Behind the Scenes at the DAM

10 Most Memorable Comments From Dana Schutz's DAM Visit

Dana Schutz is considered one of the most influential young artists right now. On top of that, she can be funny, unfiltered but respectful, and self-deprecating in person. Chuckles and an occasional guffaw could be heard as she spoke about her process and observations as a 2012 Denver Art Museum Logan Lecture series speaker November 7. She also shared some of her only-Dana-Schutz commentary at the Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels media preview November 8. The exhibition, a 10-year survey, opens to the public November 11. Ten nuggets that I noted:

  1. About Carpenter, on view here: In it, she depicts "the worst thing I could imagine: scraping wood with your teeth." … She wanted to make a painting that could be "contagious," maybe "make you think about your gums."
  2. About her Self-Eaters series works, such as Face Eater, on view here: "If you could eat yourself, you could digest yourself. ... Then you could remake yourself."
  3. About Shaking, Cooking, Peeing, on view here: Shaking and cooking and shaking and peeing work. "All three--it's not a good situation."
  4. About some of her works in the Last Man on Earth series, including Frank on a Rock, on view here: "I was always putting the penis in the wrong spot.” The series features a man she calls Frank, who she notes bears resemblance to comedian Chris Elliot.
  5. About I'm into Shooting in Natural Environments, on view here: There is something "terrifying" about the PBS head. It is the "most existential logo."
  6. About Party, created around the time of the 2004 presidential election, on view here: It "started out intuitively with [Donald] Rumsfeld's foot." She said one friend observed the focal point of the artwork is the shape of an elephant.
  7. About Swimming, Smoking, Crying, on view here, and being on her high school swim team: "I was screaming Nirvana lyrics under water between breaths." When she later learned of water's noise conductivity qualities, she determined that was why she "didn't have many friends on the swim team."
  8. About Men's Retreat, on view here: What she envisions in the setting "almost feels like penance or a kind of torture." She said she's not sure what goes on there—"maybe blackmail." Bill Gates and Ted Turner are among the subjects.
  9. About Irish sweaters, such as the one painted in Hop, not part of the exhibition here: "You don't even have to be touching them, and they're uncomfortable."
  10. About Small Apartment, not part of the exhibition here: A friend "said it looked like a breakup at Panera."

Gwen Chanzit, curator of modern art and the head of the modern and contemporary art department, encouraged approaching the exhibition like this: "Give ourselves free reign in taking in the situations that are presented. ... Give ourselves over to the possibility of the impossible…. [Schutz] pursues it even when she is uncomfortable."

Schutz was born in 1976 and lives and works in New York. One level above her 10-year survey in the Hamilton Building, you will find the work of another young artist, Vincent van Gogh. He died at 37 years old after working as an artist for about 10 years.

Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels is on view through January 13 and is included with general admission.

Look for another post soon that highlights some of what she shared about her artistic process with The Autopsy of Michael Jackson, How we would give birth, and other works.

Image credit: Dana Schutz speaks in front of Swimming, Smoking, Crying at the media preview November 8. Dana Schutz, Swimming, Smoking, Crying, 2009. Oil on canvas; 45 x 48 in. Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas, Gift of Marti and Tony Oppenheimer and the Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation. © Dana Schutz. Courtesy of the artist and Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York.

Fairlight Baer-Gutierrez is the digital communications manager in the communications department at the Denver Art Museum. Fairlight has been at the DAM since 2011 and she is always game to answer, entice, and inform visitors on Facebook and Twitter. Her favorite artwork that has been on view here is La Famille du Saltimbanque: L'Enfant Blesse by Gustave Dore, on level six of the North Building.