When I went to Dana Younger’s recent exhibit at the Dimension Gallery on Austin’s eastside, I had no idea what to expect. One of the best things about art is letting go of any preconceived notions of what you think it might be about and letting the artist’s work overtake you. In this case, I felt like I walked into an intimate snapshot of Younger’s friends.
Younger’s exhibit #solidfriends ran in January, featuring sculptures depicting people in his life. When you walked into the gallery, there was a rig against the wall with lights, featuring three Gopro cameras and a swing arm that could take 90 pictures of a person in three seconds. Younger could take those pictures and run them through software to get a 3D mesh of the subject. From there, he could make a model to sculpt a life-size piece.
“I was feeling a lot of parallels between that process of having a friend present for three seconds, but having to work with their image for hours and hours in the computer and out of the computer,” Younger reflected. “There are parallels between weaving paths in and out of the computer and the experience with our friends these days So much time we spend with our friends these days is digital time.”
In a world where we are so interconnected to people through social media, a picture is sometimes the most recent idea of someone in your life. Through these sculptures, Younger is making an actual reflection of that quick social media representation of people in his life.
The exhibit had both life-size sculptures as well as small squares of people’s faces. The life-size pieces were sculpted of friends in his life. The small squares are “borrowed” Facebook profile pictures and made him think of the grid of squares you find of your friends on Facebook.
Younger calls himself a process fanatic. He started with the digital process taking a picture and turning it into the mesh that was the beginning of the sculpture. He used a variety of computers that do things such as measure his materials and visualize his ideas. Then he made armature out of pipe, followed by lots of water based clay. In fact, each sculpture uses approximately 200 pounds of clay. In the end, he has detailed renditions of people in his life that last more than a snapshot of their life through social media.
Younger went to high school in Austin and was a part of the theater community in town for a long time. It is from this that he turned his passion of art into his career.
“Being in a community of creatives is inspirational. It makes me want to pursue creative endeavors,” Younger explained. “Austin is my community. The people that I’m referencing in the show are all a part of my community. They are all artists, patrons, architects…all kinds of people that have influence. Our community of people, digital and physical, has a profound impact on us as creatives. The conversations we have, what we see our friends showing to the world, have a big impact on us.”
He is currently working towards his next show at the Dimension Gallery that will open in December. He is already doing experiments in a related process to his #solidfriends work on a different scale. He can often be found doing shows with his wife who is a painter where he shows different kinds of work and different kinds of sculptures.
For Younger, it’s really about playing with new techniques and always learning. “Learning things is what excites me about making sculpture – experimenting with different mediums, processes.” Talking with Younger and seeing his work makes me want to learn and explore the things that excite me in my own life. In the never-ending quest to finding moving art that makes you think, Younger definitely delivers.