Home Magazine Get to Know Daniel Zamora

The Artist from the 70s opens up about his inspiration ranging from Adult literature and noteworhty global artists. The Kooness Team interviewed the American artist who is specialised in photography and photobased art.

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Kooness: Describe what kind of art you focus on

Daniel E. Zamora: My interdisciplinary art practice includes photography, photobased art (transmedia), and most recently, sound art. I developed a unique visual storytelling portrait style through various skills. My past vocation as a National Makeup Artist for the Estee Lauder Corporation informed my creative process, and my work often focuses on the human figure - especially the male subject. I create work with a sensual aesthetic, and my art conveys beckoning provocative energy. I'm inspired by the phenomenon of storytelling - especially from the magical realism genre. My work varies from the fantastic and playful to the eerie and mysterious, often depicting moments rich with wonder. I was artistic as a child, and my creative process formally began as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University in College Station, where I started taking photography classes in the early 90s. My portrait work expanded during a study abroad in Italy, and a new phase of figurative work began.

I am an MFA candidate in the University of Houston's Interdisciplinary Practice and Emerging Forms program. I have been expanding my artistic practice by producing sound art in storytelling form. One of my consistent influences has been Laurie Anderson, and I’m thrilled to be producing pieces inspired by my own life experiences.

K: Who are your biggest artistic influences?

As I mentioned, Laurie Anderson’s work has been influential for decades. The multidimensionality of her storytelling is astounding, and I continue to draw inspiration from her journey. Inspiration happens from so many sources! Other formal influences include Shel Silverstein, Pierre et Gille, Blek le Rat, Hokusai, Kara Walker, David Lynch, Nina Katchadourian, Cy Twombly, Man Ray, Rick Lowe, the writings of Sharon Olds, Emily Dickinson, Jeanette Winterson, ee cummings, James Baldwin, Nick Flynn, and more. Young Adult literature is a significant influence - I was immersed in books, reading, and reading as a child. The stories came to life, and I could SEE the characters in their many thrilling adventures. Influences are too many to count, and these are just the tip of the iceberg.
I am grateful to be immersed in creative environments. As a team member in the exciting art world of Jumper Maybach®, I often operate in the realm of abstract art. In graduate school, multi-creatives are abundant - the quality of work astounds me. Lastly, the art community in Houston is vast and impressive, and I’m grateful for the opportunities to contribute.

Daniel Zamora. Fight City, 2020. Courtesy of Jumper Maybach Fine Arts.

K: How can your work help with societal issues?

DZ: It may be helpful to begin with a bit of an origin story. I knew from a very young age that I was gay. I was born in the 1970s and started coming to consciousness as a young person in the 1980s. An awareness regarding my sexuality began to develop around eight or nine years old. It was right around this time that the AIDS epidemic began unfolding in the world. I desperately struggled with issues far too significant for a little kid to navigate. Simply, it was a dierent time, and resources for LGBTQ+ youth did not exist back then, and thriving gay/queer/ally role models were just not visible to me - remember, this was before the internet! A terrible fear began to develop about what my life seemed destined to become. While my parents are incredibly supportive today, the skill set to talk about these things or express myself did not exist at that age. At church, I learned that gay people went to hell forever. I could not reconcile this as I had a close relationship with a higher power early on. So, I feared for my soul, and I feared for my physical health and bodily safety. I feared that fulfilling intimate love would not be realized and that my health would be radically compromised, with any trace of physical beauty erased, existing as a husk of a person. Eventually, I would die from an awful disease alone in pain and shame. As I said, this would be an enormous amount to deal with, even for an adult, and I was only a child. Thankfully none of the things I feared came to light, our culture has grown more supportive, and our LGBTQ+ community is healthier and more visible. That is not to say that adversity did not present itself: as a younger artist, my work was “too gay,” “inappropriate,” or “overtly homo-erotic. When I started producing art again some years back, it was to be more faithful to myself, with a stronger voice, a more precise eye, and a surer hand so I may be a role model for a young person struggling in society, as I once was.

Daniel Zamora, American Gothika, 2019. Courtesy of Jumper Maycbach Fine Arts

K: How do you make your artwork?

DZ: My creative process may begin in several ways: inspiration may come from a story, a conversation, a dream, a friend’s personality or remark, music, a walk, a run, a found object, a movie, a memory, travels, during a lesson, a time of meditation, or teaching. Concerning my photo-based art, once an idea develops and I’ve recruited a model (often a friend), a photo shoot follows, including a makeup application session before the shooting begins. These shoots are generally fun, sometimes in a studio, a location, or at my house - it depends on the project. I am intentional about making the experience as fun and engaging as possible. A model’s comfortability is very important as it makes it easier to follow directions when posing and conveying emotions. After the images are captured and the best shots are selected, the illustration and design phases begin on digital applications - this is when the vision comes more fully alive, which is immensely fulfilling. Visual storytelling elements are added accordingly, the composite takes shape, and the final images come to life. It is beautiful to imagine something, create it, and share it with the world! I am grateful for the entire creation process as every phase is personally intriguing and challenging and continues to set my imagination on fire.

Cover image: Daniel Zamora, Elemental, 2019. Courtesy of Jumper Maycbach Fine Arts

Written by: Kooness

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