Daniel Dienelt June 1st, 2014
Deafness as a tool/medium
Daniel’s studio is located at his residence and consumes it almost entirely. The living room is a fine art studio. His garage is his rough-cut/wood shop studio. The customization has been thought out to the last detail. An artist and a private collector, he is surrounded head to toe by visuals that asks your brain questions.
Daniel has been in the art scene in one way or another for the last 20 plus years and has no signs of stopping. Each step back brings two carefully considered steps forward.
His studio is calm except for the low-battery chirp of the smoke detector. Every five minutes it pierces through the rooms and bounces off the walls. It does not register to Daniel at all. Why, because he is deaf. I think about the oddity that a deaf man has a smoke detector and decide pointing it out is moot.
Daniel offers me a glass of whiskey and I decided to start with the obvious question:
How did you lose your hearing? Were you born deaf?
No, Something happened when I was around three. I do not know what happened. No one will tell me. Nobody has ever given me the facts. I lost partial hearing then and then 30 years later I lost all of it in a skateboarding accident. I have been fully deaf for the last 11 years and one month.
You do not use sign language at all. You read lips and body language. Some people never actually know as long as you can see their face. How do people react when they find out you are deaf?
People’s attitude and behavior changes and they start treating me differently. They start doing their weird ass sign language and talking really slow. It’s kind of funny. It use to make me angry but now I am just indifferent and do not care. People do not believe that I can read their lips.
Would you say your art is autobiographical?
I won’t deny it. It is. I try to get away from it but it is an extension of my communication. It’s what I hear and absorb. The ideas come back out in the communication I have with my art. It will probably always be that way. It is the way I process and think.
Art for me is the communication to the non-existing world that I do not have anymore. It gives me a sense of security. It’s like a soldier without a gun. I do not feel human without my art. I do not feel restricted with my art and I can express who I am.
What mediums do you work with?
It depends on my ideas. I am a very tactile person. I like to work with multiple mediums. I like to discover new process with paint and photography. Right now I am using a router to draw on my geometric wood canvas. It is a great feeling. Just the sensation of working with certain tools and working with my hands is amazing. It gives me the security of the vibration of the machinery. It’s why I like working with paint or anything in my hands that I can feel. I would be really bummed out if my hands got chopped off.
I like to get physical with my work. I do not like working digital technology too much. It’s so still, It makes me feel distant.
When people ask what you do, how do you respond?
I tell them I am an artist. I try to take the initiative to educate people about art and broaden their minds. I feel it is a sense of responsibility. Whatever your passion is, it is in our duty to inform and lay down the facts.
As an artist, has there been a person that has influenced you?
Robert Rauschenberg, skateboarding culture, war photographers. Skateboarding culture for the last 25 years has influenced me and led me on a path.
What that culture brought in taught me to see things differently. It was a path that showed me a lot of different influences that led me to where I am today.
But in terms of an actual person I would say my grandma. She was never a practicing artist. I never understood her role as an artist. She called herself one but I never saw it. I mean that in terms of a working artist of someone who really dove into it. She had a scholarship to go to the Art Institute of Chicago to study fashion design but she passed that up. She painted then in the 80s and they were very Bob Ross style paintings.
She would sit down with me and the “How to draw a portrait” book. It was the first time I had held charcoal. It was a big block of it. It was gnarly going from crayons and markers. She was a terrible teacher but a great influence. She gave a book on how to draw marvel superheroes back in the 80s and another one on perspective. Those had a big impact on me.
I also went to summer classes at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art School when I was kid. The school is no longer there but it had a lasting impression.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on two site-specific installations and paintings for the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, MI. It’s an exhibit that has been curated by Katie Moore. It’s a group show of 15 artists. My installation will be the most challenging and frustrating space to ever work. I am incorporating my love for my deafness. I want to embrace it. I have not allowed myself the opportunity to love it without people telling me how I should feel about it. I do not want to be told about the culture around it or how I should feel about it. I want it to be about my relationship I have built with my deafness over the last 11 years. This installation deals with my history and revolves around my deafness.
It deals with my fear of losing my ability to communicate with my voice and on a tactile level. I want to love my deafness but I am stuck in a hearing world.
Last Question, what is your motto?
Live fast die fast. Do not have fear.