Home Magazine Conversations with Daniel Edwards

The American artist Daniel Edwards exhibits Portraits of Greatness in Oklahoma City, and opens up about his unexplored traditional art within a world filled with contemporary art. 

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Kooness: Tell us about your collection 

Daniel Edwards: The selection is called Portraits of Greatness - TrailBlazers for Civil Rights. The collection started back in 1995, I was called to do a public sculpture of Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy and the idea was to modernize and revolutionize public sculptures. Also, during the black lives matter, this topic became very front and center, however we have actually thought about this 30 years ago. The collection includes portraits of baseball players playing in the US, blues performers, and hip hop performers such as 50 cent or B.B. King. I worked with my son for this collection and to briefly introduce how we created our pieces, was by going to shows and events, where we watched performers on stage and carved what we saw in wax. Naturally, we both captured different nuances and aspects that were then put together through a digital print screening system and got the sculpture to scale. As I said, my son took care of a couple of the sculptures within the series. The idea was to create a series of portrait busts to be exposed in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. The reason for this was, once again, to create progressiveness within the exposed artworks, that were only portraits of white men. Some of my works within the series also include a video or still photography of me doing the artwork. 

Daniel Edwards. Colin Kaepernick, 2023. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery

K: What is your main source of inspiration?

DE: So I have been doing this kind of work for more than 30 years, it’s hard to believe, but during the black lives matter movement, my son and I took care of portraits for demonstration and models specifically for that event. Especially for civil rights leaders and people killed by the police, George Floyd being the first one. 

K: What materials and techniques do you use?

DE: Wax is a very durable material, it's similar to modeling clay. However, it's firm, therefore you can travel with it so we could take it to the clubs, shows, or any event where we could see who we wanted to sculpt. Back in the days, it was much easier to bring in my material, now, sometimes they try to stop me for safety regulations. We then needed a cast and a mold to exhibit the sculpture. While sculpting “live”, my works end up being less than life-size, as I have to carry it and hold it. Now with technology, I finally fulfilled my dream of creating life-size sculptures. So the steps to my final work are to stay as close as possible to the stage, sculpt what I see, go backstage to work on it a bit more if allowed, and insert the artwork within the software, establishing a digital version of it and print it out with the 3D printer. 

K: How did your art evolve?

DE: My son for sure took part in the evolution of my art. Currently, I am working on drawings on paper that I’ve never done before, and it feels like I’m moving away from sculpture a bit. My son discovered some of my older works, and that is when we started working together as he wanted to learn from me. He changed my process with his way of thinking, which is more streamline and quicker. However, I am stuck in the work that is more traditional, and try my best to make it more contemporary - implementing technology and modern-day subjects. I still feel like there is a good balance between the two eras within my work. 

Daniel Edwards. John Lewis, 2023. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery

K: What colours do you use and why? Is there a colour pattern ?

DE: I like to make my artworks very realistic. I tested out different color patterns and I chose five colour pairings that I think looked good together. I think the material dictates the colour, so if a show is done in bronze, the collection will most likely look bronze. I tried to take advantage of the fact that I could colour them. My colour choices are usually on the bright side despite keeping the works conservative. I usually use a dark colour for the background and more of an analogous, warmer colour on the top that gives it depth. Finally, I put some metallic finish as it helps to highlight some shades to give it dimension. 

K: If you had to give your artworks a personality, which one would you choose?

DE: At the beginning of my career, I usually chose a more stern and serious expression for my portrait busts. But, these days, with the hip hop performers, I often choose a more light-hearted and lifted expression.

K: How does your background influence your work?

DE: I always knew I was going to be an artist since I was 4 years old. I always thought about myself as an artist, yet I started working on sculpture when I was 15. I am a big fan of horror comic books and horror movies, and I would say they influenced my way of thinking about certain things due to their high visual impact. I teach anatomy and have done that for many years. I also worked at the side of a fashion illustrator, he gave me the opportunity to draw while he was working with the models and had a student that recognized that indirectly, making me realize I picked up quite a bit from him. 

Cover image: Daniel Edwards, Portraits of Greatness. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery

Written by Kooness

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