuality, identity and human connection, giving his paintings a solid conceptual foundation that supports both their depth and complexity. What could have easily become a simple homage to prurient interests in another artist’s hands is instead a tender yet comical investigation of our desire and willingness to be exposed; what could have been a cheap punchline turns into a poetic story that slowly unfolds, allowing its characters to be seen as whole human beings.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why Gluibizzi’s paintings resonate with me, a process that has resulted in an ever expanding list rather than a succinct, clarifying statement. They are of course fun and cheeky. And the directness of them - even the portraits- is somewhat shocking in an era when it is nearly impossible to be shocked. But I’m also drawn to Gluibizzi’s unapologetic use of bold colors, simplified shapes and compositions that resist predictable hierarchies. He is an artist that knows how to deliver a graphic punch that is both technically rigorous and visually seductive. I’m charmed by how his figures interact with one another, retaining their humanity even as they are reduced to an essence that sits somewhere between characters in a village scene by Brueghel and individuals populating the pages of a Tintin comic book. They are anonymous yet specific, immersed in a bath of color that merges the projection of confidence and unabashed sexuality with the fragility and insecurity that at times makes a home in all of us.
This month I'm pleased to bring you my interview with Dan Gluibizzi. In it he talks about his process and shares some thoughts on intimacy and human connection.
The artist in his SE Portland studio.
The Semi-Finalist: I’m always interested in an artist’s first steps. Can you talk a little bit about how you got started?
Dan Gluibizzi: I grew up surrounded by art, art books and art magazines. My father is an artist and my mother is passionate about art and early childhood education. I grew up in Lancaster, PA. Museums and galleries in Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City were regular family destinations. Family friends were artists and I enjoyed listening to the banter and debates. I loved drawing. As a child, I received a lot of encouragement with endless art supplies and dedicated spaces to make a mess. I spent countless hours in my father’s studio watching him draw and paint. I equate the smell of turpentine with childhood. It felt like a seamless transition to art school and early adulthood. I worked for over 10 years in galleries, museums and auction houses in Boston, LA and New York City. I participated in the logistics of the art world and art market while slowly learning what kind of artist I wanted to become.
2020, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 40" x 32"
S-F: During my recent visit to your studio you mentioned being grateful for the opportunity to put in a lot of studio time. What does a typical day look like for you?
DG: My studio is in our backyard in a detached oversized garage. My wife leaves for work very early. I do the morning breakfast and off-to-school routine with our child. I turn on the studio lights around 8:30-9. I create daily to-do lists to attempt to hold myself accountable, I always have one or two top-of-mind projects in the works. Depending on deadlines I will be making things in the studio all morning or prepping for future projects, organizing and looking. I am chatty, and though I enjoy working alone, I need conversation. Thankfully I have a network of friends and colleagues that are willing to share a few minutes of their day for regular phone conversations. I like talking while I work. After school pickup and family dinner I return to the studio to tinker and consider what I did during the day. The flow of continuous shorter sessions keep efforts in the studio feeling fresh. I often do a few hours throughout the weekend. I especially enjoy predawn studio time on a Sunday if I can force myself to get up.
A corner of the studio.
I keep the studio simmering if not boiling at all times. Something must be new, in-the-works and almost done. I drag out old work often to remind myself what I was thinking about and striving for weeks, months and years ago. I have piles and piles of works on paper. All holding potential for rediscovery. A confirmation of my current direction or a reminder of alternative directions. My studio feels like my childhood bedroom: a workshop, a laboratory and a hideout.
I aspire for my studio life to measure up to these lines by Robert Frost:
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
S-F: Your work makes me think so much about how people open up to others and present elements of their private selves in relatively public forums. Can you talk about how the role of intimacy and exposure entered into your work and how it’s developed over time?
DG: I watched my father make countless portraits of friends and family as a child. Though I did not understand fully at the time, I was witnessing an act of intimacy between the artist and the sitter. Conversations about the intimate relationships between artist and subject continued when we visited museums and galleries. I vividly remember peering through the hole in the door of Marcel Duchamp’s Étant Donnés at the Philadelphia Art Museum around twelve years old and wanting to know more. Voyeurism, intimacy and art began to blend.
Six Men at Camp
2021, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 40" x 34"
I’ve long been an avid collector of images. Found snapshots, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks and pornography piled up as source material. As a young artist I would seek out the lurid and transgressive. The explosion of online imagery allowed for image collecting at an industrial level. I found titillation in the sheer volume and repetition of imagery. Despite the staggering abundance of available imagery, drawing hundreds of nudists at the beach and exhibitionists exposing themselves at box stores has felt like an intimate experience.
Six Women at Camp
2021, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 40" x 34"
S-F: One of the things that I really appreciate about your work is how you resist automatically lumping together nakedness with eroticism. That conflation is something of a default setting that we often see in movies, television and on social media. But there’s something more nuanced happening in what you present. Can you describe what you’re going for in your paintings and drawings that feature a lot of skin?
DG: Thank you! I certainly enjoy drawing and painting all manner of frolicking and canoodling however I am not making entirely prurient works. I aim to make associations between my source material and the depictions we have made of ourselves over thousands of years. Especially those of nudity and joy. Distilling images and creating unlikely pairings makes me feel like I am connecting to the continuum of human expression.
Left: Studio drawings
Right: All Elbow
2017, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 60" x 42"
S-F: During my visit to your studio you stated that some of your recent paintings and drawings use computer generated portraits as their source material. The final images, however, still adhere to your distinct (albeit developing) style. I find these recent pieces to be graphically seductive and at the same time conceptually really curious. Tell me about what’s going on with them.
DG: I employ a lot of repetition in my work. Recent bodies of work feature a recurring cast of characters drawn from social media, current events and vernacular imagery. I enjoy how, with just a few changes, the recognizable can be obscured while still holding on to a sense that this is a real person.
I am intrigued by computer generated faces. I want to engage with them. A.I. is now creating new beings. They may only exist for a moment or they may become stock characters for ad campaigns. The A.I. generated faces remain uncanny. Our eyes are so good we can read the slightest bit of wrongness in these nonhuman faces. Yet when I draw them they come to life. I am excited about the potential. A viewer might not see the difference but I think I use the material in a different way. I feel I can push and pull the faces in ways that I resist when the person is real. It is a curious and energizing feeling.
Above: Small Cast
2021, oil on canvas, 50" x 42"
Below: Two Groups of Three
2021, oil on canvas, 11" x 10"
S-F: Talk a bit about your new 3-D work. What inspired you to try turning your unapologetically 2-D paintings into sculptures?
DG: I have been making cut-outs since art school. I enjoy making carvings and low relief sculptures but rarely exhibited those efforts. I’ve always admired painted sculptural works by Alex Katz and Tom Wesselmann.
For a recent exhibition in Tokyo, I designed a small sculpture created with laser cut transparent acrylic that captured the look and feel of my works on paper. The table top size was very appealing as I am a fan of bric-a-brac. I am also beginning to see the possibilities for large scale pieces that can move into large spaces. Now I look at finished 2-D work and wonder how will it could become a sculpture. Still developing…
Studio shot with cut-outs and MFMF (Pink)
2019, acrylic and baltic birch, 16" x 6" x 9.5"
S-F: Which artists are you currently looking at (alive or dead)?
DG: Like many of us I scroll Instagram often. I enjoy following my friends and discovering artists I have not seen before. The phone is frustrating as I know it is not providing an accurate experience but I still feel like I am making a connection with art outside of my sphere. Recently I have been looking at Pace Taylor and Nora Riggs. Also Nicolas Poussin, Frans Hals, Jared French, Joan Brown and Ellsworth Kelly drawings, especially his lifetime of self portraits,
I am currently listening to an engaging biography of Rene Magritte. I feel connected to the discussions about Magritte’s image sourcing, the approach to making an object and the ways personal experiences enter a work of art.
2021, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 38" x 21"
S-F: What’s next for you?
DG: I just curated a spread for Math Magazine, an inclusive sex-positive publication that features a range of art and eroticism. I was delighted to feature works by Amy Bessone, Howard Fonda, Trulee Hall, Jo Hamilton and several other wonderful artists.New paintings are underway for my next show in Portland at Russo Lee Gallery.
You can see more of Dan Gluibizzi's work:
- On his website
- at Russo Lee Gallery in Portland, OR
- On instagram @dangluibizzi
2021, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 30" x 40"
Above: Nine in the Waves
2020, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 36" x 32"
Documentation of work by Rebekah Johnson and Dan Gluibizzi.
Studio photos by David Schell.